Apple announced the iPhone 5 on Wednesday: that’s no secret. It has a larger screen, new charging ports, longer battery life, slightly different hardware and a better front-facing camera than the previous model.
Sounds like a lot of changes, right? But there’s one problem: it looks nearly identical to the iPhone 4s (and, before that, the iPhone 4). Additionally, the upgrades to the new device fall in line with technological advances.
Battery life is constantly improving in mobile devices, as are cameras, processors and screen displays/sizes. We expect these components to improve year after year.
But after five years and four iterations, the device serves few functions that it didn’t when Steve Jobs first introduced the product in January 2007.
So yes, upgrades have been made to the iPhone, but no watershed occurred when there needed to be one, meaning that there’s nothing distinctly “Apple” about Apple’s new product.
The reason the company became the behemoth that it is today is because it incorporated new technologies in ways that no one else had.
Apple introduced the first widely successful and affordable personal computer, the Apple 1, in 1976, which pioneered the graphic user interface (computer monitor) that’s still popular today. Other innovations include the first widely used mp3 music player (iPod), iTunes and the iPad.
While these devices (sans the Apple 1) still exist today in forms similar to their originals, their yearly releases are no longer excitedly talked about for weeks — or even months — beforehand.
The iPhone is a different story. Not that it doesn’t resemble its first iteration — because it does — but that it’s still looked to as a product to show the world how new technologies can be used in a commercial setting.
Yet there’s nothing very “new” about the iPhone 5, and in terms of creating a discussion instead of becoming fodder for it, the device is a failure.
The horizon for Apple doesn’t hold any exciting new products if rumors are to be believed — an iPad Mini is no more thrilling than a slightly retouched iPhone.
On the other end of the tech spectrum is Google, the company that is quickly usurping Apple as the leading innovator in the world of consumer technology and embodies the spirit of Apple’s former guru.
They’ve done this by incorporating various technologies (just as Apple became so famous for) into existing platforms such as Google Chrome (a simple, integrated web browser with vast potential) and Chromebooks (laptops built entirely on the Chrome platform that function primarily on the Web).
Most exciting, though, is the creation of Google Glass — a technology that takes the age-old eyeglasses, eliminates the lenses and transforms them into a Web browser, calendar, daily planner, video camera, etc., all hovering on a screen no larger than your thumb.
It’s innovations like Google Glass (which, unfortunately, won’t be commercially available until 2014) that Apple used to be known for, and after Wednesday’s convention, it’s difficult to believe that the company hasn’t begun to recede from its post at the new frontier.
The argument is not, as is often made, that Steve Jobs’ death signalled the end of Apple innovation — it’s rumored that the iPhone 5 was the last project that he was significantly involved in, meaning that, even with a touch of Jobs, the device became little more than a rehash.
The argument is that Apple hasn’t significantly redesigned the wheel since the original launch of the iPhone (the iPad was less revolutionary than expectation fulfilling).
While Apple has thrived on the coattails of Jesus Phone’s genius, Google has been outmaneuvering and outthinking Apple with new devices — so much so that with the introduction of a product like Google Glass, it seems Apple’s mojo has jumped ship into the lap of another company.
(Google Glass in action)