The cheaper iPhone

A plastic iPhone 5 costing roughly half the price of the standard Apple smartphone is due to launch soon, it has been claimed.

Source: Telegraph

Remarkable if true. According to the Isaccson biography, Jobs shied away from plastic on the iPhone because it was easily scratched. Plus, it’s naturally going to feel cheaper given that the materials aren’t up to the same standard of the iPhone 5 or 4S.

Apple could clearly manufacture this kind of device if it wanted to and needed to. Do either apply?

The people most obsessed with Apple gaining market share are the press, analysts, bloggers and pretty much everyone else and not Apple itself. The obsession with getting the biggest market share isn’t something that Apple has ever seemed to be very concerned about. Especially if it compromises its self-avowed commitment to quality and superior user experience. Continue reading

The price of innovation

Just about the best thing Apple could do right now is to stay away from innovating, especially in new markets.

Despite hitting the jackpot with the iPod, iPhone, iTunes and iPad, apparently the market is still hungry for new stuff.

Really? I suspect the market is quite happy with Apple. Its share price has taken a tonking but its cash registers are chiming with sales and its profits are pouring more dollars onto its lofty cash mountain.

The people who are actually hungry for more are tech writers and analysts, who since 2010, have been cruelly denied the opportunity to write about Apple’s latest grand foray into a new market.

The ones who have also, and cruelly, found their predictions of Apple TVs or wristwatches, unrequited. At least so far. Continue reading

Making people happy is important – just ask Apple

Usability dominates everything. These days everything is user-centred, you can’t afford not to be.

This post was prompted by the realisation that despite this being a blog about Apple and other tech companies I tended to select ‘User Experience’ from the categories list for a large number of posts.

At my bricks-and-mortar workplace we were recently given a talk by a fairly heavy hitter from the UK corporate world.

She had been a ‘CEO’*/MD at a number of major retail companies and had more recently gone to work in the public sector in a non-executive advisory capacity.

One of the team asked her what was the most important thing to get right in a product and her instant answer was to make the user experience as compelling and simple as possible.

As a product and publishing type who has spent the best part of 10 years banging on at senior management that the user should always come first it was a real life fist-pump moment.

Whenever Tim Cook or Steve Jobs talk/ed about Apple’s values the user experience was always central.

Apple is certainly not the only company to put usability, the end-to-end experience and customer delight at the forefront of design and marketing – I’d add Nintendo to the list – but it’s certainly one of the main modern proponents. It’s one of the company’s marketing axioms.

When I started my current role over 10 years ago I had to fight tooth and nail to get the funding for a usability review of the website.

The review demonstrated that users couldn’t even find the button that let them start the transaction that was the entire raison d’être of the site or make sense of the ‘guidance’. A huge revision of the site, its user journeys and its content took place as a result.

 

* I put CEO in inverted commas as the job title is barely used in the UK but seemed to make most sense to an international audience.

Steve would never have done that!

Apple has had a drubbing over its Maps debacle and rightly so. However, the media perception that Apple never shipped poor products during the Jobs era is laughable and revisionist.

A list of things that Steve would ‘never’ have done:

  • A cube-shaped computer with dodgy plastic and little expandability that cost too much. Looked great, sold like a dog
  • The iPod hi fi. It took Ive almost a minute to design this. He rushed it
  • iPhone 4 antenna. The closest the ‘form over factor’ drones have got to the truth even though it wasn’t really that much of a problem
  • iMac G5. The ugliest Mac ever, bar none. I know, I had one. I was almost relieved when it vanished in a burglary
  • .Mac. Mildly crap, but a precursor for…
  • MobileMe. “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
  • Ping. Ponged.
  • The fat iPod Nano. Come on… Continue reading

Competition at last

Breakdown of the top five tablet manufacturers globally for the last quarter, according to IDC last week:

Apple Inc, maker of the iPad, 14 million shipped worldwide, 50.4 percent share

Samsung Electronics Co., maker of Galaxy line, 5.1 million, 18.4 percent.

Amazon.com Inc., maker of Kindle Fire, 2.5 million, 9 percent

AsusTek Computer Inc., maker of Transformer line and Google’s Nexus 7, 2.4 million, 8.6 percent

Lenovo Group Ltd., 400,000, 1.4 percent

Others, including Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook Tablet, 3.3 million, 12.2 percent

Competition at last.

 

Samsung raises chip prices just for Apple

Zack Whittaker at ZDNet.com:

Samsung has hiked the price of its mobile processors by 20 percent, but to only one of the Korean technology giant’s customers: Apple.

It’s quite surprising Samsung didn’t do this earlier. Their contract to supply Apple with hardware ends in 2014.

The price hike has already gone into effect, the report said. Apple bought in the region of 130 million Samsung-made mobile processors last year and more than 200 million chips this year to keep up with demand of the iPhone 5 and the new iPads, such as the 7-inch iPad mini.

This must sting like a bastard for Tim Cook, who’s spent years leveraging better and better deals with Apple hardware suppliers. The sooner Apple can make its own chips and gain more control over its supply chain the better.

In the meantime while losing Apple’s business will be painful for Samsung, the way its own phone business is going it’s going to need all the chips it can manufacture.

Thank you, Mr Forstall

Ever since Apple announced the iOS software boss Scott Forstall was leaving the company there has been a tsunami of articles explaining why Tim Cook had no choice other than to show him the door:

    Lack of social/corporate graces with other executives
    Lack of humility
    Lack of a sense of place within the company (note Om Malik’s observation – he forgot he was Steve’s guy and not Steve)

Yet, Forstall was responsible for the hugely successful rise of the iPhone, iPad and the iPod thing nobody can ever bother to mention. Continue reading

Thoughts on the iPad mini

I like this from John Gruber’s review of the iPad mini:

The iPad Mini is not a device you need to spend a lot of time with to understand. My snap reaction from a week ago remains unchanged after a week of daily use.

I don’t (yet) own an iPad mini but I’ve spent a good few hours playing with one. It’s not a revolutionary device, but it is a smaller form factor of an existing revolutionary device.

The smaller iPad makes a whole lot of sense. The ability to hold it one hand is genuinely a big UX boon. Likewise, the weight is a refreshing change from the larger iPad. I still love the larger iPad. It’s my main computer now.

There’s been a lot of talk about the mini being the true realisation of the iPad. I can see why this is the case. It’s neat, convenient, portable and feels far more durable than its larger cousin. An iPad is essentially a large piece of glass, making the glass smaller gives you more confidence that it isn’t going to shatter if you don’t carry it around reverently on a velvet cushion. Continue reading

A little perspective on the iPhone

I love hoarding snippets of information and obscure bookmarks that I rarely end up using again. Since the advent of social bookmarking and delicious tagging my data lets me create order from chaos.

In recent years, I’ve also used a great little application called Yojimbo to store and tag websites, recipes, ideas and pretty much anything else.

This morning, I was looking through older info snippets in the app and stumbled over an old Fortune article by Jon Fortt published in 2006, a few months before the launch of the iPhone in January 2007.

Three reasons an iPhone could actually suck was actually a good article and considered the three biggest barriers to success apparent at the time for an Apple mobile phone. A device which had yet to be confirmed by the company.

Firstly, Fortt suggested the control US carriers had over the marketplace meant that Apple would struggle to sell the iPhone on “its own terms”.

Secondly, he said the the additional control carriers exerted over the user interfaces of handset manufacturers would be a tough compromise for Apple to swallow. Historically, carriers insisted their logo appeared prominently during start-up and that prominent links to their ‘value adding‘ mobile content littered screens and prominent menus. A company like Apple with such a fanatical focus on user experience wouldn’t sit for others dipping their oars or, God forbid, their logos in their interfaces.

Finally, he questioned whether the company would be able to carve a profit out of the crowded marketplace.

With the benefit of perspective, it’s like looking re-reading a pre-match review for an un-fancied football team playing away against one of the European superpowers with the knowledge that they actually trounced them three-nil on the night.

One thing he does get right is his assertion that the biggest innovation about the iPhone won’t be the device itself but the way it “crafted partnerships in a way that it could keep control of the customer experience, and still manage a profit”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Fortt wrote a good piece and I think I probably saved it because I agreed with most of his ideas.

Today, it’s just another yardstick to measure Apple’s success in sweeping aside the old hegemonies.