No more magic
You have to be told to know it’s
By Kim Tong-hyung
Critics around the world have always been ready to write off Apple, the maker of the revolutionary iPhones and iPads that have cemented themselves as the dominant beasts in consumer electronics. And yet somehow the pride of Cupertino has continued to find ways to beat the odds and come up with new devices consumers find irresistible.
That said, it seems obvious that the company’s latest creation, the iPhone 5, provides the most critical test yet in determining whether it can sustain its ability to produce piece after piece of magic.
For global technology geeks, there are no bigger shows in a calendar year than Apple product launches and, until now, it had always been the charismatic Steve Jobs who pulled the rabbit out of the hat. Now Jobs is gone, and with apologies to new CEO Tim Cook, Apple has no figurehead who comes remotely close to his ability to mesmerize an audience.
The products, therefore, will have to speak for themselves. Following the death of Jobs, a massive amount of ink and electrons has been spent on debating whether Apple will manage to retain its technological and innovative edge in the absence of its founder. At least at first sight, the iPhone 5 doesn’t offer a conclusive answer.
The views on Apple devices are often more polarized than arguments from an abortion hearing and the latest handset appears to be no exception.
Some are raving over Apple’s engineering prowess to make the smartphone even slimmer than its sleek predecessor, the iPhone 4S, despite promising more battery life. The new device is also powered by a stronger processor, handles fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) communications and will be supported by an upgraded operating system, the iOS6, which promises hundreds of new features.
Others question whether there is anything dramatically different between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S.
Apple was late to LTE compatibility and larger screens that have been seen on products by Samsung Electronics and other vendors backing Google’s Android mobile operating system, and the iPhone 5 represents a catch-up effort. It’s difficult to pinpoint any distinctive element or definitive feature of the iPhone 5 in the way the voice-command feature Siri, internal software upgrade abilities and super-sharp Retina Display differentiated the iPhone 4S.
Yes, the iPhone 5 looks gorgeous, but the hard-to-please segment of the consumer population was expecting more than just aesthetics. It seems that smartphone wars have come to a point where it’s hard for any competitor to announce groundbreaking advancements and this could be a problem for Apple as well.
Despite its shiny track record, Apple is far from unstoppable. Its competitors have been investing Herculean efforts to halt its dominance in consumer smartphones and touch-screen tablets and their work is beginning to show. Handsets powered by Android are beginning to duplicate Apple’s strength in mobile Internet functionality and content ecosystem. And Apple’s pace of progress in Web-plugged televisions, built around a predictably named iTV, has been disappointing.
It could be said that the slew of lawsuits launched by Apple against Samsung and other major players in the Android community represents the company’s uneasiness in rivals chipping away at its supremacy. More important for Apple would be to retain its ability to be daring and it’s doesn’t inspire confidence that the response to the iPhone 5 seems to be appreciative rather than euphoric.
This is not to suggest that the iPhone 5 won’t be a commercial hit. Many analysts are ready to bet their houses that smartphone sales records will be rewritten in emphatic fashion in the coming months. And a quick search on Google will confirm that the mainstream media has been questioning Apple’s ability to innovate since 2009, when it released the iPhone 3GS, but the company continued to broaden its market leadership nonetheless.
However, it’s questionable whether the products that come after the iPhone 5 will maintain such level of success and influence. Apple’s element of surprise has long faded and it appears that its window of making another groundbreaking splash in the consumer electronics market is beginning to narrow.