Posted : 2012-09-14 20:09
Updated :  

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.

관련 한글 기사

"무덤에 있는 잡스가 통곡할 것" 한탄

아이폰5는 애플의 현 CEO인 팀 쿡의 작품이다. 전작인 아이폰4S까지는 사실상 고 스티브 잡스 창업자가 개발을 주도했기 때문에, 아이폰5는 단순히 1년 만에 나오는 신제품을 넘어 '포스트 잡스'시대를 여는 첫 제품이란 의미를 지닌다. 그렇기 때문에 시장은 '팀 쿡의 홀로서기'의 가늠자가 된다는 점에서 아이폰5를 더 관심 있게 지켜봤다.

하지만 평가는 냉소 쪽이 좀 더 우세하다. 애플 특유의 '혁신 DNA'가 실종됐다는 평이 주를 이루고 있다. "무덤에 있는 잡스가 통곡할 것"이라는 한탄이 나올 정도다.

12일(현지시각) 미국의 IT전문지 씨넷은 "그 동안의 아이폰과 달리 경쟁자들을 압도하거나 월등히 능가하지는 못한 것 같다"고 첫 인상을 밝혔다. 지디넷(ZDNET)의 크리스토퍼 도슨은 "안드로이드 사용자들이 현 약정을 해지하고서라도 아이폰으로 갈아타려 할 만한 어떤 매력도 주지 못했다"고 혹평했다.

오히려 아이폰4가 낫다는 주장도 나왔다. 시장조사업체 NPD그룹의 에디 홀드 부대표는 "아이폰4S 고객이라면 iOS6 버전으로 무료 업그레이드해 이용하는 게 나을 것"이라고 밝혔다. 월스트리트저널은 삼성전자 갤럭시S3와 갤럭시넥서스 등의 신기능을 거론하며 "모바일결제, 가벼운 접촉을 통해 기기 간 콘텐츠를 공유하는 기능 등이 아이폰5에는 없다"고 지적하기도 했다.

일반 소비자들의 반응도 싸늘한 편. 아이폰5 공개 직후 씨넷이 진행한 '아이폰5를 구매할 계획입니까' 설문에서 미국 서부시간 오후 5시 현재 1만638명의 응답자 중 "무조건 사겠다"고 답한 비율은 32%에 불과했으며 '절대 사지 않겠다'는 응답도 27%나 됐다.

국내시장에서도 부정적인 반응이 우세하다. 김유진 토러스투자증권 연구원은 "애플이 내부적으로 혁신에 어려움을 겪는 것으로 보인다"면서 "삼성전자, LG전자 등 국내 휴대전화 제조사가 반사이익을 볼 것"으로 예측했다.

하지만 평가와 관계없이 판매의 위력은 클 것이란 분석도 나온다. 무엇보다 LTE와 결합함으로써 아이폰5의 위력이 상당할 것이란 얘기다. 조성은 삼성증권 연구원은 "4인치 디스플레이와 LTE지원만으로도 그 파괴력을 인정해야 할 것"이라며 "미국·유럽·일본의 사업자들이 LTE 네트워크 투자와 보조금 지급 시점을 아이폰5 발매에 맞춰 조정하고 있기 때문에 아이폰5의 영향력은 시장 예상을 뛰어넘을 것"이라고 전망했다.

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