Incremental improvement should focus on the needs of the consumer. Apple have missed a trick.
I have written before about the unveiling of the first iPhone. The amazing moment the late Steve Jobs did away with the phone keyboard and effortlessly scrolled through a list of contacts in front of a gasping audience of tech journalists. It was a game-changing moment for Apple. But, of course, it wasn’t their first. The launch of the iPod in 2001 (at a much smaller venue than than the memorial theatre in the space-age Apple Park) is a classic example of innovation suddenly thrust into the consumer spotlight. The iPhone 8, and iPhone X had the potential to be another step-change. But in my view, they’ve let us (the consumer) down – in a big way.
Innovation in technology isn’t easy – and making changes which define a hardware or software genre requires an investment – not only by way of capital, but an investment of time and passion. I believe in following a feedback loop in order to build incremental changes which directly benefit the consumer; and whole-heartedly avoid creating fads which provide a short-lived benefit and ultimately don’t add to the value of the technology. But for Apple, it seems that fads are now their preferred sales technique. We saw it in the Macbook Pro – the touch bar which captivated some and horrified others – ultimately didn’t add enough functionality to make it worthy of an investment. And now we’ve seen it in the company’s new phone offerings.
My phone contract just ended, and my trusty iPhone 6s is still working like an absolute dream. Given my history of losing or breaking every phone I’ve owned – including the fateful example of seeing my iPhone 4 become the filling in a tarmac / tyre sandwich under a bus in Dubai – it’s amazing I’ve still got it in my hands now. But Apple’s new offerings simply don’t add enough value to warrant an upgrade. Barely distinguishable from the last two outings, the iPhone 8 doesn’t even warrant investigation. The addition of facial recognition instead of fingerprint technology on the iPhone X is – in my opinion – a hindrance rather than a benefit.
Are Apple running out of ideas?
Providing not one but two irrelevant ‘upgrade’ options for iPhone users is frustrating in itself; but more frustrating for me is the seemingly obvious omission of an area of R&D which would benefit not only the iPhone user, but the world entire. Investment in the design of an all-glass iPhone is money wasted. Investment in facial recognition technology on a phone is – in my view – money wasted. Investment in augmented reality on a phone is..you guessed it – money wasted. Investment in longer-lasting batteries, faster-charging batteries and environmentally friendly batteries – would be money well invested indeed.
The conclusion of this rant is simple. Consumers don’t need fads – they need technology to enhance their lives, and improve with each iteration. Want to build a better iPhone? Add 50% to the battery life and you’ve really created a step change.