Now that the iPhone 5s/5c event is behind us, we can get down to what’s really important — the whining and complaining about what Apple did wrong.
Okay, I’ll try to keep that to a minimum. I actually think the new iPhones are impressive. But every Apple event provides lots of new conversation fodder, and this one is no exception. So here are my thoughts on yesterday’s festivities. I’ll look forward to hearing yours.
The surprises. Oh right. There weren’t any. Though Apple did fill in a lot of the details, the broad strokes had leaked well in advance of the event: the product names, the fingerprint sensor and the colors. Many don’t realize how extremely important the element of surprise has been in building the modern Apple — and how it’s generated countless millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity around the world for every product launch. Apple has always had zero tolerance for anyone violating the secrecy rules inside the company or any of its vendors, but its size makes that difficult today. Too bad, because from a PR and buzz standpoint, the leaks cause real damage. The good news is: leaks or no leaks, the new iPhone features should appeal to a great many people.
The broken dreams. With Apple, it’s never just about the event itself. It’s about one’s own expectations and hopes — based partly on rumors and partly on Apple’s past performance. Going into this event, some were dreaming well beyond iPhone and venturing into the land of iWatches and iTVs. Alas, it was not to be. But don’t despair. Last year, the iPhone 5 event was followed just one month later by a torrent of new products: iMac, iPad and iPod. October is likely to bring surprises this year as well. An iWatch would be the world’s hottest holiday gift — so it would be tragic if Apple missed this season. (Unless it’s still a long way from finished.)
The stock price. There’s no predicting market reactions. I’ve seen AAPL drop sharply after some fantastic events, only to see it go through the roof once the numbers started coming in. That said, once this event had concluded, I had a feeling that the stock would tank. The lack of surprise definitely had something to do with it, but that’s more a fleeting reaction than any deep problem. As it has done many times before, I suspect Wall Street is underestimating the power of the iPhone brand and the wider audience to whom it will now appeal.
The 5c case. I take it back. There was one surprise, and this was it. The 5c case is one of the more clever designs Apple has ever offered. In fact, it’s so clever, many will buy more than one — so they can show off their colors in different ways. Cha-ching. Fun as this case may be, though, it was released with one horrifyingly un-Apple lapse in judgment:
The unforgivable. I was enjoying the iPhone 5c web page where you can experiment with the phone/case color combos. It’s very nicely done. Suddenly I was aghast — a chunk of the word “iPhone” can be seen through one of the holes in the case. While some will say “big deal,” those who love Apple’s taste and values will feel like they got punched in the stomach. Clearly someone fell asleep at the wheel. It not only looks like a mistake — it looks ugly. And ugly has no place in Apple’s world. You can either write it off as a momentary lapse, or you can take it as terrible warning sign. Or maybe this just proves that while Jony Ive is in charge of hardware design and software interface, he doesn’t get invited to the accessory meetings. (Fast Company offers a particularly good spanking of Apple here.)
The unforgivable, Part 2.Look at the image at the top of this article and note that in Phil’s presentation of iPhone 5c yesterday, this grievous mistake had been Photoshopped away. Cover-up!
The names. Mind if I beat this dead horse one more time? This isn’t about logic, it’s about marketing. It’s about firing on every possible cylinder for maximum impact. “iPhone 5s” says that this year’s model is a variation of last year’s model. “iPhone 6″ would say that this is a brand-new iPhone. iPhone 5s will be marketed as if it stands apart from every previous iPhone — with revolutionary fingerprint scanner, twice the speed, better camera, etc. — it just won’t be named that way. And now there’s the new wrinkle of the iPhone 5c. Its body style, look and feel is a total departure from the iPhone 5, yet its name is also linked to last year’s model. I think the marketing would be more effective if Apple were to introduce the brand-new iPhone 6 family, which includes a range of choices for everyone. If you can think of any advantage to clinging to the “5″ number, lay it on me.
The iPhone 4s. It lives! And now it will be the free option, no less. One downside: by keeping the 4s alive, Apple continues to sell a device that uses the old 30-pin connector.
The end of white. (Never mind! I was mistaken about this. Thanks to @NonnyNZ for pointing it out.)
The videos. One thing that never gets shaken up is the format of the launch videos. After 10 or 15 years of these videos, they’ve spawned a popular form of parody with tons of YouTube variations. (Even Google has gotten into the act.) At some point though, one has to wonder if the world is laughing with you or at you.
The built-in apps. Stroke of genius. In the battle against PCs, one of the Mac’s greatest advantages used to be that it came pre-installed with the suite of iLife apps at no extra cost. It’s a really smart move to apply the same philosophy to iPhone and iPad. Now, when you buy one of these devices, you get a complete set of productivity and creation tools as part of the deal. You don’t get that on your Samsung Galaxy S4. Yet.
Touch ID. I’d wondered how that little button was going to get my fingerprint right every time. It’s very cool that the technology is such that you can touch it at different angles, and it will still read your fingerprint accurately. This feature will remove the one thing that has bugged me most about having an iPhone. I want security, but I really hate hassling with passwords. Thanks.