A board member recently asked me “Do I recommend what type of smartphone for people to buy?” The answer was a low, but elongated No. The reason is that I might as well be trying to change people’s religious and political beliefs. Also, I make no revenue on the advertising or sales of any manufacturer’s smartphone.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few months, you know that September 10, 2013 is when Apple will unveil the next iPhone. As with each of the last 6 years, Apple is releasing the enhanced 5S model before a new iPhone 6 is released next year. One unusual wrinkle is that a low-cost 5C model will also be released, in which you can choose from a variety of colors for your iPhone.
Generally, if your mother or grandmother just needs a simple phone, then get them an iPhone. If you have a pre-teen who lives in the bubble-gum consumer world of music and needs to text you from school or call when they are home, maybe the iPhone 5C model fits the need. However, to say the cool factor has worn off and the iPhone is not relevant is an understatement, for something that is basically just a larger iPod from 10 years ago.
Out of the gate last September, Apple got a huge push in sales for the holiday season. However, after the holidays, iPhone 5 sales slowed down drastically and missed all sales projections. With consumer complaints increasing and Apple stock sinking, the impending iPhone 5 flop signals a turning point for Apple. When you Google “don’t buy an iPhone”, there’s currently something like 2.6 billion results. To be fair, a significant amount are the annual “hold off a few months because the new model is coming out soon”, as well as the plain anti-Apple rants.
Regardless, the real reason iPhone is not recommended is because Apple is a closed system that doesn’t play well with others and has no offerings for the bulk of consumer and business needs. Except for iTunes and music, everything else you connect to or use with iPhone is generally dominated by Microsoft or Google – from e-mail and productivity apps to search and video and gaming. That’s why today I generally recommend Windows Phone or Android.
Ok Apple fan boys and girls, take a breath. I appreciate iCloud, but it’s nothing compared to Office 365 or Google Apps. Sure, there are 50 billion iPhone apps, except the vast majority of iPhone apps are dead or the most popular are already built-in for Windows Phone or Droid. The one thing that would really help iPhone is either licensing ActiveSync from Microsoft or re-writing their custom code from 2007, so iPhone can reliably synchronize e-mail, calendar, and contacts.
That’s my main beef with iPhone and I worry about the current Apple general business model. Let’s take a wildly popular and profitable device like iPhone, then release minor improvements more slowly and with fewer features than the competition. When the value starts to erode in the minds of customers, slash prices and sell a once exclusive device in Wal-Mart and any other willing discount retail environment.
The next shoe has already dropped, as fanatically loyal Apple customers see the Macbook Pro discontinued in Europe, but rumored demise eventually everywhere as it is not an iOS device. You see many more Macbooks as props on TV than in the real world. Supposedly, that is because of the iPad that hasn’t really changed since 2010 and is currently getting humiliated in Surface versus iPad commercials for lacking basic features like no multi-tasking or missing thumb-drive support.
Hopefully, Tim Cook can adjust Apple’s strategy. Failed mapping has shown that Apple must be willing to endure years of flogging while building their own offerings, or focus on successful niche areas. Adding high-priced watches and TVs to the Apple stores, with comparably fewer features than established competitors, seems like a tactic out of the defunct Sharper Image playbook. In this age of social media, how out of touch is Apple that after all this time there is still no Apple corporate blog of any kind?