Today Apple launched two new iphones, the 5c and 5s. Much of the press reaction seems underwhelmed or simply disappointed that Apple didn’t put out a truly cheaper phone which would either revolutionize the phone market, or be cheap enough in the developing world to prevent Apple’s continued decline in global phone market share. Others simply bemoaned Apple’s lack of real innovation.
Not me. I continue to be impressed with the phones. I must admit I was happy to finally see some real product variation from Apple. I like colors. I also can see some real benefits to the fingerprint sensor on the 5s–I never use a passcode and hate typing in my password for itunes so I can really see the appeal of the one touch button. (Athough privacy concerns dampened the response). I am also extremely impressed by the camera on the 5s. As someone who often uses my iphone as my main camera I am happy to see Apple continue to upgrade the mobile camera experience. Larger pixels, and even better, a larger sensor will make for much better photography, particularly in low light conditions. I see that none of these changes are disruptive products or groundbreaking innovations. But for me the iphone is still, well, magic. I can’t believe I have this amazing tool on me everyday. I am still simply enamored by what I can do with it.
I am skeptical of the arguments that the lack of a cheap iphone will really hurt Apple much. This analysis by Jean-Louis Gassée does a great job of dissembling the current worry that via the network effect Android’s market share will erode Apple’s app ecosystem. For me there still isn’t an Android phone that doesn’t simply feel cheap to hold. Apple owns the arty-cool designer crowd and that cultural advantage isn’t going to disappear because 100 million Chinese download AngryBirds from GooglePlay. Also their hardware is still better than others. Furthermore, I suspect that Apple’s strategy is to quietly introduce product diversification while maintaining the allure at the top. The sub $400 4s and used 4s’ are still better products then most Android phones. I suspect next year will see the introduction of an iphone 6c and 6s with 6 inch screens to compliment the 5 line. Watch in two years when the new colorful, plastic and cheap to produce 5c crosses that $400 dollar barrier to see if that strategy works.
Watching all the hype today I had to agree with The Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen, Steve Job’s original 2007 iphone launch is simply amazing. At her suggestion I watched it again today and I was floored. It was so fascinating at so many levels. Not only Job’s obvious excitement, but his efforts to promote Yahoo’s totally lame email concession (boy they sure lost it). Or when Google’s Eric Shmidt came out and I could’t help but parse his language for hints at Android; the betrayal Jobs threatened to go thermo nuclear on. I plan to one day play this for a business studies class. But mostly, I am still just amazed that this 3 in one product even exists.
Also here is a great piece on the impressive logistical management that Apple employs pre launch.
Update: Wow. Check out this riveting NYtimes magazine piece by Fred Vogelstein on the behind the scenes story of the Iphone development and launch. I had no idea how gutsy of a move the launch really was or how undeveloped some of the technology still was. Fascinating.