Apple Maps: Decision by Wall Street?

Just as we all start to get sick of reading and debating the Apple Maps debacle,  a new interesting thread, issue, or new piece of information comes up.  This time, it was, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook apologizing for the lousy experience Apple Maps delivers.  You should put to rest the debate on whether it’s a good experience or not as it is per Apple’s own admission.  I applaud Apple for its admission, but Apple should never shipped it.  From a company who has defined itself by delivering the best experiences, why was there a decision made to ship a sub optimal experience?
Apple redefined for the entire technology industry what the word "experience" means. While There may be some debate debate if Apple has redefined the personal computer, There’s no one who can legitimately argue that Apple did not do this for the smart phone and even the tablet.
This is why it is just so odd as to why Apple would allow this low-quality map application to be released in the first place.
There are really only two different and mutually exclusive ways this can be explained:
1) Apple forgot how to deliver and evaluate a good experience.  Essentially this scenario says that Apple, after delivering great mobile experiences for years, forgot how to do that and how to measure it.
2) Apple knew they were delivering a poor experience and decided to ship the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 anyways.  they would deal with the consequences afterwards.
Any reasonable person who follows technology closely must know that it’s the second option.
This then gets to the decision making process.  Anyone who has ever spent any time in product management knows that near the launch of a product, you have many launch readiness reviews. Apple may call their review something different, but they have something like it.   It involves cross functional teams, typically including product management, product marketing, program management, engineering, manufacturing and operations. Each group goes through their review, one after the other. These types of meetings essentially compare the minimum launch criteria with the current state of the product. The outcome of this meeting determines if the product is ready to ship or not and the critical actions to close the gap. The most senior executives rarely attend these meetings, but are sought afterwards for escalation If there are issues.
You can bet that Apple maps was reviewed and scrutinized over and over and over. You can assume some people said that the experience was good enough to ship and there were those who said Apple maps was not ready to be shipped.  The decision probably came down to Tim Cook himself, who opted to ship a sub-optimal Apple maps experience.
Tim Cook had a very difficult decision to make in that none of them resulted in anything optimal. He had to choose between:
1) Ship a sub optimal experience coincident with the launch of the iPhone 5, "hitting" commit dates made to Wall Street, press and retailers. With this decision Apple would potentially take the heat from consumers and the press.
2) Delay shipping the iPhone 5  until Apple Maps delivered a good experience. This would raise the ire of Wall Street and investors.  As we have seen over the last two weeks, Even though Apple shipped millions of the new iPhone five, it still wasn’t good enough for much of Wall Street. Imagine, if the iPhone five were delayed by a few months.  Imagine what that would’ve done to the stock price.
So how did it work out for Apple? Short-term, it worked out pretty well if you measure in terms of sales. They sold 5 million iPhone 5s the first weekend and 100M ungraded to iOS 6.  Apple’s stock hit a massive hit this week, but it’s unclear to say if Apple Maps were the culprit, if it was financial analyst expectation versus how many they sold, or fears of production issues.  It was a combination of all of these.   Apple’s reputation has surely taken a hit but it’s unknown if it will have any lasting impact. Apple’s prior issues with products stemming from things like iPhone antennas, MobileMe, and Ping barely made a brand scratch and was followed up by record selling products.  I do believe that people will start to question brand-new things that Apple gets into that are related to their core competencies.  These are could be markets like search and products like TVs.
So why was the decision made to ship a lousy Apple Maps experience? As we’ve seen Apple’s stock get hammered as of late, it was about the stock price.  Imagine if Apple had delayed shipping the Phone 5.  The stock would have been hammered even harder.  Therefore, Apple’s Tim Cook probably made the right short-term business and stock decision even if it wasn’t in the best interests of its customers.  You see, brands have half-lives, and while Apple cannot have a string of incidents like Apple Maps, it can afford this one in isolation.  Tim Cook, Wall Street thanks you.  Apple Maps users, not so much.

Relax Everyone: The iPhone Is Just a Phone, Apple Is Just a Company

iPhone 5 photoSeptember has been an unusually newsy month, and much of the news has centered on Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 5. The run-up to the announcement, the announcement itself on Sept. 12, and the first deliveries on Sept. 21 have sent the journalists, commentators, and analysts of make up the tech industry commentariat on a run of bipolar mood swings that have been a wonder to behold. Really, everybody, it’s time to take a deep breath and get a grip on ourselves.

The Run-up. The days before the announcement we were actually fairly calm. The rumors mostly sounded reasonable and as the 12th approached, mostly converged. By the time Tim Cook and Co. had finished their presentations in San Francisco, what we got was pretty much what the rumors had led us to expect. In fact, the last few Apple product announcements have all been well telegraphed, either because the company is managing expectations through strategic leaks or Apple’s supply chain has grown so long that and its pre-announcement production needs so great that it is impossible to maintain the secrecy of the past. Most likely, it’s some mixture of the two.

Announcement and disappointment. When Apple announced exactly what was expected, the immediate response in many quarters was crushing disappointment. It wasn’t quite clear what the iPhone lacked. The complaints seemed to mostly be that the new iPhone looked a lot like the old iPhone, even though iPhone design has been on an evolutionary course since 2007. The fact that the iPhone 5 was dramatically lighter and thinner with a much-improved display, seemed to count for little. What it really needed was a quad-core processor and near-field communications. The new Lightning connector was a disaster. The phone offered neither a hoverboard nor a jetpack.

The disappointed missed some highly significant change because it wasn’t apparent and because Apple, which generally doesn’t talk much about internals, didn’t mention it. It took chip guru Anand Lal Shimpi to find out that the A5 system-on-a-chip inside uses an Apple-designed processor in place of the modified Samsung designs used in the past. The custom chip, closely matched to Apple’s software, also a big boost in performance with what looks like a small decrease in power consumption. The result was that Apple was able to use a relatively small battery with no loss in running time. This has important implications for future designs of both the iPhone and iPad, but it went largely unremarked.

Order exhilaration  Despair turned to euphoria when Apple began taking preorders and promptly announce that it had a record 2 million orders in hand and had begun pushing out promised delivery times a couple of weeks. The always optimistic and often wrong Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray forecast first-weekend sales of 120 million units with a “worst-case scenario” of 6 million. After counting buyers standing in line at Apple Stores, Munster came down the middle with a forecast of  8 million.

Maps, oh my. Then iOS 6.0 shipped on Sept. 19 and all hell broke loose. there were complaints that Passbook, a new service for storing tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, and the like seemed half-baked (In fact, I have yet to get it working at all on my 4S.) But the real furore concerned the new Apple Maps application, which replaced Google Maps.

I think the Maps imbroglio is the one serious piece of all this back and forth. Apple, in most un-Apple-like fashion, shipped a new operating system with a core function that works, at best, somewhat erratically and is markedly inferior to the app it replaced. What we don’t know is why Apple made this move at this time, specifically, whether it was Apple or Google that forced the change. Chances are we never will know, not with any real certainty. But I think Apple could risk some real reputational damage if it cannot quickly improve an mapping app that cannot get me from my suburban Washington home to Dulles airport without climbing a fence and running onto a runway.

But still, the anguish over maps, like everything else in this sequence, was overdone. Some writers said they would swear off the iPhone because Maps had lost transit instructions, somehow forgetting that Google Maps, with transit directions, worked just fine in a browser, so nothing was lost. (The bigger problem is that third-party location-based apps must use Apple’s inferior maps.)

Shipping day. Except for the usual silly stories about people standing in line at Apple Stores, shipping day was a bit of an anticlimax. By then, everything about the iPhone was known. The only real new issue was that the aluminum case, which replaced the stainless steel band and much-reviled glass back of the iPhone 4 and $S, could scratch, especially along the finely chamfered bezel that surrounds the display. It remains to be seen how serious a problem this will be as the phones get used.

The 5-million phone catastrophe. Then came the Sept. 24 news that Apple had shipped 5 million phones on the first weekend of sales. Although this was a spectacular number by any standard, it was widely seen as a disaster, coming in, as at least one headline put it “50% below expectations.” 

It’s true that first-weekend iPhone sales were up only 25% over 4S sales for the comparable period, while 4S sales were roughly double sales of the iPhone 4. But it’s worth noting that a 25% growth rate is spectacular for a company of Apple’s size, and doubling could not have continued for long (see the wheat and chessboard problem.) Beyond that, we know very little about how sales are really going. Apple records a sale only when the phone is in the customer’s hands and we have no idea how many pre-orders are still in the pipeline. We have no idea the extent to which shipments were constrained by supply  (Bloomberg reported that Apple is facing a shortage of displays, but that’s based on a bunch of reports by analysts who may or may not know anything.) It will take some time to get a good idea of sales; there’s every indication they are strong and the question is just how strong.

Nonetheless, Apple’s stock dropped 3% after the “disappointment.” This is still odd, since Apple is not priced like investors expect 100%, or even 25% growth.  It’s price-earnings ratio is just 16, about a point higher than IBM, a company that can thrill investors with 5% growth.

Something about Apple just seems to inspire mass craziness. Much of this dates back to the days when the late Steve Jobs could seemingly pull miraculous products out of his hat and by the astonishing recent growth int he company’s sales, profits, and stock price. But it’s time for everyone to sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that Apple is a very big and very successful company. If it releases a revolutionary product every few years–I’ll argue the last was the iPad in 2010–it’s innovating better than just about anyone else on the planet. If it grows at just 15% a year, it is growing much faster than any other company its size. It operates the most successful retail stores anywhere. And it can be very successful for a very long time.


Apple’s 4-Inch iPhone 5 vs. Android 4-Inch Plus Devices

Since June I have been using the Galaxy Nexus 4.65 inch screen smart phone. Upon switching to that device from the iPhone 4S, I was instantly taken by the screen size. It was clear that gaining just over an inch or so in display size yielded a compelling experience. In fact, the screen size was one of the primary reasons I was able to withstand not going back to the iPhone 4S despite the things that frustrated me about Android.

Bigger screen size is one of the features we hear constantly touted by Android handset makers as a core feature. By reading many of the comments from the Android enthusiast community it is clear that larger screens are something they clearly value. It is also clear that Android OEMs believe that having bigger screens is a clear differentiator over the iPhone. Coming off my experience with the larger screen size Galaxy Nexus I can understand why at the surface this seems to be true. This is why I was pleased that Apple made the iPhone 5 with a larger screen. One of the criticisms about the iPhone 5 I have heard was that the screen was still too small at 4-inches. It was clear from listening to the presentation at the iPhone launch event that Apple is convinced that from a design perspective 4-inches is the ideal screen size for clean one handed operation. So the question I want to tackle is whether there is clearly more value to be had in smart phones with screens larger than 4-inches. In essence, is bigger better?

The initial assumption is that the larger the screen the more information I can see at one time. If this was not true, then I would have to question value that would be derived from the larger screen smart phones outside of perhaps games and videos, especially given the design and hardware tradeoffs necessary to make a larger screen as well as the compromise in efficient one handed operation.

To test this I looked at key applications on both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Nexus to see if applications like email, text messages, viewing web pages, Twitter, Facebook, etc., were that much better on a 4.6″ screen. In all the scenarios I wanted to look at, I compared both devices with key applications and looked at how the information was displayed.


For many email is still a critical application. Email support for Microsoft’s Exchange was one of my more frustrating experiences overall with Android. Email is critical to me in my workflow and I have always liked how Apple handled Exchange server and I prefer the UI of Mail as well to many other mobile email applications.

As you can see from the below screen shot both the 4″ screen on the iPhone 5 and the 4.6″ screen of the Galaxy Nexus displayed roughly the same amount of information.

On Android the app lets me see about 6.5 messages and the iPhone shows me 6 full messages, which is one full message more than the iPhone 4S. My conclusion is that the 4.6″ Galaxy Nexus provided no significant value with respect to email over Apple’s 4″ screen on the iPhone 5.

Text Messages

Not everyone may consider email as critical as an everyday application as myself or other professionals but text messaging is a different story. Text messaging may be one of the most important applications on any smart phone and I was curious to see if the larger screen provided any significant value when it came to text messaging.

As you can see from the text message thread below, the iPhone 5 actually shows more messages as a part of each thread than Android. A key thing to note is that on the iPhone 5 I have a thread that is often more than one line per message, where as on Android there are more one line messages. When I looked at text message threads on the iPhone 5 that were more one line messages, I could see almost double the amount of messages on the screen than on Android.

Conclusion: iPhone 5 with its 4″ screen does a better job displaying text messages than the 4.6″ Android Galaxy Nexus.


Facebook is another key application that many consumers use regularly on their mobile devices. Both of the screen shots below were taken using the mobile application created by Facebook for each platform.

As you can see both devices show roughly the same information with the iPhone 5 showing just a bit more of the timeline but not enough to consider it useful. My conclusion was the Facebook experience was generally similar with no significant value being derived with Facebook on the larger 4.6″ Galaxy Nexus.


Not everyone uses Twitter. I do regularly and it is an important application in my every day smart phone use. The comparison screen shots below are Twitter’s official application on both iOS and Android.

Here again we find very similar experiences between both devices with no real value being derived from the larger 4.6″ screen.

Web Browsing

Web browsing is another key application to a smart phone experience. Many sites are deploying mobile versions of their sites but to do this test I wanted to see if the larger 4.6″ screen on the Galaxy Nexus let me see more of a full web page than the iPhone 5’s 4″ screen.

So I went to the full version of the NY Times to see how the experience compared on both devices.

As you can see here again, both devices display about the same amount of information regardless of their screen size differences. Interestingly, however, even though the iPhone 5’s screen is smaller than the Galaxy Nexus, when viewing the full version of the NY Times on both sites, I still found the iPhone 5’s screen easier to read the text and key elements of the page. Thus, the full web experience was actually better on the iPhone 5’s 4″ screen than the Galaxy Nexus 4.6″ screen.

Key Conclusions

What I am pointing out in this analysis is in the same vein as the issue I brought up in my column last Friday, which was that customized apps, tuned to a screen size, are going to out-perform in terms of experience and value than apps that are simply scaled to match whatever screen size gets thrown on the market. Scaling an application just increases its size relatively but as I show above does not lead to more information and debatably a better experience.

The one area where this may make a difference is with games and videos where a slightly larger screen may be pleasant. But those use cases are just one part of the overall device usage.

We are already seeing the vast majority of iOS developers beginning to tune their apps just for the 4″ screen. This is not something we can say with Android development. It would be difficult to create custom applications for all of Android screen sizes in order to utilize the value of each screen size–if even possible at all. This is why Android is based on an app scaling philosophy.

I am watching closely how iOS developers take advantage of the larger screen to see if the custom apps built for 4″ screens actually provide more value in terms of experience and value than scaled apps on Android to fit every screen size.

Ultimately consumers will have to choose which tradeoffs they feel are most valuable as they evaluate what matters most to them in a smart phone experience. What performing this analysis proved to me was that I found no real significant value in terms of experience or information display with even the largest Android smart phones.

In conclusion, bigger does not necessarily mean better.

Do Consumers Really Care About Wow?

I am fascinated by the amount of media and bloggers who said that what Apple introduced in the iPhone was incremental and did not have the “wow” factor”. They complained because they wanted support for NFC (not even close to being ready for prime time) and dissed it for its new connector, as if it would cause great harm to their lives.

Grow up people! From 30+ years of following Apple I have learned that when Apple designs a product, everything they do is related to how “they” want to use the products themselves. Every edge designed into the product and every component is done for a reason. They don’t listen to the media or rumor sites that say they want this or that feature. Instead, they create products they would love to use.

I remember talking to Steve Jobs about this on a couple of occasions and he made it clear to me that Apple is about creating great products and writing world class software and the motivation was always based on how he and the team would like the product and how they would use it. They don’t do focus groups. They don’t do consumer research and instead, they create products they would love and believe that in the end, consumers will love them too. Never once did he say to me “Apple is shooting for the wow factor.”

They also have to live with the laws of physics. Although I believe the iPhone is the most elegantly designed to date, everything they did to enhance it, whether it is to the case itself and all components inside, literally pushed the law of physics to the edge of what can be done. At the same time, they made sure it was recognizable as an iPhone. Keep in mind, Apple has spent the last 6 years branding its look and feel and to create a new design that maybe looked like a banana, wallet or any other form factor did not make sense.

Thankfully, consumers see past the drivel that comes from some media and bloggers who write about what “they” wanted Apple to do or why “they” are disappointed in Apple. In fact, Apple seems to get this right every time they introduce the new iPhone.

The major reason for this is that Apple does not develop products for the media and bloggers. That is a good thing. If they did, iPhones would have 30 i/o ports and look like a can of spray paint. And they seem to hit the right nerves with each new model.

While media and bloggers are complaining about the lack of wow, consumers who seem smarter then many of these writers, just go out and buy Apple products in huge numbers. Apple is the most profitable company in America and they did not get this way from listening to the media and bloggers.

But they did get to be this profitable by adhering to their core beliefs that is ingrained into the Apple DNA. They create products they themselves would like to buy and use and believe that consumers will buy them too.

iPhone Naysayers

It’s interesting to sit back watch tech pundits and some bloggers trip over themselves to write negative articles after an Apple launch. It’s nothing new, it’s been going on for years with the same result — they’re wrong.

iPhone 5 photoThe launch of the iPhone 5 was no different. The interesting thing to note about these naysayers is that its usually the same group of people predicting the demise of the iPhone or Apple, or maybe both.

What usually happens is that Apple sells a gazillion iPhones while these same people yap their gums about how bad it is.

Here is the cold hard truth about the iPhone — if people thought the device was lacking in any way, they wouldn’t buy it. Apple has proven over and over again that people do want the iPhone with the features they put in it.

I’ve heard people talk about the design of the iPhone 5 and that it didn’t change much. My immediate question is, “why did it need to change?” The only answer seems to be that they expected, or wanted, something different.

Change for change sake is not a good design decision. Taking the design you have and making it better is a good decision — that’s exactly what Apple did with the iPhone 5. While the outside of the iPhone did receive some tweaks, Apple spent a lot of time on the innards of the device, changing almost all of the components.

The iPhone has the ability to connect to a variety of networks, including LTE. It’s built with anodized aluminum and glass inlays, and lighter and thinner than its predecessor. The iPhone also comes with the A6 processor, sporting twice the processing and graphics performance. There’s more, but you get the idea.

These are actually things you will notice when you use the iPhone 5. The extra power will allow developers to build better apps, making our lives as consumers that much easier.

The bottom line is this: will people buy the iPhone. Judging from today’s news about the iPhone pre-orders, the answer is a resounding yes.

iPhone 5 Design As a Killer Feature

As Steve pointed out in his article this morning, the sentiment that the iPhone is underwhelming steaming from many of the tech press lacks serious understanding of the consumer market. It is true that the iPhone does not have things that other phones have. Things like the largest screen of any phone, or NFC (I point out why here), or a number of other features. In the whole discussion of what the iPhone doesn’t have people are forgetting that Apple’s philosophy of what you leave out is just as important as what you put in. Many of those things the tech media is complaining about for not being in the iPhone 5 were left out on purpose. And I think its clear that Apple knows what they are doing.

But one thing the iPhone 5 does have that is unmatched in the smart phone market today is industry leading industrial design. In my opinion only Nokia comes close to Apple with its passion for industrial design. I’ve been using the Galaxy Nexus since June and there are many things I like about it. I used a Galaxy S3 for a short time a few weeks ago and it is nice as well. But I continually find the build quality, and attention to hardware design detail sorely lacking across the board, with the exception of Nokia. Design is a feature, that should not be ignored or discounted.

Many smart phones have a plastic, and cheap in my opinion, feel even though the screens are made of glass. Many of the most popular smart phones today are in fact made mostly of plastic. But there is a fundamental reason why these design decisions are made and holistically why most major smart phone OEMs do not pay the same attention to detail and industrial design of Apple.

Android Handset Depreciation

For Android to compete with Apple it takes an army of Android devices. Although Apple has several products on the market, they only have one current generation smart phone. Android OEMs launch dozens or more every year. Although the Galaxy S3 outsold the iPhone 4S briefly last quarter, its hard to believe that is a long term trend since many consumers held off for the iPhone 5.

The Android army can only succeed by flooding the market with Android devices. Some are very good but many are not. The key, however, is that to survive in that market and actually compete you need to constantly put new products in the channel and be very aggressive with price. Android devices depreciate faster than any other product on the market. What I mean by that is they start at inflated price points then very quickly get to $99 or even buy-one-get-one-free.

The Galaxy Nexus, one of the better devices on the market and the one that I am using until next Friday, is already $99 dollars with many carriers with a buy-one-get-one-free offering at that price point.

Some carriers around the world are also already offering similar deals for the Galaxy S3, Samsung’s flagship smart phone. Soon that device as well will be offered at extremely aggressive prices in every carrier around the world.

The iPhone however holds its value and does Apple does not need to drop the price of its flagship phone every three or six month’s to continue to outsell any single other device. Apple has never dropped the price of their current generation iPhone nor has any carrier needed to offer a buy-one-get-one-free deal in order to move tens of millions every quarter. I find this fascinating.

Further points on how the iPhone holds its value is in trade in or resell offers. I don’t see companies offering high value trade nearly a year after its release with any other product than the iPhone. This simply goes to you how the market value for the iPhone is drastically different than any other smart phone on the market.

This is where the design is the key. Because of the unprecidented attention to detail the iPhone does not just hold its value, it is valued by the market. More so than any other smart phone. Premium design is valued and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Design is a premium differentiator and the fact that Apple keeps such a premium designed product at an entry level price with contract at $199 should continue to impress people.

I stated this in my article on the iPhone 5 earlier in the week but this new product will stand out like the crown jewels at a garage sale at every retailer where it is sold.

What Do iPhone 5 Critics Want?

iPhone 5 photoApple’s announcement of the iPhone 5 has unleashed a remarkable wailing and gnashing of teeth in the tech media (for example): Apple has failed to hit us with shock and awe. Apple has become the new Microsoft, resting on its laurels and letting its platform petrify. Apple can’t innovate anymore.

Most of this nonsense seems to be the work of jaded writers who simply don’t have a whole lot to say. What almost all of this criticism fails to do is tell us what the new iPhone ought to have been other than something different from what it is. The complaints seem to boil down to “Apple failed to wow us in some way we didn’t expect.” But as I and many others have pointed out, the smartphone market is maturing fast and changes that add value, rather than changes made for their own sake, are getting harder to come by.

Some writers complained that Apple failed to overhaul the user interface. This is true, but what is the argument for changing what remains, five years after it first challenged the limits of BlackBerry and Palm and the horrors of Windows Mobile, an exceptionally intuitive and elegant design. Apple has been very careful in evolving the iOS interface. But it hasn’t been static. For example, it solved the problem of modal notifications in iOs 5. Should it add live tiles? Of course, this would require a completely new UI. And if the best argument for live tiles is Windows Phone, that platform’s failure so far to make any headway is not much of a case for the appeal of that approach.

Apple has been roundly criticized for failure to incorporate NFC. But as my colleague Ben Bajarin points out, NFC is a mostly solution in search of a problem. Especially in the U.S., there has been little movement by retailers to install the infrastructure needed to support NFC,

The new iPhone screen size has been the subject of rather odd criticism, since the company is accused of imitating Android by going to a larger display when the particular display size it chose is unique. Apple deliberately avoided the sort of mega-screen that had graced recent high-end Android phones, going instead for a screen that is taller than the current iPhone but the same width. One reason Apple avoided a wider display is to maintain the ability to operated the iPhone one-handed, especially for people—like many women—with smaller hands.

I can’t explain just why but the new phone feels very good in hand. It’s actually only a bit lighter than the iPhone 4, but the difference seems more significant, perhaps because the long, relatively narrow design, makes it better balanced. The differences are subtle, but the new aluminum back and precision-machined sides just feel right.

Of course, there are two major changes in the new model. One, which no one is criticizing, is the addition of high-speed LTE wireless. The other is the replacement of the venerable 30-pin dock connector with a new design, dubbed Lightning. (Dan Frakes at Macworld has an excellent rundown on Lightning’s capabilities and deficiencies.)

Lightning has inspired the collective ire of tech writers. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, for example, calls it “incredibly irksome.” It’s unfortunate that it orphans nearly a decade worth of cables and accessories based on the 30-pin design, and even more so that Apple plans to charge $30 for a Lightning to 30-pin adapter (I expect cheaper third-party versions are not very far away.)

On the other hand, the 30-pin’s time was up. The connector, always a rather fiddly bit, just claimed too much precious device real estate. Manjoo and others criticize Apple for not using the standardized micro-USB connector, and this objection has some merit. But Lightning has distinct advantages over micro-USB. It’s sturdier and reversible. I found I could easily insert it with my eyes closed on the first try, something difficult if not impossible to do with micro-USB.

Probably the oddest complaint is that Apple no longer surprises us a product announcement. First, this isn’t really true. Although all the salient features of the new iPhone were known before the Sept. 12 unveiling, both the details of the new iPod touch and the existence of a redesigned iPod nano were not known in advance. The lack of secrecy about the iPhone, though, is now inevitable. By scheduling the announcement just 10 days before it expects to ship millions of phones, Apple has to deploy a vast supply chain on a scale that makes its former secrecy impossible.

I know that in my decades as a journalist, I never complained about my success in finding out things that the people I was covering didn’t want me to know about. Hearing people other than Apple executives complain the secrets were found out suggests that some writers don’t have enough real work to do.


iPhone 5: The Most Beautiful iPhone Yet… and More

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.

Why The New iPhone Will Be Roundly Panned And Why It Will Still Sell Like Crazy

What would you say the new iPhone’s greatest feature or features will be? Will it be the hardware? The operating system? A new service like maps or passbook? Nope. It won’t be any of those things. The truth is, the new iPhone’s greatest feature already exists right now, today, before the iPhone has even been announced.

The greatest thing about the new iPhone will be the very same thing that Apple’s customers love about their current iphones – every added feature will work seamlessly with the whole. The iPhone is not about its parts, it’s about making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.


Analysts, journalists, and industry observers always seem bewildered by this.

They’ll look at the new iPhone and say: “It’s the same old design” or “It doesn’t have as many features as my phone does” or “Its operating system is looking old and dated” or “It doesn’t allow me the freedom to run any content or any app I want”. Then they will be dumbfounded that a phone that they’ve deemed wanting will have such stellar sales. “That can’t be right,” they’ll say. “That phone is inferior to mine. It’s not rational. iPhone customers must not be rational. iPhone customers must be stupid.”


Here’s the resolution to the seeming paradox that haunt’s the iPhone’s critics: Apple doesn’t WANT the phone with the best features – they want the phone with the features that work best together. It’s not about the quantity of features, it’s about the quality of the experience.


Pundits may not get this, but iPhone users sure do. They consistently give the iPhone satisfaction ratings so high that they are in nose bleed territory.


With the iPhone, it’s not about how the features work, it’s about how the features work together; it’s not about any one thing, it’s about the whole thing; it’s not about the phone, it’s about the Apple ecosystem. The critics may not see it that way, but the potential buyers sure do. The secret to understanding the iPhone is to understand that people aren’t buying a phone they’re buying Apple. And that makes all the difference.

Why the Next iPhone Should Skip LTE

Battery life will be the undoing of the next generation of smartphones, warns Farhad Manjoo at Pando Daily. He’s right, and that’s why for the next version of the iPhone, probably due out in the fall and probably not to be called the iPhone 5, Apple should pass on the opportunity to add fourth-generation LTE wireless.

At least with current radio technology and networks, LTE is a terrible battery drain, a situation not likely to change much over the next few months. In the history of wireless, most new radio technologies have initially hurt battery performance and LTE is worse than most. Apple was smart to put LTE into the new iPad and will be smart to leave it out of the iPhone. (Daring Fireball’s John Gruber also speculates that Apple might skip LTE.)

Why different treatment for the iPad and iPhone? Apple could satisfy the power demands of both LTE and the new high-resolution display by making the iPad a tad thicker and adding what iFixit calls “a hulk of a battery.” That’s a less attractive an option on  the iPhone. Any increase in thickness would be much more noticeable on a phone than on a tablet. If Apple enlarges the height and width of the iPhone to accommodate  a larger screen, it would gain some room for a bigger battery, but would also need more power for the display. In addition, an iPhone would probably spend far more time active on the LTE network than the more sedentary iPad, which can often do fine on Wi-Fi, which is much easier on the battery.

More significantly, the iPhone really doesn’t need LTE the way the iPad does. The iPad has a PC-like appetite for data. It takes a lot of bits to use all the pixels on that lovely screen to their maximum advantage and you want the screen to fill fast. There’s a big payoff for faster wireless. The iPhone is more of a data-sipper and does very well on a 3G connections, especially of the HSPA+ variety (which AT&T now confusingly calls 4G.)

The smaller the device, the greater the tradeoffs that have to be made in design. Personally, I’m not willing to sacrifice battery life for faster data on my iPhone, which can just get me through a long, busy day now. Nor do I want a bulkier phone to support a radio technology I don’t really need. The main pressure for LTE is coming from carriers, especially Verizon Wireless, that want to shift traffic to their newest network. Apple should resist, at least for one more generation.