iPhone 5 - What's the Industry Saying?
Apple, which has so often been an innovator in this space, opted for a more incremental approach, announcing something which actually managed to be less than the sum of the rumours surrounding it. Are a bigger screen, a thinner and lighter case, and improved performance enough to make the iPhone 5 the latest must-have device for consumers?
“The iPhone 5 has not been re-designed – it has been re-fitted,” says Jim Hemmer, CEO of enterprise app and mobile site developer Antenna Software. “It was the same story with the new iPad when it launched earlier this year, and that’s going to raise more questions about Apple’s ability to innovate in the post-Jobs era. Even more so when you consider that the most significant update to the iPhone 5’s hardware—an increased screen size—looks like it’s straight out of Samsung’s playbook.”
That's particularly troublesome considering the recent Apple-Samsung trial, in which Apple essentially accused Samsung of being unable to innovate, and merely ripping off its ideas. It's possible that Apple considers itself in a safe enough position that it doesn't need to grab consumers' attentions – hardly unreasonable, given its status as the most valuable company in the history of the world.
“While Apple is still reaping the rewards of the brand equity of the iPhone, consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to buying handsets,” says Adam Leach, devices & platforms practice leader at analyst firm Ovum.
“Without the continued innovation which we are accustomed to with Apple, the company risks losing consumer appeal. It has become clear that technology companies need to do more than just announce new versions and updates to existing offerings if they are set on owning every aspect of the consumer's digital existence. The iPhone redefined the smartphone category in 2007, but it can't rely on past success to guarantee its future or rely on litigation to keep its competitors at bay.”
Maybe that's being too harsh on Apple – the features it announced don't scream about innovation, but perhaps there's a quieter revolution going on.
“The iPhone 5 launch is very exciting for Shazam as its new features move the needle for digital content lovers. With features such as a larger 4” retina display, faster processing, and an increased number of microphones for better input, it’s clear that the iPhone 5 will continue the Apple media powerhouse legacy,” says Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher. “Shazam is also developing new features that take advantage of the enhancements included in the iOS6 operating system, which is scheduled to be launched shortly, too.”
Or maybe we should looking elsewhere – to iOS 6, for example, which will be introduced to the world with the handset launch, or even to other devices.
“Today’s announcement goes beyond just the launch of the iPhone5. With the iPhone 4S 8GB, Apple is now able to offer its products with iOS6 at ever more aggressive price points in the UK. As an entry level iPhone, it’s a formidable competitor,” says Shaun Collins, founder of CCS Insight.
“The inclusion of LTE1800 in the new iPhone5 gives EE a de-facto exclusive on the product for 4G in the UK. The question is, will the iPhone be different enough for customers who have been impressed by products from Samsung and HTC this summer? This remains to be seen, but with many UK subscribers waiting to see the iPhone5 before committing to their next contract, the operators will have a fight on their hands for these customers in Q4.”
Alex Campbell, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Vibes, points to one of iOS 6's most interesting features – Passbook – as a key part of the device's future.
“For marketers, Passbook will offer brands the opportunity to be front and center with the consumers they are trying to reach. Imagine walking by a store and having a coupon for 20 percent off pop up – a very powerful tool for marketers,” says Campbell. “This is an exciting opportunity for marketers to test the waters to see what might work for them and help achieve the coveted customer loyalty.”
However, one of the biggest disappointments – the iPhone 5's rumoured NFC capabilites never coming to fruition – still remains.
“The decision to omit NFC in the iPhone 5 could cost Apple,” Fred Huet, Managing Director at Greenwich Consulting. “It is just a matter of time before the smartphone replaces the plastic card, and by skipping this technology, Apple may have missed a valuable opportunity to take the lead in this market. With over 400m active credit card accounts on file, Apple had a prime opportunity to convert its customers using a sleek mobile payment system tied to the iPhone. Instead they could find that they have fallen behind closest rivals Samsung, Nokia and indeed Motorola, all of whom introduced the technology into their devices last week.”
However, Keith Brown, managing director of paythru, argues that the time might not yet have come for NFC.
“The news that Apple has chosen not to make NFC technology a feature on the new iPhone 5 does not come as a huge surprise and I think they are right to prioritise other technology at the current time,” Brown says. “NFC is one of those technologies that has been developed for mobile payments without solving an existing problem – it’s like making a medicine and then trying to find a disease that it will cure. Shoppers have no problems using chip & PIN, so currently have little need for NFC.
“Apple is biding its time at the moment with NFC, but I think they will be the winners in the long run, as they are obviously looking at solutions in the meantime, such as Passbook and the acquisition of biometric security, that will make mobile payments ubiquitous and secure. When you consider that Apple has the user base to drive adoption of mobile payments, I am sure I am not alone in being very interested in where they go next.”
It's clear that not everyone has come to praise Apple – but equally, not everyone has come to bury it, either. The iPhone 5 announcement might not have blown away the bloggers, but there were enough small practical advances to make it a worthwhile step forward. And besides, with a built-in audience the size of Apple's, does that even really matter?
“Apple has delivered a new iPhone that offers few surprises but promises a significantly better user experience as a result of its faster LTE connectivity, processor speeds and better Retina display,” says David McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “The iPhone 5 release has provide a much needed physical update of the device, despite the screen not being the largest in the smartphone market, and the device still lacking NFC and wireless charging.
“While the new hardware may not quite stack up against other products expected in market, it is Apple’s ability to create stylish, desirable products attached to a rich set of services that it hopes can still set it apart to create differentiation. The new optics, an upgrade to Siri, photographic capabilities and mapping functionality also add to the importance of those elements for the competitive landscape, especially in light of recent announcements from Nokia, Samsung and Microsoft.”
Honestly, while it's easy to paint a picture of Apple as resting on its laurels, it could have just repackaged the iPhone 4S and pushed it out into the market, and the man on the street would still snap it up without a second thought. Need proof? Just watch this video.