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iPhone 5: Expectations, hype, and the art of what’s possible

Apple has spoken, the dust has barely settled, and the new iPhone 5 is almost upon us. Predictably the world’s press and the blogging community was completely abuzz with the launch event. Sentiment ranged from delirium that the new iPhone was finally here, to underwhelmed disappointment that the new iPhone did not innovate or include the magic carpet Sinbad App in the Maps function, so you could “flyover” all that freshly launched traffic information.

To be upfront here, I don’t believe that Apple with all its hundreds of billions of dollars could have made a better or more innovative iPhone at this point in time. The pioneer days are simply gone, and that has nothing to do with Steve Jobs. All technology has a cycle, and Apple is actually right up front. The best part for us all and innovation in general, is that they are no longer alone. Samsung and Nokia along with much smaller competitors such as HTC are right there with it.

This parity in cutting edge tech is actually not a reflection on Apple in any significant way; it is simply an indication that the tech world has hit a level of technical sophistication and maturity that militates against the next big thing, for now. Despite or in spite of what Apple have done in the past, the various components of state of the art mobile technology have largely become commoditised in a most spectacular way.

A mere 10 years ago the chips, cameras, screens, and battery technology we take for granted, would have been closer to magic that actual mass production. Up to 100 megabytes download speed via LTE on a phone would also have been as believable as the communicator in Star Trek. The simple fact is that it has happened, and legal battles aside, these features are available from everybody and in quantities that actually make this technology completely mainstream.

As an organisation, Apple has actually never truly invented any of the innovation that crams their hottest technology. The camera is from one manufacturer, the processor technology is licensed from another, and the screen is manufactured by some other key manufacturer. I could go on but I think my point is made.

In the same way Intel started the microprocessor revolution and stayed at the forefront of microprocessor technology for over 44 years. Despite this, Intel actually missed the mobile curve.

Along with its major competitors, Apple has taken apparently disparate technologies, such as camera and GPS and crammed all of these into marvels of modern technology. Accusing Apple of being underwhelming and only matching its competitors feature for feature is not an indictment of Apple, but more a reflection of where the current state of technology actually is.

There is no doubt that innovation has not come to a stop, and there may well be completely ground-breaking innovation in the near future, the trick to this innovation is to make it in huge quantity at prices you and I would be prepared to pay, and even more critically, this innovation must actually be so useful and so easy to use that hundreds of millions would not think twice to do so.

Apple has created, with the iPhone 5, a shining example of, and in many ways an unmatchable expression of what is currently possible. Apple has gone even further by integrating an ecosystem of services, and allied products, that complement and enhance their physical product. Is it alone in doing so? Most definitely not, and this is a really good thing. Google with its Android ecosystem has reached a level of polish and sophistication that rivals what Apple has done with iOS. Microsoft has gone even further and created a seamless ecosystem that crosses from servers to mobile devices, with laptops, tablets, and desktops included, all on the same platform with comparable services and integration to Apple. Microsoft and its partners, notably Nokia, are far behind in some ways such as their app store, but they did start later.

The new post-Jobs Apple has realised that until the next wave of technological innovation hits the world it is best served by doing what it does best. The iPhone 5 and any forthcoming products in the next few months will clearly reflect this technological reality.

The iPhone 5 is a technological and manufacturing marvel. There is no other product on the market that is made to the same specifications. Samsung’s SIII and even the forthcoming Nokia Lumia may have slightly better individual elements, but they will struggle to match the overall package from Apple. Will Samsung and Nokia catch up? Time will tell, and I for one dearly hope so, as competition is good for all.

The fact remains that the iPhone 5 is made to some of the highest manufacturing specifications on the market, and the technology included ensures that for now the iPhone 5 will not be found lacking in any area it operates in. iOS6 has the features, integration and polish that makes it one of the most intuitive and simple operating systems to use. And despite its legacy, which many call the app wrapper syndrome, many outside the geek press find iOS delightfully uncomplicated and usable.

On top of the actual device, when iCloud and iTunes are factored in, the ecosystem of apps and services, including music, movies, series, university courses, and more, makes the Apple ecosystem comprehensive and enormously compelling.

This is then the genius of Apple, and this is why it is currently the largest and most successful company in the world. Flawless execution, state of the art production processes, a supply chain that is the envy of all electronics companies, and products that despite the hype, deliver and continue to do so for years.

Could Apple have done more with the iPhone 5? Perhaps. The iPhone 5 could have been bigger, with more memory and more features. What Apple decided to do was deliver the best balance of all of these that was technologically possible for now, and they will no doubt still be spectacularly successful. The iPhone 5 will be available in more countries and on more operators faster than ever before.

This success will drive the search for the next big thing, and Apple may be well positioned to deliver it to us in its inimitable style, when it actually arrives.

Author | Steven Ambrose

Steven Ambrose
Steven Ambrose is a seasoned and experienced journalist, writer, reviewer, and commentator, and is intimately connected to all spheres of the South African media world - both in print and online, as well as TV and radio. As a chartered accountant, he brings with him many years of critical,... More
  • Stephen

    Brilliant piece. Well done.

  • Oh good. Redemption.

  • Shammy

    Oh good. The end of history. Again.

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