Apple is under siege – the once invincible company led by the almost invincible Steve Jobs has lost its lustre. That is not anti-Apple reporting – even the diehard fan sites are saying this.
Apple is about style over substance and its incredible business model - the walled garden approach allows it to build incredible wealth for shareholders and engender loyalty and fanaticism in users not seen since – well the football team you barrack for.
Its biggest product is not a computer (although smartphones are increasingly being called that) but a phone.
iPhone 5 is not the latest and greatest technology any more simply because Apple only do one new phone release a year - ergo Samsung, HTC, Sony and Nokia etc., all have better, more powerful, more featured (but not necessarily more desirable) handsets.
Whatever the next iteration is (let’s simply call it 6 but as that is an unlucky number in Asia it may not be that) to beat the pack it will need:
• a large screen ( 4.8” is predicted but that’s so ho-hum now that others have beaten them to market) and make sure its full 1080p. PS - its time to back down and support Flash animation
• A damned good camera and flash – rumour is 12MP but with Nokia looking at a 41MP who knows. Optical Zoom would be nice too.
• Near Field Communications (NFC is a way to use a phone as a credit card – tap and go) must be a feature
• Longer battery life than other contenders (this is perhaps the most difficult and expensive part of phone technology at present)
• Acknowledgement that a USB port would save users an inordinate amount of money in data costs (downloads are to Apple as ink is to printer makers) and its time to adopt the smart phone standard for recharging as well.
• A new external design that draws attention away from an overcrowded market. Indeed without this hook it can’t be successful – same old, same old cosmetic 5 update won’t cut it. Let’s face it 5 was touted as 18% thinner, 20% lighter and 12% less volume than the 4S – boring! Colours are important so please don’t copy Nokia’s lustrous yellow and red – how about some really hot new colours?
• Wireless charging (Nokia beat you there) is suitable for a high end smartphone
• Go overboard and put in 120GB of memory.
• A major rework of the Apple iOS user interface. Windows 8 live tiles have shown that we don’t have to stick slavishly to the old crowded icon driven desktop. If not the phone may have to increase in size to accommodate all the icons (pictured)
• Even more work on Airplay and integration with entertainment devices (but use USB interface please)
• iTunes App store needs a very major overhaul to better manage the 600,000+ Apps and to help encourage new developers to rise above the melee and be seen. While they are at it better margins for developers would not hurt either
• Apple has been very successful in incentivising Telcos to make this the handset of choice.Why not use some of that margin to make consumers really believe it is by adding more value than any other handset maker can?
• Analysts generally agree that voice command via Siri will be the single most important feature so let’s hope Apple puts some real muscle into this and it starts to be really useful.
• And technological changes since the release of the 5 that have led to faster, cheaper, lighter, better phones for other makers need to be at least caught up with. But Apple also may need to abandon any hope of making future iOS releases backwards compatible – this is holding up innovation. Windows 8 Phone took the leap!
If Apple gets the 6 right CEO Tim Cooke can come out from his predecessors cloud (or is that shroud) and put naysayers in their place. If not buy the latest Nokia…
Now what about the rumours of other new models from Apple as well.
Analysts say that the high end smart phone market is saturated i.e. not where growth is. Apple has three choices in the coming phone wars:
1) Do nothing (there are pretty even odds that this is their choice) and just do an updated 5S by mid-year
2) Start heavily discounting the 5 (because the 4 must go) – better strategy than option 3
3) Start making a product for economically challenged consumer who can’t afford the real thing – a kind of fake Apple without the risk. Media reports the secret existence of an iPhone “Math” for the masses.
Regardless of my predictions Apple will still sell a tonne of phones.