Sep 17, 2012
This is the first thing to be said about the iPhone 5: it is a capable phone, one that will make Apple more money than God â€“ again â€“ and should keep them at the top of the food chain for a while longer. But in following the events on and around the announcement, it was hard to sit there and not think that the once-mythical Apple had lost some of its luster.
The announcement itself was severely anti-climactic. Thanks to pretty much every detail leaking, nothing was a surprise. It was all an inevitability. Part of this is inevitable: Apple is a behemoth, and with all their hardware partners, something had to give. It’s hard to stay secret when everyone wants to know what’s being kept secret. Still, this could be part of what is lost with Steve Jobs gone, as Michael Jurewitz points out: Steve Jobs railed against leaks. The past year was full of them to the point that the biggest surprise was probably the new iPod nano (even a leak of the internals for the new iPod touch made it out at some point) that was announced.
But the other thing was that this felt more like Apple becoming reactive instead of proactive. The iPhone 5 is 16:9 only because they needed to make it bigger to keep pace with Android phones. They kept it about the same width to keep developers happy and for the ergonomic guidelines they set. So, it’s bigger, but still smaller than other flagship phones. They added a panorama mode to the camera, which is impressive due to the high-resolution stitching, but it’s also a pretty standard function now. New software features are coming to iOS 6, but most will be part of previous-generation hardware as well.
It’s got a more powerful processor for gaming, but of course it would have one. Better graphics are nice, but eepected. Many of the iOS 6 features will be useful, but we knew about most of those. There’s no NFC, a feature that Apple doesn’t appear to be interested in putting in until they have to. That’s not a forward-looking company; that feels like the kind of conservative company that Apple squarely is not. The Apple that announces the iPhone 5 doesn’t feel like the Apple that would have ever released the iPod, iPad, or the original iPhone in the first place because it was too much of a risk. The iPhone 5 is safe. Safe will sell, but the iPhone is still in a position to sell pretty much no matter what.
No, I’m not predicting the collapse of the iPhone and Apple. Not even close. But I willsay this: in the past two years, if you look at where Android and its hardware has come from compared to the iPhone, the software experience is getting much better, and there is some high-quality hardware being released. The iOS software experience feels like it’s barely changing. The hardware is thinner, lighter, and more powerful, sure. But still, it feels like the mysticism of Apple that has developed is wearing away. The iPhone feels practically conservative at this point, and for a product that was revolutionary (feel free to shout at me, #BoycottApple folks), it’s kind of sad to not be wowed in even the slightest by what Apple is doing. The company made its mark by not being conservative, and yet: they did exactly what was expected with the iPhone 5.
It seems silly to say that Android is clearly a bigger threat than ever when Apple’s going to probably make so much money our heads will spin, but history could note this as the first day of the decline of the iPhone as the status symbol of mobile phones, that it’s not the sole taste-maker any more.