When the Markets Define Apple

Months of rumors. The typical swirl of news that generates huge traffic to any website with a source within Apple’s secretive workforce. Planned leaks to select members of the press. This huge cycle of hype that builds up through the collective media that all arrives at one point.

The day in Fall where Apple unveils its new iPhones to the world.

Yet this year felt different.

Watching the new iPhone unveils and the breakneck speed at which Apple CEO Tim Cook went through it all left me feeling underwhelmed. He effectively glossed over every new feature of the iPhones as he powered through to the infamous “One more thing….” (a line that Steve Jobs used to critical success). What we got was the long rumored Apple Watch. With almost no reason to actually buy one.

But before I dive into the Apple Watch. I want to step back for a minute and focus my attention on the new iPhones.

For the better half of three years phone companies have broken away from the old standard of 3.5/4in screen and looked bigger. 4.5/4.7in all the way up to 5.5in phones have become the near universal standard. Samsung, Sony, Huawei, Motorola and LG all make phones within that range. Most of them have been really good sellers at whatever market they are introduced as consumers look to ditch the tablet for a more universal device. One with a larger screen that can also be a phone.

In this category I’d list the Samsung Galaxy Note line as the prime example of this convergence of tablet and phone (I hate the word “phablet”).

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Even Apple, who has sold over 25M+ iPhones per fiscal quarter since 2012, has admitted in a court case that the phones its fan-base want are the phones Apple isn’t making.

So Apple responded on Tuesday with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. At 4.7in and 5.4in these phones are the largest Apple has made and its bet on canabalizing the sales of the iPad line as sales have gone stagnant. The usual plethora of improvements that are included in the yearly update have almost become mechanical in their predictablity. The new software tweaks and features were borderline predictable. And thanks to the commitment of Apple to support its devices these updates will be coming to phones as old as the iPhone 4s.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

These new phones follow in the footsteps the competition took years ago.

Leaving me to question just why I should upgrade from a 5s to a 6(Plus).

The short answer I came to is that I can’t. For all that I want to want a new iPhone I don’t see any reason for me to actually own one.

The smartphone landscape has changed rapidly in the past year as companies have “doubled-down” on producing quality phones over the tsunami of mass-produced crapware that defined the early years of Android. Within this market and the coming expansion of both iOS and Android to other products aside from the smartphones, I’m wondering now if Apple is going to play catchup once again to a more diverse competition.

These new iPhone are not bad. They are actually the best iPhones ever made. Yet within this transition to larger screens Apple is conceeding that the forces of the marketplace are too great to ignore. Instead of unleashing the swagger that Apple employed in its earlier years with the iPod, iTunes and iPhone that was meant to buckle the trends of the modern day and rebuild them to the desires of Apple; Apple has quietly conformed without a fight. For all the bashing and PR smear that Apple (under both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook) unloaded: they have always listened to market trends.

What I am getting at is that I almost wish Apple had come out with the unveil of the iPhone 6 and showed us a 4.5in phone. Something that hits the sweet-spot between size and pocketability. That they would’ve stood firm in their beliefs and brought that trend-setting standard that has come to define the iPhone for the past five years. As these are the first phones made directly under the wishes of Tim Cook I see the change in Apple.

A company that doesn’t look to bend the wishes of the market to its own wants. But one that listens to the market. One that innovates only when the market demands it.

This is an Apple I am scared of. Because the desired implications of listening to the markets could lead to a fragmented system. Something that many iOS users have been wary of Android due to the sheer volume of phones out. That quality in design has already been lost in the transition between the 5s and 6 (Plus).

It’s leaving people like myself who would rather have phones that can fit in our pockets out of luck. Because when I look to my left side with my charging iPhone 5s: I see a standard of phone that tops whats being offered in the 6(Plus). It’s a small phone that fits in my pockets easily. It’s my iPod. My GPS. My social machine. The design and layout memorized and customized over hours of trial and error.

It’s (the 5s) the perfect phone.

One I don’t have to think about.

It’s something I wish that Apple had taken a good hard look at. In the race to compete in the modern marketplace I feel that they may be loosing sight of what the core iOS users look for in an iPhone.

Size (fits easily into the pocket).

Reliability (consistent updates).

Ease of Use (using it without thinking about it).

But they have shareholders to impress and a market to reassert itself over.

I’ll pass this year.

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