James Scariati

Tag: iPhone

John Gruber on Apple’s enterprise value

John Gruber on the fact that Google’s enterprise value is now higher than Apple’s:

I don’t know that anyone’s business is ever “safe” in technology. And Google isn’t making nearly as much from mobile advertising as they do from desktop browsers. I think the market has this wrong.

It seems like the longer Apple is successful, the more the market expects it to fail. Each new product release is viewed not as further evidence of Apple’s sustainability, but rather as temporarily staving off an inevitable decline – hence, the endless stream of predictions that Apple is perpetually “about to” collapse.

But why does the market view Apple this way? I think the issue is that their products are seen in isolation – as one-off “lucky” hits that have no relation to each other – rather than as an incremental series that build on each previous success.

In hindsight, it’s very easy to see the lineage between Apple’s products:

  • The iPhone built on the success of the iPod by turning it into just one of its built-in apps, while reusing the same 30-pin dock connector and integrating with iTunes in the exact same way – an approach that made it a very easy “drop in” upgrade
  • The App Store built on the success of the iTunes Store by integrating with customers’ existing accounts to make buying apps as easy as buying songs, which customers were already familiar with
  • The iPad built on the success of both the iPhone and the App Store by using the same operating system, thereby eliminating any learning curve while also maintaining compatibility with apps that customers had already purchased

So why does the market treat each of these successes as separate events? Because in real time, there are multi-year gaps between each of these product releases as Apple works on the next one internally, which creates the impression that it “isn’t doing anything” in between major product launches.

When a new product does come along, then, it’s not seen as a continuation of previous efforts – and thus any success it achieves is interpreted as a stroke of luck, reinforcing the initial misperception.

Thoughts on the iPhone 5

The Name

The name “iPhone 5” is interesting. When the third-generation iPad was introduced, Apple simply called it “the new iPad” rather than incrementing the version number from 2 to 3. That led many (myself included) to assume that the next iPhone would be called “the new iPhone.”

Dropping the version number from the iPad makes sense if you accept Horace Dediu‘s theory that this was done in order to make room for a sub-brand, such as “iPad Mini.” Using sub-brands in place of version numbers lets Apple update all the models in a particular product line without causing confusion as to which one is the newest – they all are. As an example, just look at iPods, which are updated yearly and simply called “the new iPod Nano,” “the new iPod Shuffle,” etc. every year.

Since there are no sub-brands for the iPhone, it then follows that the new model would retain the version number.

One other oddity: the iPhone 5 is actually the sixth iPhone, not the fifth:

  1. iPhone
  2. iPhone 3G
  3. iPhone 3GS
  4. iPhone 4
  5. iPhone 4S
  6. iPhone 5

If Apple continues the pattern of releasing an “S” model every other year, the version number and actual generation will become increasingly out of sync: iPhone 6 will be the eighth version, iPhone 7 will be the tenth, etc.

The New Lineup

Speaking of patterns, Apple has also continued to offer three generations of iPhones alongside each other, with the new model occupying the top position and the others sliding down a notch: iPhone 4 (“free”) / iPhone 4S ($99) / iPhone 5 ($199/$299/$399).

The iPhone 4 makes for a damn nice “free” phone. A mere two years ago, this was the top-of-the-line model, introducing the Retina display and a new industrial design. Now you get it for free with a new contract. And with the iPhone 4 occupying the bottom position in the lineup, this means that all iPhones now have Retina displays.

Another interesting point about the iPhone 4 replacing the iPhone 3GS: Verizon and Sprint now gain a “free” model (the 3GS was only ever a GSM phone, so it was restricted to AT&T).

The 4″ Display

The iPhone 5’s taller 4″ display marks the first time that the display’s physical dimensions have changed since the original iPhone was introduced in 2007 – which means that iPhone app developers will also have to support two different display sizes for the first time. Assuming Apple continues to release new iPhones on a yearly schedule, and assuming they continue to sell three generations alongside each other (both of which seem likely), it will take until 2014 for the 4″ display to filter down to all models – but even then, there will still be tons of iPhone 4Ss and 4s in use. So developers are going to have to support both display sizes for many years to come.

I was skeptical of Apple making the display larger, but I think they’ve done it in a way that makes sense: the physical phone has only gotten slightly taller, while the larger display occupies a greater percentage of the front face than the display on previous iPhones. The width remains exactly the same. This means you get more vertical room for content – emails, webpages, etc. – without the phone becoming so much bigger or wider that you can’t comfortably hold it and use it with one hand.

iOS 6 and the iPhone 3GS

I was surprised that the iPhone 3GS didn’t stick around for another year, mainly because iOS 6 will still support it. For the first time, Apple is supporting the current version of iOS on an iPhone model that they no longer sell.

If you bought an iPhone 3GS within the first year of its release, you’ll receive your third free, major-version iOS update next week (iOS 6, following iOS 5 in 2011 and iOS 4 in 2010). This is in stark contrast to Android smartphones, which are lucky to receive even one major-version update over their lifetimes (many Android phones even ship with out-of-date operating systems and are never fully brought up to date).

Of course, the iPhone 3GS (and older iPhones in general) won’t actually support many features of iOS 6 – but, crucially, they’ll remain capable of running third-party apps that require iOS 6. I believe this is the real reason behind extending OS support so far back.

Product Secrecy

Alongside the iPhone 5, Apple introduced new headphones, which they’ve dubbed EarPods. Obviously, I can’t comment on the sound quality or comfort of the new headphones as I haven’t used them, but something struck me during the keynote: it was mentioned that EarPods had been in development for three years.

This is why secrecy is so important to Apple – by not revealing products until they’re done, Apple’s competitors can’t get a head start and match or beat them to market. If a competitor wants to do their own take on EarPods, for example, but they don’t start on development until they actually see the final product from Apple, they’re now already three years behind.

Which makes it all the more interesting how much information about the iPhone 5 itself leaked ahead of time. This must be the “most-leaked” product in Apple’s history. We knew literally everything about the phone before it was released: the taller display, the exact display resolution and pixel density, the new industrial design, the internal specs (LTE, the A6 processor, etc.), the new “Lightning” dock connector, and more. I don’t believe there was a single “surprise” detail of the iPhone 5 that no one knew about earlier.

The New Dock Connector

Apple is calling the new dock connector Lightning, which is interesting, because the former 30-pin connector never had a brand name associated with it (also, it’s a cute pun – Thunderbolt for Macs, Lightning for iOS devices).

This is the first time that the dock connector has been changed on an iOS device (“classic” iPods briefly used a standard Firewire connector before the 30-pin connector was introduced).

Aside from the significantly reduced size, another benefit of the new connector is that it’s reversible – you can insert it with either side facing up, just like a MagSafe connector on a Mac.

The next iPhone

Obviously, Apple is not going to change the iPhone’s display or dock connector again any time soon. Combined with the now-traditional pattern of a new iPhone model followed up by an “S” model the year after, it seems highly likely that next year’s new iPhone will be the iPhone 5S – the same physical design with improved internal specs.

Why Hasn’t Windows Phone Taken Off?

This question comes up a lot in tech circles: why hasn’t Windows Phone taken off?

The product has been showered with near-unanimous praise – reviewers love it, the consumers who use it rate it highly, and its design is innovative and unique. It seems to check all the boxes for a smash hit product, and yet…it has had virtually no impact on the market.

I think Windows Phone isn’t taking off because it occupies a weird in-between space where it doesn’t have support from consumers, carriers, or OEMs.

The iPhone has huge support from consumers: it’s a highly-desireable product, everyone knows and trusts the brand, etc. People will go as far as to switch carriers to get an iPhone, which is virtually unheard of otherwise. That, in turn, creates huge support from carriers for the iPhone, since offering it can draw in tons of new customers.

Android has huge support from the carriers: it gives them something “iPhone-like” that they can offer if they either (a) don’t carry the iPhone, or (b) want more control over the product than Apple will give them. Android also has huge support from OEMs: they can use it for free and tweak it however they see fit.

Windows Phone, however, fails on all three counts:

  • Consumers either have no idea it exists or think it’s related to Windows Mobile
  • Carriers have no incentive to carry the product when consumers aren’t asking for it
  • OEMs have no incentive to use it since they have to both pay for it and cede control to Microsoft

So I think in order for Windows Phone to succeed, Microsoft has to do something to give at least one of those groups reason to support it.

Don Lehman on the New iPhone and Dock Connector

Industrial designer Don Lehman has penned two articles analyzing what are supposedly leaked parts for the upcoming new iPhone and its dock connector. Lehman not only analyzes what has changed with each part over the prior generation, but why it has changed and what the benefits are.

After reading both articles, I’m completely convinced that both part leaks are real. In summation, both new designs provide increased strength and durability despite reductions in thickness, weight, and overall size – exactly what you would expect from Apple, and way too detailed and well-thought-out to have been faked or planted.

While all of the excitement and anticipation is centered around the upcoming new iPhone, it’s also a single product updated on a regular yearly schedule. If an aspect of the new iPhone’s design fails to meet expectations, Apple can simply improve upon it with the following year’s model.

But the stakes are actually much higher with the new dock connector, because Apple doesn’t have the luxury of modifying it every year due to the huge number of third-party products that rely on its particular size and shape (cables, speaker docks, cases, accessories, etc). As a result, today’s iPhone and iPad still use the same 30-pin dock connector that was first introduced in 2003.

So a change to the dock connector has to make sense for today’s products, future versions of those products, and even totally new products that haven’t been invented yet (note that the iPhone and iPad didn’t yet exist when the dock connector was introduced). That’s a tall order.

(Via Marco.org)

Nick Bilton on Apple’s Secrets

Nick Bilton of The New York Times likens the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung – in which Apple has revealed numerous prototype iPhone and iPad designs – to a magician whose trademark illusion was explained in public:

Back in the early 1930s, a magician by the name of Horace Goldin went to court to defend his signature illusion: sawing a woman in half.

Mr. Goldin filed a lawsuit against the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for using this magic trick in an advertisement and explaining how it worked. According to an article in The New York Times from March 1933, Mr. Goldin, who had won a patent for the illusion a decade earlier, asserted that the ad had adversely affected his ability to get people to see his shows.

[…]

Although the federal court threw out Mr. Goldin’s claim in 1938, the damage had already been done.

Although it’s an interesting analogy, I don’t think it really applies in the case of Apple vs. Samsung.

The whole allure of a magic trick is that you don’t know how it works; once that’s revealed, the “magic” is gone and the trick ceases to be entertaining. On the other hand, the fact that we’re now aware of some of the earlier designs that Apple experimented with has no bearing on the utility or the quality of the final products that we have today. Is my current iPhone worthless because I now know that Apple experimented with a version that resembled a large iPod Mini? Of course not. A magic trick, however, is worthless if you know the process behind it.

Also, don’t forget that Apple is the one that filed this lawsuit against Samsung – so it isn’t like they were unaware that their prototypes would be shown and discussed, or that they’re doing so against their will. Rather, as Jim Dalrymple speculates, they’re doing this intentionally in order to (if they win) prevent Samsung and other competitors from copying additional products in the future.

The Future of Computing

This bit in an article about Palm’s “Graffiti” language by Rob Walker caught my eye:

Probably what matters more in judging post-language touch-screen navigation — and this can be a litttle unnerving — is watching a toddler, too young to speak, but evidently hard-wired to swipe and poke, navigate a touch-screen device. No reference card required.

I’ve experienced this first-hand: my son, who is less than two years old, knows how to swipe back and forth between photos on my iPhone. And it’s not accidental or any kind of fluke; he very deliberately sticks out one finger and then moves it horizontally across the screen.

In fact, if we show him photos on our digital camera – which does not have a touchscreen – he tries to swipe those too, and seems puzzled when nothing happens.

Viewed this way, I don’t see how it could be argued that touchscreen devices aren’t the future of computing.

(Via The Brooks Review)