Aberdeen Senior IT Research Analyst Jim Rapoza recently pondered whether mobile devices have entered “mature technology” territory — whether the pace of innovation has finally caught up to smartphones and tablets, rendering them “boring.”
If there ever was any doubt as to the answer to this question, Apple swiftly answered it yesterday with its underwhelming iPhone SE announcement. But, to Apple’s credit, they’ve been making quiet splashes in other areas.
Function over form
Think what you want about the man himself, but Steve Jobs delivered in the eyes of investors and mobile fanatics. With the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Steve’s Apple was focused on innovation in feature sets, and revolutionizing an entire product category.
Current CEO Tim Cook’s Apple is focused more on strategic business moves versus “innovation.” We’ve been saying for some time now that “the iPhone is just another phone, and really there aren’t any good reasons to upgrade to one.” And this couldn’t have rung more true during Apple’s press conference this week. The star of a show was iPhone 6S specs scaled down into an iPhone 5-esque, 4-inch screen package. Quite the snoozefest, no doubt, if you’re looking for a phone that will blow you out of the water with new bells and whistles.
But from Cook’s standpoint, there is innovation here — it just lies in the price point versus the “One more thing” wow!, feature-based moments that were a hallmark of a Jobs keynote.
For the SE edition of the iPhone, the unsubsidized price starts at $399, meaning many more people can outright own a phone out of the gate more than ever before, without being tied to two-year contracts or monthly installments. And according to a report from ARC, there’s still a sizable chunk of iPhone users — 33% — still on old 4-inch models ripe for being targeted for a new device.
Smart business move? You better believe it. Fresh device? Sure…if you’ve been stuck on a BlackBerry since 1999. But its “freshness” under Cook is more of the “functional” versus “innovative” variety — they are offering a premium phone at a low price point for the first time in their history. Remember that the first gen-iPhone clocked in at $599 — and that was on a two-year contract.
Innovation in unexpected areas
What’s been most refreshing to me about Apple hasn’t been its products as of late (you couldn’t pay me to buy an Apple Watch, even with a $49 price drop), but rather its stance on encryption and consumer privacy in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks in December. Cook has not been shy of his disdain for aiding the FBI (which he again reaffirmed in yesterday’s Apple keynote) in unlocking a phone which has been a focal point of the investigation.
From Cook’s Apple ‘Customer Letter’:
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.
With such a statement reiterated over the past weeks, it’s refreshing that a brand (and especially one that’s had a rap against it for Jobs’ “reality distortion field”-filled speeches) can rise above an issue bigger than its own products, for the sake of protecting not only its consumers, but the world.
The mature technology zone
So the iPhone is in “mature technology” territory. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. As an iPhone user for almost six years now, it’s a more-than-capable device. And, given the mobile revolution that has taken place in just a decade with the launch of Android and the iPhone, it was bound to happen sooner than later.
But now that we’ve arrived at that mature technology plateau, we just have to stop pretending that the iPhone is anything more than that with lavish events pumped up by Apple, and live-blogged ad nauseum. The new direction Apple is taking doesn’t support this fanfare anymore.