Future of Apple and could Apple be losing its touch?

Launch of iPhone 14

September 7, 2022 marked the launch of iPhone 14, which saw some new features being showcased as a part of the new iPhone 14 and all its versions – basic, plus, pro and pro max. However, there are a few features which will be exclusive to the higher versions of the phone such as pro and pro max only. The new iPhones will comprise of an improved camera and processor.

One significant feature that is being talked about is the ‘Dynamic Island’ UX design apple has launched exclusively for its most expensive models – Pro and Pro Max. As we are well aware the iPhone has been coming with a big notch for which it has been criticized. The reason being that almost all the phones which are running Google’s Android have minimized or removed the notch from their front display while Apple’s last iPhone 13 models still had a notch, albeit a slightly reduced one from the model before it. In iPhone 14, the size of notch is decreased further but is still there. This notch will be a part of the front display, however, for iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max the pill-shaped notch will be resized. The resizing lets the black area include more information, interactive information that you can tap or long press on to access different functions.

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Dynamic Island UX feature given by Apple in iPhone 14 Pro and above

Enhancements and what do they mean for Apple?

Now this is a good enhancement from the design perspective although a little impractical and unnecessary from the user’s point of view. This is due to the fact that the dynamic island will be difficult to reach when using the phone with one hand. It can be moved to a different part of screen but then it loses its charm and purpose to make use of the notch area given on the phone. And this is one of the features that is being sold at a premium price in the upper models. Perhaps to drive up the feature’s value for more than it really is? It could be said that this strategy has served Apple for some time now and it is nothing new – the offering of a feature in the upper end models and bringing them to the basic models in the next iPhone release….

Another enhancement that Apple has introduced in the new iPhone is picture stability when making a video on rough terrain such as when you go hiking. (This by the way Android users have already been using, well at least its already there on the Samsung phones). As far as comparison in features are concerned, Apple lags far behind Android and lately it seems more and more so that Apple is just struggling to keep up. So, we will leave it with a screenshot from my 34000 INR Samsung phone.

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Camera Video Stability feature in Samsung phone which Apple is launching in its iPhone 14 lineup

While Apple keeps on enhancing its phones, there is nothing new that has been offered by Apple for quite some time now. In other words, there has been no Innovation in the iPhones, in the strictest meaning of the word. And by this of course the time after the death of Steve Jobs is being referred to here. To those who are confused by this statement – an enhancement is that which is built on something that already exists i.e., an improvement of something is called an enhancement; while innovation is something that is new, that has not existed before – a new Idea, like when Jobs introduced the first iPhone, or the iPod. Considering this, could Apple still be called a company that is innovating? I can’t say it can be. Of course, hardcore Apple enthusiasts may disagree. But even they cannot deny that this iPhone looks suspiciously similar to the previous 13 model and there have been discussions going on social media platforms to rather buy an iPhone 13 pro model instead of iPhone 14, since the price of 13 will drop once 14 hits the market.

A theory for Apple’s future

This brings me to an interesting theory which I have developed. One fine day I was on YouTube and listening to Simon Sinek giving a one and a half hour talk the other day on the concept of his book ‘Start with Why’. It was an old video, perhaps of the time when Jobs was still alive. Simon didn’t get tired of praising Apple in this lecture. But while he was showering heaps of praises on Apple as his example, he talked about something that was very interesting. He basically differentiated between the job of a CEO from COO or CFO of a company in this way –

  • A CEO holds a unique position in a company as it is the function of the CEO to think far ahead in the future of where he wants his company to be, what it should stand for and what position it must hold in terms of values in the market. In other words, a CEO focuses on the long-term goal of a company. He directs what he wants in the products. The CEO, however, does not know how to achieve it. His job is to provide the company with a vision for the product. In short, a CEO is a dreamer whose job is to dream about the company’s future.
  • COOCFO, etc., on the other hand, have the job to make things work to reach the goal set by the CEO. and achieve that vision. Which means, it is their job to think of the near future, and not the distant future, to think about the process and development. In simple terms – to create a roadmap from the starting point to the destination set by the CEO. In short, COO or CFO are realistic implementers whose job is to solve the problems and figure out the nitty-gritty of the functioning within the company and do the continuous improvement of the processes.

There can be no denying that all these positions are very important for a company. A company cannot exist for long if any of these roles are removed or is taken up by someone else. Thus, a CEO cannot achieve his vision if there are no COO or CFO, etc. On the other hand, if there is no CEO then the COO or CFO will be working just to achieve short-term goals, without an actual long-term vision for the company’s future.

And what happens when a COO or CFO takes up the reins of CEO? As you can imagine, while the processes may improve for good, there may not be a distant vision for which the company should strive for. Continuous improvement of processes will only lead to enhancements and not innovation as it will strive to improve the existing products, making them better and better, but there will be very little innovation that will be done in the overall product. This is quite ironic for a company like Apple which was raised up on the shoulders of the genius Jobs was.

Simon expressed his skepticism if this comes to pass within Apple (which has. as Tim Cook was named the CEO). Now bearing this in mind, take a look at the lineup Apple has offered year after year. Has there been any innovation? Not much. But have there been any ‘enhancements’? Well, plenty! Each year the camera is a little better or the processor is faster than before.

Conclusion

Apple has to up its game if it wants to survive in the long run. It is still by far not the market leader in either the mobile phone market or the laptop market. There can be no denying that Apple has offered some truly great products in the past and the legacy Jobs left behind is acknowledged across the world. But for how long can Apple rely on this brand value while the competitors are innovating and disrupting the market? (For example. #Samsung‘s Flip and Fold phones or #Tesla‘s upcoming ‘Pi’ phone). It is also of no surprise that the ‘new’ features iOS brings in are more often than not, already there for quite some time in #Android phones. But operating systems is a different discussion.

Apple is focused on promoting an Apple centric ecosystem for its users. Which means that if you have an iPhone, a MacBook, an iPad then you will get a seamless connectivity between them, a stock experience. While on the other hand if you have an Android phone and an iPad or a #MacBook, try connecting them. It will be a headache. This is a good strategy when you are dominating the market. But what happens if the users start moving towards different platforms? The problem with Stock experience is that it gets old. Old leads to becoming boring as there is no flexibility offered. And lack of flexibility leads to rising interest in other platforms.

While Apple still holds a certain allure of a ‘premium’ product to the average user, it has to be wary of the customer’s fading interest due to its high cost, same type of model design, no innovations and enhancements given here and there. If Apple does not start working on this, it will fail being called an ‘Experience’ and become as any other brand. The road is tiring, but Apple has got funds, hope they do something worthwhile with it.

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