What a juicy couple of weeks we’ve had in the iPhone world. New phones, new iOS, new ads and the inevitable flood of opinions.
What the heck, I’ll throw a few more into the mix.
iPhone 5c. I was withholding judgment until I could get my hands on one. I have to say, holding it in one’s hand is a very different experience than seeing a photo or video. Thanks to the new design, it almost feels thinner than the 5s even though it’s not. Very easy to love.
The theme lines. “Forward thinking” and “For the colorful.” I want to like them, I really do. They just feel a bit too calculated for my taste. I wholeheartedly agree that much of the 5s technology is forward thinking, especially the 64-bit part. But the line is more logical and strategic than it is seductive. I get that Apple is forward-thinking by reveling in its design and functionality. A great theme line would cap it off with a little magic.
iPhone 5c ads. Whatever cleverness there is in the “For the colorful” line, it’s in the idea that iPhone 5c is the choice for colorful people. The Greetings ad captures that. Plastic Perfected, on the other hand, does not. It’s simply the manifestation of Jony Ive’s “unapologetically plastic” statement in the 5c launch video. Personally, I like the Greetings ad 100x more than Plastic.
“Designed in California.” You won’t be seeing the likes of this ad — or the iPhone photos and music ads — for some time. These ads didn’t exactly have people streaming into the stores. They’re the type of ads you run when you’re lacking in any substantial new-product news. Those days are over.
Color. Interesting how iMacs started colorful before embracing a monochromatic elegance, while iPods and iPhones started monochromatic and then burst into color. Behold the difference between personal consumer electronics and a piece of furniture.
“Designed Together” ad. (Up top.) This is really more of an iOS 7 ad, but when it gets to the “designed together” part, it’s the 5c we’re talking about and not the 5s. That says a little something about Apple’s marketing priorities. Taken on its own merits, the ad is mildly interesting in at least exposing people to the look and feel of iOS 7 — even if some of it is a bit baffling without context. I only wish it had better music. At various points, this track sounds too much like it was assembled from loops in Soundtrack Pro.
The horror. That terrible flaw in the iPhone 5c cases, in which partial lettering on the back of the phone is visible through one of the holes? Gone! At least it’s gone in the “Designed together” ad, thanks to the miracle of modern retouching. Wouldn’t want that little faux pas messing up a perfectly good ad, now would we. It’s odd though, considering that Apple’s own web page unapologetically shows off the design error — probably because Photoshopping it away here would have been too obvious a coverup. Sorry, but no matter what evidence anyone presents, I will never, ever believe that Jony Ive was anywhere near the room when this decision was made.
iPhone 5s names. How come Space Gray gets an adjective, while poor Gold and Silver must make it on their own? Where are the Consistency Police when we need them.
iOS 7. I’ve read glowing reviews and nasty ones. Some of my acquaintances are in love with it, others are appalled by it. But I won’t say it’s 50-50. I’m hearing far more happy comments than groaning. Despite some pre-download apprehension, I really like it. And I’m liking it more with every passing day. That’s because it feels fresh and “alive,” with a responsive feel my iPhone never had before. That it delivers this feel to new and old iPhones alike is a wonderful thing.
Flying icons. Remember when Steve Jobs introduced the Genie Effect in Mac OS X? He was infatuated with it. So much so that he demoed it three times in a row, wearing a Cheshire Cat grin as the crowd ate it up. Even so, when the software shipped, an awful lot of people went immediately to Settings to turn it off. It could get on your nerves. Well, iOS 7 has a Genie-like issue on a larger scale. Unlock your iPhone and app icons fly onto the screen. Switch apps and things zoom into place. You might think it’s cool, but you also might think it’s annoying. Some are even complaining that it gives them motion sickness. It would make everyone happy if, as with the Genie effect, you could do away with the flying and zooming at the click of a button. But you can’t. So … update, please.
The ugly stepchildren. Scott Forstall lives! Two Apple apps — Find My Friends and Find My iPhone — cling to their leather stitching and serif fonts. How hard would it have been to simply change the skin of these apps so they fit in with the beautiful world of iOS 7?
The buttons. iOS 7 feels more open and spacious than iOS 6. That’s largely because it’s missing elements that previously added weight to the screens. In particular, buttons. In iOS 7, many buttons have been replaced by words. One side effect of this is that some of iOS’s “obviousness” has been removed. Buttons don’t have to be heavy and dimensional, but a little button-like appearance would be helpful. I get and appreciate that in many ways, iOS 7 is designed to make a four-inch screen feel more spacious. And that leads me to my next point…
Where’s the bigger iPhone? Many Apple supporters have slammed the Samsung Galaxy S4 for its hugeness. Who’d want to carry that monstrosity in their pocket, they ask. Well, I’ve been playing with people’s Samsung phones, and I have to say: they ain’t that clunky. They don’t give you a hernia. What they do give you is a luxuriously large screen that makes a lot of users happy. I will be extremely surprised if we don’t see a larger iPhone by spring. Reason: Samsung is selling a boatload of these things — and many are buying them not because they love Samsung, but because Apple doesn’t have a bigger iPhone. Once Apple has a bigger iPhone, Samsung can kiss many of its current customers goodbye. As happened with the smaller iPad, I don’t believe Apple will sit idly by and watch a significant chunk of its market disappear.
Unfinished business. I’ve seen some comments that iOS 7 feels “hurried.” I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Apple is always working on the next version of things before the latest version even ships. iOS 6 shipped in September 2012, and Scott Forstall wasn’t sent packing till a month later. So, although the changes in iOS 7 are far bigger than those in every previous version, it was brought to market with less development time. They’ve pulled it off very well, but with a few months to fine-tune, I think some of these issues wouldn’t exist. Clearly we’ll see some significant refinements as we move forward.