Thoughts On Yesterday’s Event: The Good, The Bad, and the Grab Bag

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 6.26.11 PM

It’s been more than 24 hours since Apple’s September 10th event wrapped up. In that time, more details have come to light. The iOS 7 GM was released to developers. Apple confirmed that the iPhone 5s won’t be available for preorder. Apple’s website was updated with new images and marketing phrases for each of the new devices.

Now, I ask that you humor me, as I’m going to write about my personal thoughts on the event, the two devices, and where Apple stands in the smartphone market.

iPhone 5c

Probably the most controversial announcement has been the 5c. This lower-cost (but not cheap) repackaging of the iPhone 5 has drawn criticism from almost all sides.

iOS 7 on iPhone 5C

Here’s what this model is, and isn’t:

  • The 5c is not meant to be cheap.
  • The 5c is meant to preserve Apple’s margins, while offering a more interesting device to the mass market.
  • The 5c is not a niche device. It is the device Apple expects to be the most popular. In other words, it will likely outsell the iPhone 5s.
  • It means that Apple believes hardware alone has reached a point where it is “good enough.” This is the MacBook Air to the iPhone 5s’ Retina MacBook Pro.
  • The 5c shows that the iPhone as a product lineup in Apple’s portfolio has matured to the point where multiple models are needed.

Why are so many disappointed with the iPhone 5c? Honestly, because the rumors were¬†wrong. Everyone — including myself, and the staff of iFans — believed that a plastic iPhone was synonymous with “cheap.” This rule seems to make sense.

But we were all wrong. Could this iPhone be cheaper? Absolutely. Apple could certainly have included a cheaper camera, processor, less RAM, and various other downgrades. Apple also could have shrunk their margins, though that move would be lambasted by investors and analysts alike.

2013-09-10 16_39_47-Official Apple Store - iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPad, MacBook Pro, and more

Instead, they cut $100 off the bill of materials, made it easier (and thus cheaper) to assemble, and are now selling it for $100 less unsubsidized. Boom — Apple makes its money, and a flagship iPhone is now available in colors for $99 subsidized. In markets where this subsidy exists, it’s a big deal. This will push the iPhone 5c to be the best-selling iPhone model to date. Of that, I have very little doubt.

Apple Has Ceded the Low-End Market

Nobody wants to pay more money than they have to for anything, and electronics are the same. This is, at its core, why so many people (including myself, to some degree) are upset with the iPhone 5c. With this release, Apple has announced that it does not care about the low end of the market. It doesn’t care about the pre-paid market, and it doesn’t seem to care enough about developing markets to offer them anything more than an iPhone 4s (or 4, if you are in China).

2013-09-10 16_55_00-Apple - iPhone 5s - Technical Specifications

This is the typical Apple move. Those crying “foul,” or that this would never have happened under Jobs, are mistaken. Jobs specifically did not allow Apple to produce a low-cost Mac. Jobs immediately prevented measures to grow the Mac’s marketshare when he returned in the late 90s by preventing the licensing of Mac OS.

The Mac has a small marketshare. However, that marketshare has been enough to keep Apple’s computer division one of the, if not the, most profitable in the industry. So, picture this: maybe Apple is fine with having 15 or 20% of the market, while making 60 or 70% percent of the money and using that money to offer a better, more expensive product?

(Yes, the trick is keeping iOS and the iPhone more appealing to an audience than Android — in other words, differentiated. I think that Apple is still successful at this. iOS is not Android, and it never will be.)

The iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s star wars

Faster, better, fingerprint sensor. It’s the flagship. It’s the Mac daddy. It’s the one that will still sell very well, but a lot of people won’t go for the $100 difference, and I can’t blame them.

Still, if you are a geek, or if you have the money to spend, the upgrade is worth it. Gold? Not my cup of tea, but I’m sure that there are plenty who will drink it.

iOS 7 GM

IOS 7 logo

iOS 7 GM is indeed a much more polished OS than beta 6 was, across all devices. However, it is not up to the usual Apple standard. The iPad version, in particular, still has issues that I was assuming would be fixed before release (luckily, the battery bug that many experienced on beta 6¬†is fixed, so there’s that).

Unless a second GM is released between now and the 18th, it seems we will all be waiting on iOS 7.0.1 for a more stable OS. To those saying that this a sign of Apple’s failure under Tim Cook, I point to the release of iPhone OS 2.0.

The Misses

Apple needs a larger phone. I don’t know if it the large device needs to be the flagship, though — there’s a reason that the iPhone 5 was the best selling device in so many markets. A lot of people are fine with the 4″ screen. Personally, I prefer it, even after years of larger Android devices. There is something to be said for portability, ergonomics, and pocketability.

However, with other devices gaining larger screens, Apple should have something to respond with. Note: these large-screen devices are typically not aimed at the low, or even middle, range, so it would make sense for Apple to have a product to offer here with their current strategy.

iphone-iwork-suitr

Apple’s own apps do not look like they will be updated with the iOS 7 aesthetic at launch. Programs like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and iPhoto — all of which will be free for new users — will retain the old iOS 6 look. That’s not okay. Apple’s programs should be the leaders, bringing forth new ideas and paradigms that other developers look to.

I’m sure they will be updated in time, but this is a failure that I think deserves more attention.

Storage remains expensive. At least have the base model of the iPhone 5s offer 32 GB, Apple. For the price, you could swallow that cost. Flash is cheap.

Lastly, no preorder for the iPhone 5s? Come on, Apple.

Grab Bag

The marketing of the iPhone 5s already sets up iOS 8. I’ve long thought that iOS 7 may be the redesign, and that 8 would be the release where features are the main selling point (features like integration with Siri, perhaps some serious first-party fitness work, increased app compatibility, actionable notifications, etc.). The iPhone 5s would seem to suggest that iOS 8 — and future versions — will have plenty to talk about.

apple event

The rumored October event should be big. Apple TV, iPads, hopefully some new apps, Mavericks and new Macs… I doubt that it’ll be as quick as this event.

iPhone 5 users do not need to freak out about their device no longer being offered. There will continue to be plenty of support for it, both in software and in hardware (i.e., going to the Apple Store for a replacement will not result in you getting a 5c, in all likelihood). The iPhone 5 was only the best-selling device in the world, and Apple is good with support.

What did you think? How did you like this post? And, most importantly, how much do you dislike iOS 7′s slow animations?

[Star Wars, Power Rangers Image Credit]

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