The iPhone, 10 years later

Ten years ago mobile phones were exactly that. Phones to talk. The few who dared to bring to the market some other device with the “smartphone” tag tried to bring us something that seemed good, but that neither in usability nor in user experience was acceptable (Hello Nokia N95).

But of course, we didn’t know then.

And then the iPhone showed up. An absolutely disruptive and revolutionary product. One that would end up transforming everything and everyone, although we could not know that on that cold January 9, 2007 in San Francisco. Many only saw the gadget for what it was. Few could see its possibilities. They didn’t even care too much about its shortcomings, because we all wanted one to be able to amaze ourselves. I ended up buying one nine months later, even though it was not possible to make calls (officially) at that time in Spain.

It did not matter if other mobile phones had 3G, or better camera, or GPS, because none of them could overcome the iPhone’s user interface and compete with a vision that for the first time turned the phone into a real pocket PC, one in which you could make a lot of good stuff. That sparked something all over the world: industry, users, developers. It was a magical moment.

Clic.

And yet, I’m always amazed at how little we talk about the other great disruption of the iPhone. Without that particular thing, this device would not have had the relevance it had. That second disruption was the one that really set apart the iPhone not as a device, but as a platform.

It’s ironic to see how those original iPhones didn’t have native applications: instead of that Apple made use of web applications in an operating system that did not even have its own name (“iPhone runs OS X” was the sentence used on their press releases). The second disruption, which completed the concept, would take another year to arrive. It launched with the iPhone 3G, that product I spoke about a day before it was launched with one of those predictions logical but invisible to many people:

The big revolution in the new iPhones will not be the hardware they include, no. It’s cool to be able to enjoy 3G connectivity and even GPS, but the really important part of these models is that they are expected to finally offer support for an SDK which developers have been working for for months. That’s the great disruption of this iPhone: mobile applications.

Clic.

Another great revolution was in our hands. One that ended up making the App Store a reference model for the rest of platforms. Not only that: it set the Apple smartphone as an example of everything others wanted to accomplish.

These two disruptions, as I said, changed our world. Giants fell and new ones rose, and in the meantime we started to adapt to a new world in which something singular happened: the mobile phone was no longer a device to (merelly) talk to others.

Clic.

The phone became something much bigger, because these small rectangles of glass, metal and plastic have been transformed themselves and transformed us. All the revolutions have had their lights and shadows, and the iPhone has not escaped from that blessed curse. It doesn’t matter: this a very special day for the iPhone.

Happy birthday. And congratulations for changing our world.

Apple is the new Samsung

According to recent reports, Apple won’t have just two new iPhones launching in September. They will in fact launch three of them. The iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus will be the natural heirs of the current iPhone 6s/Plus, but there seems to be another model waiting.

It’s the iPhone 7 Pro, which will be the only one with the also rumored dual-camera system. The miserly Apple, at its best.

There won’t be many new features: Apple is saving the best for next year’s iPhone 8, which apparently will be the real thing and will be used to celebrate the iPhone 10th anniversary.

The real news here is how Apple has become a company with a product portfolio that isn’t simple anymore. A few years ago we had just one new iPhone per year. If the rumors are right, in 2016 we will have 4 new models of the iPhone (including the SE).

This Apple is starting to remind me more and more of Samsung. One size doesn’t fit all, and that’s true for Apple too, it seems.

Obsolescence again, iOS 10?

ios10

We’ve heard the same song on the last few years: a new version of iOS arrives, and older iPhones are clear victims.

You can upgrade on most models, but that usually means that the performance you get on the new OS with your older iPhone will be usually poor. Many people have complained about this,and lawsuits have been lodged:

The update significantly slowed down their iPhones and interfered with the normal usage of the device, leaving Plaintiff with a difficult choice: use a slow and buggy device that disrupts everyday life or spend hundreds of dollars to buy a new phone,” says the lawsuit. “Apple explicitly represented to the public that iOS 9 is compatible with and supports the iPhone 4s. And Apple failed to warn iPhone 4s owners that the update may or will interfere with the device’s performance

There’s already an online petition for Apple to “ditch planned obsolescence”, but it will be tough to see Cupertino changing its strategy. It’s nearly impossible to get companies admit one of the key points of their roadmaps: obsolescence is a money maker.

Apple resigns: iPhone 7 will start at 32GB

Apple will deliver plenty of critics for that unnecessary goodbye that the future iPhones will make us pronounce, but it will also makee lots of users happy by making right what was wrong for so long.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the iPhone 7 will start with 32GB of storage, replacing the infamous 16GB base tier offered since the iPhone 3GS. That phone was launched on June 19, 2009.

About time, I’d say.

China is too important and Apple knows it

According to The Wall Street Journal, Beijing Regulator Orders Apple to Stop Sales of Two iPhone Models:

Beijing’s intellectual property regulator has ordered Apple to stop sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the city, ruling that the design is too similar to a Chinese phone. The move is another setback for the company in a key overseas market.

Competing in China is difficult. Local businesses are overprotected there, and even Apple has to take a step back if someone there feels its position threatened.

It’s difficult to imagine that Apple has copied the design from one of those local, small makers (and not the other way around), but China is too important right now for them.

China is to Apple what Apple is to many of the countries it makes businesses with: the bigwig.

 

Google’s Nexus tries to learn the iPhone lesson

Google wants to make its Nexus phones more like the iPhone

We had heard about this previously, but now The Information confirms that Google is indeed seeking to have more and more control over its Nexus smartphones.

The plan is simple: no visible partnerships in order to compete in the high end range, where the iPhone leads the way. They want to control the hardware as much as they do control the software (Android and Google Services & apps) right now.

Everything sounds perfect except for that tiny, obvious detail: Google depends of other makers in order to compete as it has done until now. Controlling every aspect of the device won’t be easy for its traditional partners, and we must wonder what will the do then.

Will they make the jump to other platform (Tizen, Windows 10) or fork (CyanogenMod seems a good fit)? Or will they try to compete with their own partner in unfair conditions?

Microsoft tried that and so long it hasn’t worked. But then again, Google is another beast.

Apple is neither inmortal, nor invulnerable

iphone1

Last financial results from Apple show how the company is as exposed as the rest of the world to macroeconomic issues. The economic conditions have impacted on its numbers and have pointed out that its greater strenght is also a potential weakness.

The number of iPhones sold has grown a mere 1 per cent, but next months will prove difficult for Apple, which according to analysts will see how iPhone sales decrease a 10-15% on the quarter ending in March and another 10% on the quarter ending in June when compared to the same periods last year.

appl

We’ll see what happens with iPhone 7, but I would pay special attention to WWDC’16 and the new features that iOS 10 could bring to the table. Specially convergence ones. Given that Microsoft has unified their desktop and mobile platforms and Google reportedly plans to do something similar, there has to be some movement from Apple here too.

If it’s not there, I don’t have a clear idea how Apple could stop this turning point in the current situation. They’ve got no clear product to replace iPhone’s success in the near future: the Apple Watch will have to show a real change, and the car (if any) is still far ahead.

I won’t say Apple users/investors should be worried –some charts to check here-. I’d say, though, they should be worried about starting to be worried. Apple is not inmortal.

Source: Apple – Press Info – Apple Reports Record First Quarter Results

Will 2016 confirm Apple’s erratic path?

Great monopolies create great antagonists. Apple has become that kind of company: loved and hated equally, with products that usually cause everykind of feelings, but almost never indifference.

2015 was a weird year from Apple, with products that many of us have rendered as unoriginal, beta devices that according to some editors ‘kinda sucked‘.

bii apple revenue by segment 3Q15

They probably did on some fronts, and now the analysts predict Apple will have a ‘difficult’ 2016. iPhone saleswill go negative for the first time in history‘, iPads won’t recover, and there are no products that could maintain Apple current growth.

The fact is, even with that kind of assesment I’m pretty sure Apple will again be bigger than before. The products they have released in 2015 are mediocre on most cases, but even considering that the sales have been impressive. I think Apple is the only tech company that has been able to cross a siginificant border: the one in which product quality is not as important as the brand itself.

I wonder if that will be enough on the next 12-24 months to maintain Apple where it is now, but what I’m sure right now is that Apple is not going to have a tough year. They know exactly where they want to be. And that could be pretty different to what we would like them to be.

OLED Displays are coming to the iPhones, but not soon enough

South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd and the panel-making unit of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will supply organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens for Apple Inc’s iPhones, the Electronic Times reported on Wednesday citing unnamed sources.

According to Reuters, LG and Samsung will be responsible for the future production of OLED screens for those next generation iPhones that everybody expects each new year.

Those new screens won’t arrive soon enough, though. Engadget points out that the Apple Watch already uses that kind of screen -it seems that doesn’t do any magic trick to its battery life- and Nikkei estimates that the iPhones with OLED screens will start to show up in 2018.

This adds up to previous rumors that let us know that Apple is opening a secret lab in Taiwan whose unique goal is to develop the screens of the future. Apple is trying to control more and more hardware components on their devices, and it seems OLED screen will try to be the next key differentiator against the competition.

Source: LG Display, Samsung Display to supply OLED screens for iPhones – report | Reuters

The 4-inch iPhone strikes back, and no Android maker is paying attention

Ming-Chi Kuo has been right in the past on his predictions several times, so when he tells us a new 4-inch iPhone is coming, we should believe him. The move is pretty smart for Apple, that will solve several problems at the same time:

  • There will be a solid iPhone 5s refresh: according to his report, “we estimate 15-17mn 4-inch iPhones will be shipped in 2015. We estimate the new 4-inch model will account for 8-9% of total iPhone shipments in 2016F
  • Emerging markets: I wouldn’t say the $400-500 price range is affordable, and emerging markets have expressed their desire for big iPhones (China is a good example).
  • Apple Pay for all: 3D Touch won’t be part of this model, but according to Kuo we’ll have the Apple A9 chip, 2.5D cover glass with curved edges like on the iPhone 6s, and Touch ID & NFC for Apple Pay, which by the way, hasn’t be the star of the show at Black Friday. The cameras aren’t improved from the 5S, but maybe iOS and the post-processing software will help on this. I wonder what will happen with the battery.
  • Metal or plastic?: Kuo predicts the design will be similar to the one on the iPhone 5s, but we know what happened with the iPhone 5C. Plastic could be again an option for Apple, and that could explain a reduced price. The current iPhone 5s is $449-4999 (16GB-32GB model), so I expect the price to be the same (no 3D Touch, no camera improvements, old design). If they use plastic, though, the price should be $399, but Apple is clear on its price tags strategy. Even on that case I suspect not many will protest if they maintain those prices.

Anyway, the move is, as I said, smart. No one in exploring 4-inch high end smartphones anymore in the Android camp, and although we’ve got some nice alternatives (Sony Z5 Compact is $506 at Amazon) the rest of the crowd is using that ‘bigger is better‘ motto.

Not for everyone. And Android smartphone makers should get the hint here. Btw: my guess for the name of Apple’s new baby? iPhone 6c 😉

Update (12/05/2015): Gene Munster seems to disagree with the new 4-inch iPhone potential.