Will iPhone 5 be haunted by Jobs’ phantoms?
By Kim Yoo-chul
Apple has been a pathfinder in the world of smartphones and the U.S.-based consumer electronics giant so far proved its capability to wow industries and consumers.
Timely releases of new iPhone models offering highly-competitive software-focused details have made the handsets extremely popular. But Apple could be left trailing of its corporate foe and friend, Samsung Electronics.
With the passing of charismatic, visionary and iconic Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, its new chief executive Tim Cook is being challenged to prevent further business pitfalls, according to industry executives with a deep knowledge of Apple solutions, products and services.
``Apple is losing luster in some ways. What’s really important to Apple right now is now is to regain confidence from investors by clarifying its business roadmaps and releasing i-branded products matching its previous patterns,’’ said a senior executive from one of Apple’s key parts suppliers in Korea, Monday.
Not surprisingly, the executive asked not to be identified.
The remarks come after Apple has been grappling with the so-called ``battery-gate’’ after the company confirmed its iOS5 software is causing a shortened battery life for a number of iPhone 4S users ― the second time for Apple to suffer hardware-driven problems after ``antenna-gate’’ a year ago.
In a statement, Apple said it will release a software update to address the issue in a few weeks.
Samsung Electronics passed Apple to become the world’s biggest smartphone maker in the third quarter of this year and U.S.-based market research firm Trefis said Apple will have a hard time clawing back the ground.
In rare notes to clients, Trefis insisted it won’t be easy for Apple to regain the top spot in the global smartphone market and stressed Apple must come up with a new version of the iPhone since Samsung will continue to offer various options to customers.
``The report by Trefis is quite interesting. For me, it means Apple needs to focus more on hardware not just software to expand its customers tonot only Apple fans,’’ said another executive from a local parts supplier to Apple, which has maintained the partnership for several years.
The executive downplayed the ``good response’’ to the iPhone 4S, which has sold four million in less than a month, because he believes the trend was just another tribute to the late Steve Jobs.
Attention is on finding clues over the timing of the next iPhone as the handset will have more meaning than just the product launch amid growing uncertainties over Cook’s management style.
Unlike Jobs, Cook is considered a genius in handling supply chain management (SCM) structures and clients than injecting the ``whole vigor’’ for products, said executives who’ve contacted The Korea Times.
``I’m still waiting for the iPhone 5. I’m a big Apple fan, however, the iPhone 4S didn’t match my expectations. If Apple releases the iPhone 5 within the first half of next year, then I will remain as big a fan, however, if not, I will doubt Cook’s management capabilities,’’ said Park Min-kyoung, who works for an Apple supplier in Korea.
Apple, fighting Samsung over patents in countries from Europe and Australia to the United States, might have acknowledged the need to keep Samsung as a key supplier.
Samsung chief operating officer Lee Jae-yong has agreed with Cook to provide Samsung components to Apple products for the next few years.
``Apple has already proved its competitive edge in softwares and it needs Samsung to manufacture a more powerful iPhone series because Samsung is currently the sole firm that can guarantee output commitment, on-time delivery, better pricing and more importantly, qualified components,’’ said one executive.
Apple will use Samsung-manufactured A6 quad-core processors for the tentatively named iPhone 5 and there has been speculation that the upcoming iPhone will support Long-term evolution (LTE) telecommunication technology using picture quality-improved LCDs.
Steve Park, a local representative of Apple, wasn’t available for comment.
``Because Cook is more interested in logistics, SCMs and product quality, Apple will keep its long-time South Korean parts suppliers that include Samsung, LG Display, LG Chem, Samsung SDI and LG Innotek as scheduled,’’ the executive went on to say.
``Cook needs to show his capability in management and soft-landing. Any big bugging woes in hardware-related things will directly hit him, causing Apple to suffer from freezing investor confidence. That’s another reason.’’
Apple’s former human resources director Jay Elliot, also regarded as a right-hand man of the late Jobs, is planning to meet a top-level Samsung’s legal executive on Nov. 10th in Korea, according to Samsung officials.
``Samsung approached to Elliot for the meeting. Only a few know about it,’’ said an unnamed Samsung executive.
Elliot will come to Korea on Nov. 8th and stay until Nov. 10th, the official said.
A Samsung spokesman Lee Seung-june declined to confirm the meeting citing the sensitivity of the issue. Samsung said it’s not changed its ``hawkish stance’’ with Apple in dealing with the ongoing patent battles.
``It’s plausible that Apple and Samsung may enter a cross-licensing period. If they do, then Apple will put more focus on developing upgraded i-products without a greater stabilization of a parts supplement and I think that’s the Cook style that wasn’t seen under the Jobs era.’’