iPhone 5: The Most Beautiful iPhone Yet… and More

Ben Bajarin / September 12th, 2012

As a leader in personal computing, Apple product launch events often bear the burden of too much hype. Then as they launch new products that set new sales records, customer satisfaction levels, and needed health into the consumer electronics industry, people always seem to ask “have they done enough?” My stock answer is yes, and I am sticking with it.

The headroom to grow in the smart phone market is enormous. Smart phones are maturing as a market but we are far from market saturation. The global customer base is still ripe for the picking and Apple has raised the bar when it comes to the iPhone 5.

The Most Beautiful iPhone Yet

There is no doubt that there are smart phones in the market with larger screens than the iPhone 5. There is however no doubt that the iPhone 5 is the most beautiful smart phone on the market by a large margin. The iPhone 5, when you feel it, see it, and hold it, feels like a fine piece of jewelry. The quality and craftsmanship surrounding the iPhone 5 must be appreciated no matter what your opinion of Apple.

I often think that many underestimate the value of design when it comes to consumer markets. I have written extensively about how Apple turns technology into art and the iPhone 5 may be the ultimate manifestation of this observation.

Design plays a key role for those who sell hardware because well designed products stand out from the pack and captures consumers attention. The new iPhone 5 is going to be the crown jewel of every retailer who showcases in their store.

iPod–Don’t Call it a Comeback

Perhaps the part of today’s event that took most by surprise, was Apple’s injection of innovation back into the iPod line of products. Many have long assumed that it was inevitable for Apple to phase out the iPod line of products. The iPod line has been on a steady decline quarter after quarter but perhaps that is all about to change.

Although the iPod is no iPad or iPhone in terms of growth opportunity, it still fits strategically. Keep in mind that Apple is still the undisputed leader in the portable music player market. Some may argue that the portable music market is shrinking or disappearing but what if it is simply because no major upgrades have happened in this space Apple is looking to change that specifically with the new iPad Nano with its 2.5 inch multi-touch screen and bringing many of the same innovations of the iPhone 5 to the new iPod Touch.

Strategically both products exist to extend the Apple ecosystem for sections of the market who value a dedicated media player. Believe it or not, the world is not in a uniform move to converged devices only. Just look at Amazon’s Kindle e-Reader strategy to see this point. Tremendous market opportunities exist for those who create products that cater to specific customer needs. This is why the iPod line will still stay relevant for some time.

Also, there may be a lot of people who may never buy an iPhone and opt for Android but still want the rich features and media ecosystem that Apple offers their users. Now that the 4-inch iPod is similar to an iPhone, including Siri support, there could be a lot of Android customers who may buy iPods to supplement their Android phones that cannot not match Apple’s exceptional music, TV and movie content.

An interesting thing to think about is with the quality of the new iPod’s camera perhaps many may elect to purchase it as a point and shoot camera that does a whole lot more. Perhaps the new iPod is targeting the point and shoot camera market. With the inclusion of the Apple iPod Loop which is a camera strap, I think Apple feels the same way.

New To Apple Customers

There is an important perspective here that is worth remembering. Apple’s priority is keeping their customers happy. Apple is often criticized for integrating into their products features and functions that exist in competing platforms or hardware. That is all fine and good but for many consumers (over 400 million of them) they are not customers of competing platforms, they are customers of Apple. What matters is that Apple keeps their customers happy. These customers have invested time, money, and energy into Apple’s ecosystem and have no desire to leave.

That is exactly what they have done with the iPhone 5. They have brought key new features and functionality to their customers base. A customer base which I am convinced has extreme pent up demand for this new iPhone. Existing Apple customers will be extremely pleased with the latest generation iPhone and I fully expect the iPhone 5 to shatter all previous iPhone sales records. However, upon seeing this amazing new piece of hardware, I expect Apple to welcome many new members to the family.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Disapointedphoneuser

    The Iphone5 is really disapointing. No groundbreaking innovations. No groundbreaking model. Just a 4 inch 4S. It’s a real shame sites like this praise the Iphone5 when nothing really special has been done with the Iphone. A few days a go we saw the Lumia920 packed with tech. really cool stuff. But there you get the moning and groning, the bitchin about the fake pics and so on. Even though real pics were released soon after. And that should have been it. But 95% of all tech sites bitch about it leaving aside the real uniqueness of the 920. Now Iphone5 is here it’s bland and has really nothing going for it. I mean if Nokia or Samsung did the same they would get burned to the ground…

    • benbajarin

      You going to have to see it. ALso its hard to expect ground breaking innovations in a market as mature as smart phones. They are no longer necessary.

      Each year when automotive companies release new cards do you demand or expect groundbreaking innovations? No.

      Changing the world every year is no longer necessary. It is now about making products and experiences better for your customers.

    • Phil

      So wrong on so many levels. The whole Internet would have MELTED if Apple had been found to fake pictures from their phone. Tell me, did you notice the difference between the Nokia and Apple events? How about the tech press were allowed to use the iPhone whilst from all accounts they weren’t even able to touch the Nokia phone! As for the Nokia being “packed” with “really cool tech” would you care to tell me what it has that the iPhone doesn’t? And don’t give me a list of useless “features” that no cares about. So the iPhone is bland is it? Care to estimate what the sales will be compared to the Nokia phone?

    • FalKirk

      “A few days a go we saw the Lumia920 packed with tech. really cool stuff.” – Disapointedphoneuser

      Microsoft and Nokia would sell its soul to have the “disappointing” iPhone 5 instead of the “packed with tech (and) really cool stuff” Lumia.

      • steve_wildstrom

        And that might be true even if they actually had the Lumia 920. Today I was able to play with an new iPhone without restrictions. Nokia wouldn’t let anyone touch the Lumia and all the evidence strongly suggests the Windows Phone 8 software is not finished yet. So what we have is an announcement with no price and no ship date.

    • Rich

      Even the best product is bound to have few people who are disappointed with it and you’re one of them. But there will be a way greater number who will be delighted with the iPhone 5. Don’t believe it? Forget what the tech sites say and just watch the sales numbers for the new iPhone over the next few months.

  • Polimon

    iPhone 5 will be Apple’s best selling product yet. I have no doubt. And I do think people need to actually see it and touch it to understand the craftsmanship. The renderings and low res photos we saw in the rumor phase failed to convey its superiority.

    • benbajarin

      Exactly. I spent some time holding it and it really has to be seen and felt to appreciate it. Especially the white one. The sort of angled cut around the outside is not brushed aluminum like the sites but still chrome so it has the distinctive shimmer to it as well. The same is true at the bottom with the headphone jack and the speaker holes. They have a chrome tipped finish that makes the edges pop.

      Its the kind of thing that you don’t want to keep in your pocket because it is so elegant to look at it.

  • FalKirk

    No matter how beautiful or functional the iPhone 5 is, I don’t believe that Apple can keep up, hardware-wise. Their iPhone 5 may be a marvel but its specs (if not its design) will soon be surpassed by rivals. Apple’s focus needs to be on moving the value of their platform to their services and their ecosystem – and I believe that is exactly what they are doing.

    An important aside. Although Apple’s annual upgrade allows for rivals to steal a march on their technology, marketing-wise, Apple’s strategy is brilliant. There is a lot of customer confusion in smartphones today. Apple’s one and only one phone strategy is often derided by Android Advocates but anyone who knows marketing – and can read a financial sheet – knows that it working. Confusion causes reluctance, certainty encourages action. And lots and lots of people were certainly encouraged to buy the new iPhone today.

  • Relentlessfocus

    I think Apple did a fair amount of innovation in iPhone 5 that many don’t understand. The whole screen technology is a first. Eliminating the cover glass and embedding the sensors in the LCD may not be headline stuff for the CNN/verge crowd to latch onto but it allows the phone to be thinner, lighter, gives a more responsive 1:1 feel. An Apple first. That the screen is the only one to match sRGB didn’t make a big splash on the WSJ but colours will be more saturated without the artificial look of of OLED screens. An Apple first. Machining the iPhone 5 out of a single block of aluminium like they do with laptops adds rigidity and strength while keeping weight down. An Apple first. These type of innovations are not easily listed in a tick box comparison chart but improve the user experience in subtle ways which add up to an enjoyable user experience.

    The new Nokia 920 is a beautiful phone though you can’t buy it because it’s not for sale. Wireless charging is one of those features that sound good but what’s the advantage? You don’t want to lug a wireless charger on a business trip. The camera on the 920 sounds good in low light but is a 1 stop advantage in low light shooting mean packed with new tech? Not too me.

    I appreciate that many people are attracted to a larger phone with a bigger screen. If so, there are several options. It’s not like Apple is incapable of designing a bigger phone, they chose not too.

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