Remember when Apple was the new shiny thing that everyone wanted?- when each launch was amazing, unexpected, innovative? Apple products were something only the cool kids had. Well, now everyone has an iDevice- and Apple is emerging as the embarrassing uncle looking repetitive and outdated, with their profits dropping for the first time in a decade. I’m a card carrying Apple FanGirl- but I’m now eyeing Android phones enviously.
Google’s Nexus 4 (2012):
Why the change? Maybe it’s because Apple’s become commoditised, or perhaps people are fed up of needing yet another different adaptor. Or perhaps Apple products (and by products, my focus is on phones) have just become boring. For a company that does a “major” release once a year, iPhones- in looks at least- really haven’t changed much since 2007. Looks aren’t everything, but- well actually, for Apple looks are very important. Apple has prided itself on melding software with hardware to create an excellent user experience, and no-one would deny they achieved that; the original iOS was groundbreaking when it launched. But since then an additional pixel here and a new border there have made up the bulk of the visual changes over the last 6 years- and now it’s getting dull.
iOS 1 (2007) on the left. iOS 6 (2012) on the right:
But it’s not just that Apple has barely changed; its competitors have been dramatically changing and improving. Once upon a time Android was a messy, confusing and inconsistent operating system. It’s still pretty inconsistent (with big changes depending on which phone model you buy), and admittedly it is also still confusing (compared to the childs-play iPhone). But the latest version is also sleek, stylish, and innovative- with the added bonus of things like Swype (disallowed on the iPhone) and Google Now (coming to iPhone- but limited). And just look at the Windows Phone… Microsoft prejudices aside, they’ve come a long way with their phones.
Windows Mobile (2003) on the left, looking distinctly desktop-like. Windows Phone 8s (2013) on the right:
Apple’s in a cushy position at the moment: demand continues to be huge after each release, and let’s not forget they are still doing very well- to the tune of $137b cash. But a fall from grace often doesn’t happen overnight, and at the moment they look to be on the slow path to Blackberry infamy. Apple’s panicked before- with well known results– so let’s hope they keep their head this time (if an iKettle and iTowel arrive run for the hills). Rumours about the next major iOS release (iOS7) hint at a dramatic change, so maybe that will be the start of a new chapter- one that disproves the critics who believed Apple was Steve Jobs.
C’mon Apple- prove you’ve still got it.
For more on iOS’s visual journey check out this excellent article on The Verge.