Devices Opinion

What does $76 billion buy? A weak hardware update, nice services

Well that was underwhelming.

I’m rather surprised by the total mismatch between expectation and reality with today’s iPhone launch event.

When you’ve got billions upon billions of dollars sitting there at your disposal, expectations naturally run high.

As I’ve written before, the company does need to occasionally justify it’s huge valuation. Justification is delivered through delighting consumers.

Consumers are, I think it’s fair to say, not delighted this evening.

Where’s the iPhone 5?

Where’s the next iteration to the cool stuff?

Where’s the redefinition of the mobile platform as we know it?


What we saw tonight was an exercise in steady-as-she-goes.

The new announcement — the iPhone 4S — is a complete and utter disappointment. There is no single magnet draw to the device for the consumer beyond it being broadly ‘better’.

Services? Well. They are impressive. Mightily so. iCloud, iMessage — I’m looking forward to seeing them hit the marketplace fully. The problem today is that it’s nothing new. They’re old. Indeed if you happen to know any semi-geek, they’ve probably had a version of iOS 5 running for a few months now.

Siri — the voice recognition system — that is smart. Again, it’s nothing new at all. That’s not to take away from the technical innovation, that is impressive. I am very much looking forward to using it, provided the service can handle my semi-Scottish, semi-British accent.

What we missed today was Steve Jobs. If he’d led the line up today, I think the reality distortion field would have held up nicely. I don’t think many people would have questioned the strategy. But when you start reading posts like this one from the FT (“Apple’s iPhone 4S disappoints investors“) you can clearly see something was missing from today.

Price pressure on the rest of the industry is going to be quite exciting to behold. Just what kind of damage will a highly competitively priced iPhone 3GS do to the mid and semi-low-end markets?

Given that there’s clearly an iPhone 5 coming at some point, how many people will be upgrading to the 4S? How many people will be queueing?

Me? I’ll definitely upgrade. But in an orderly manner. I won’t be queueing. I don’t see any particular need to do so.

It’s going to be exciting to see how consumers adopt the various iServices. I’m keen to see if iMessage begins to take attention away from SMS. I’m particularly delighted that finally the ‘frustrating’ issue of having to dick about with physical iTunes files appears to be coming to an end.

By failing to seriously delight the market, Apple has made it rather easy for the rest of the market to compete. Tonight’s event has given a lot of breathing space for the likes of Nokia — their big announcements on Windows Phone are due at the end of the month. There was a danger that some amazing statements from Apple could have overshadowed everything Nokia, RIM and the Android community put out this quarter.

Let’s be clear though: Apple certainly shouldn’t be underestimated.

Is it fair to say the shine has come off though? Quite possibly. We’ll need to wait until the next few big announcements to say for sure.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

13 replies on “What does $76 billion buy? A weak hardware update, nice services”

Think of the poor duped case manufacturers with all their tapered iPhone 5 cases!

Apple definitely missed the mark. i wonder if they think their position is so strong they can just ride this out whilst they develop the next big thing – or sue enough people to retire?


hmmm…maybe it’s a slow burn for a reason. Unless the new hardware was ***stunning***, people would have questioned the need for an upgrade given how new the iPhone4 still is/looks compared to most other phones. Apple *have* made the overall UX better, especially for anyone in challenging coverage. Reception ✓ speed ✓ battery life ✓ cloud sync ✓ . These aren’t to be sneezed at, the reception and DL speed bumps will materially improve the battery life too – that might be where the talk/browsetime gains came from. What I’m really interested in is how much ‘life-stickier’ iOS5 + iCloud makes things. Last year I broke with a decade of .Mac service and went Google – Gmail, Picasa, Apps. It’s great. But could Apple leapfrog Google and do something *fabulous* that would get them my $50 a year back? Snappier camera performance, coupled with intelligent auto-iCloud sync…that could be a mom-and-dad winner. But then there’s the small matter of shifting 105GB of media to them.

I agree that the lack of a built in hoverboard and teleportation system will disappoint many of the fan boys, but I think we write off innovations like Siri at our peril. With a 20%+ share in the majority of its established markets, Apple’s core customer base is no longer made up of techno-geeks and early adopters. By delivering a potentially game-changing UI that brings the full capabilities of the device within reach of the majority of its customers, Apple will continue to drive the virtuous circle of loyalty and advocacy that has been at the core of its success since 2007.  

Not sure you getting it. It’s not about pleasing the Tech Geeks with a new hardware form factor, that’s why the blogosphere/journalists are underwhelmed (me included by the way, I would have liked a bigger screen). 15 months without a new form factor from apple is seen as disastrous.
However it’s about ushering in mobile services for the *masses* – Apple are pushing into mid and low tier through their very aggressive pricing and adding sticky services that just work with minimal configuration. Much as I like the Samsung S2 and Prime – they are about tech specs, not mobile services. When you’re telling Siri to order your socks via the Amazon app in 10 seconds you might change your mind . You  think RIM and Nokia are this advanced on their mobile services…?

I don’t think anyone is writing them off per se. I suspect it’s actually the groundswell of continuing excitement in the tech space that’s made it rather difficult for Apple to continually meet those expectations.

You could probably shift that 105GB of media to them over a few weeks, easily, Mike.

You’re right to highlight the importance of services vs hardware.

Would certainly be a shift in tactics. I think the problem may just be we are used to the jobs reality distortion Field.

If Nokia came out and announced a phone with those specs and features I think we would all die of shock. Because we are expecting jobs to spin some magical columbo like “one more thing”, this just felt flat.

But surely apple would have known that!? Would maybe have been in their interest to start reducing expectations in subtle ways over the last few weeks!

Still the wife won’t sniff st the iPhone 4 prices dropping when her upgrade is die this month.

I wonder if Siri will be a game changer like the iPhone’s GUI.  Touch screens had certainly existed before the iPhone’s arrival, but clearly Apple brought something else to the table that the consumer greatly desired.  I’m sure Siri will also have a similar effect in terms of resetting expectations when it comes to the voice interface..but I question how much effect this will have on consumer behavior.  Will it be a novelty…used at home a few times and then left to gather dust…or will it become the primary interface to the average user.  IMHO, people tend to avoid voice controls in public because they want some degree of privacy.  As well, it’s often difficult to avoid extraneous noise in public spaces.  Maybe Siri is the silver bullet, but I remain skeptical.

The 4s may well sell well (mainly to upgraders from the 3G(S)) but in terms of capability, services and all the rest,  I see nothing even close to making a jump from my Nokia N8 (with Symbian Belle, which is better than latest Android not to mention iPhone, by multiple accounts) anything but a significant downgrade.

That’s right, I said it: Nokia N8 -> iPhone 4s is a significant downgrade.

Love that Apple are crowing about fixing the most important feature of any phone (the aerial) to bring it up to the level everyone else gets without even thinking about it. Love it also that they have kept the glass back – you know, the one that often breaks from a waist height drop (while the N8 survives 2 storey drops onto concrete without a scratch as a matter of course). And the rest? Well it’s just spec love, you know, a kind of dick measuring contest I suppose.

I respect people’s enjoyment of the Apple UI and integrated services, they’ve achieved easy to use designs. But the 4s just stinks of milking the faithful really.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.