I had a late evening in the office so decided to stay up late and follow the Apple event where they unveiled the Apple iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. Here are my thoughts from the launch permeated through a couple of days thoughts.
Evolution rather than revolution
The Apple share price declined 5 per cent by the end of trading after the announcement as Wall Street hadn’t been blown away by the new products. The expectation of continuous revolution is unrealistic, innovation is lumpy. The relative low-key approach should have been a clear sign; Apple held the event on campus rather than the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Secondly if one looks at the launch of the Samsung Galaxy 4 one could see the lull in innovation.
Unfortunately consumers didn’t get the message here is a couple of sentiment curves I took a picture of during the first 24 hours after the launch:
They may not be buying iPhones, but they are interested them
What Apple doesn’t have in market share it more than makes up for in terms of defining the direction of the smartphone industry.
It’s about experience
The smartphone industry seems to be marketed on speeds and feeds, from Apple going to VLIW (very long instruction word) processor architecture or MediaTek and Samsung going to eight-core processors. It is getting progressively harder to compare devices on paper even with the same operating system.
Where the performance does show out is in the experience. Xiaomi have done a lot of work in terms of not only redesigning their fork of Android but also optimising the code to run faster on the hardware they select. Which is the reason why they can sell a decent handset at a lower price point. This increases the disruptive nature of their direct to consumer model.
There are a number of aspects to that answer, the big part is that one is not sure which is the the most relevant:
- OSX has been 64 bit since 2006, there is the opportunity for more underlying code share. Knowing Apple, I would expect this to result in a leaner OSX rather than a bloated iOS. Expect to see speculation of Apple equivalents of the Microsoft Surface tablets, and then promptly discount them. People like to keep their hands on the keyboards too much.
- Reducing processor cycles by taking in more data per cycle and reducing power consumption. This only works if applications are designed to work wtih 64-bit, there is likely to be some work required on applications to make them work.
- Addressing a lot of memory is something that made 3D popular in the desktop computing world, allowing for more programmes and information to be held in RAM for quicker access but there is no indication of what this will be used for.
The M7 co-processor
The M7 co-processor has been heralded as a way to do indoor mapping, or a boon for the quantified self. All very fine utopian visions: data is collected, what happens to it after that is both a work of wonder and of the darkest imaginations as the Edward Snowden affair has demonstrated. What I find more interesting is that Apple opted for a discrete component rather than putting this on the die of the A7. It would have probably made more sense, given Apple’s focus on computing power per Watt since Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in 2005. It’s not like it couldn’t have multi-core sleep mode.
Was it because:
- They didn’t have time to architect it into the processor?
- They didn’t want to telegraph what they were doing to Samsung? (It’s interesting that Samsung said straight away that they were dong a 64-bit processor next year, especially as they fabricate Apple’s chips)
- They want to use the M7 in non-A7-powered products?
The 5c is about the supply chain
Probably the most debated aspect of the phone line-up is the iPhone 5C industrial design, specifically the steel reinforced polycarbonate chassis. Moving the iPhone 5 down the Apple food chain would mean lots more milling machines churning out even cheaper phones and would be likely to act as a bottle-neck for Apple trying to get significant numbers of the iPhone 5s out into the marketplace.
The mistake that pundits made was the association of plastic as a cheap material. If it is done well with the right blend, the right tooling and the right design plastic isn’t a cheap material but a great material. In modern parlance it has been associated with disposable throwaway products, but it’s like thinking of wood as a cheap material because we associated it with tooth-picks.