Tim Dunn, head of mobile strategy, Glue Isobar
Last night’s Apple announcement was probably more keenly anticipated than any of its predecessors. Not only were breathless commentators eagerly awaiting the effect on Apple’s already shy-high stock price – this time there was anticipation of what iPhone 5 will do for the entire economy.
Unfortunately, this kind of seeming hyperbole is not entirely out of place – iPhone and iPad releases do have a massive effect on the mobile market.
However, the increasing layers of hype fail to cloud the fact that every release seems to be more mundane, more functional, ultimately more disappointing, and this was a case in point.
Previous announcements have heralded real game-changers: remember the first time you played with the iPhone touch screen, when the App Store first arrived, when iMessage arrived to kill the SMS, and when in-app payments arrived to wreak havoc with print and publishing? Even Siri showed that Apple’s confidence in innovation could still inform the big decisions. These were real game-changers that had a real transformative effect outside of just mobile.
Last night, conversely, saw the release of just another smartphone, and in so many ways saw Apple catching up with the market. iPhone 5 now has 4G reception across the major networks, a bigger screen, on-the-fly video editing and still capture, a faster chip and longer battery life.
One major omission is the continued absence of NFC. there’s something almost churlish about the refusal to include NFC, which is standard on pretty much every other device these days – as if they’ve taken the view that as they can’t own the entire payment arena, they’re taking their ball back and not letting their users play at all. Apple may believe that it has sole dominion over how user’s mobile behaviour evolves, but mobile payment is a train that is now going to leave without it: now that Google/Visa/Paypal etc have another year’s start on Apple we can expect to see Apple be comprehensively left behind. It also maroons the Passbook vouchering and ticketing feature announced as part of iOS6 as a bit of a white elephant, with no standard way to redeem.
We all know that Samsung et al have been assiduously copying the iPhone template for years, but most of these features are already widespread on Android devices – 4G for example has been available in the US and Asia for years.
So overall iPhone 5 sees Apple return to the pack as just another phone manufacturer. There’s enough candy in the announcement to keep iPhone users loyal for another round of upgrades, and that will keep the analysts happy.
But for me, it’s not enough. We used to be able to rely on Apple for a glimpse of the future, for where our industry is going next – for an insight into the as yet unknown desires of the mobile user.
Now though, it seems we may have reached the limit of mobile innovation – either the loss of Steve Jobs has had such a punishing impact on Apple’s capability to deliver the remarkable, or, more likely, there just isn’t that much more innovation to deliver. We as marketers now need to take what we have, and learn to use it smarter and better, and in ways which resonate more naturally with established smartphone behaviour.
As for innovation, and I never thought I’d say this again, perhaps wiser eyes may start turning back east – to Nokia…