Apple has revealed its new iPhone 5C and 5S devices, but has it done enough to impress? Andrew Wooden offers his views on the smartphones and asks if innovation is all it’s cracked up to be.
It's not the first Apple launch that has left people a little cold.
Outside the staunchest of Apple fanbase circles, which are usually as brand loyal as chief whips in Scientology sects, the most common reactions to Apple’s recent launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C ranged from “meh” to “OMG it’s the same thing, I want something NEW”.
Concentrating on the 5S (the 5C appearing to fill the far less interesting mid-range area on the market), the evident quality of the device, if the reviews are anything to go by, seems entirely irrelevant to an unfulfilled desire for more innovation from iPhones. You can see the sort of thing that’s expected by observers from the sheer tonnage of erroneous rumour pieces and mocked up concepts. The guesswork surrounding new Apple products dominates the tech press for a good portion of the year.
Really this level of anticipatory froth couldn’t be satiated with a phone at all. For everyone to go, “wow, well Apple really pulled it out of the bag this time”, Tim Cook would have to stand on stage and declare “welcome to the future, assholes” as the top of his head slid away, from which a glowing orb of tech would float out, firing beams of light in all directions and telepathically infusing the baying crowds with neurological contentment and the ability to contact anyone and access any piece of information with a thought.
Now that would get everyone excited.
But it’s not limited to the fanboys – recently this disillusionment seems to have extended to ‘investor concern’ over Tim Cook’s apparent lack of innovation.
But what does everyone want? The Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone’s perennial rival, had lots of what might be called innovative features; for example, it would know when you were looking at the screen and pause videos if you glanced away. Most people I know understandably turned that kind of stuff off instantly.
The fingerprint reader is genuinely an innovative feature, and the 64-bit A7 processor has been praised, but there’s still this undercurrent that it’s just the same thing as before – just another phone. But there are certain parameters that come with designing a phone, and if everyone agrees the last iteration was pretty much the best-in-class device, what are we asking for here? Gesture control? A pencil holder? A fold-out tripod? An extending umbrella? A tazer attachment? HAPPINESS?
Phones are basically computers now – and you wouldn’t expect each new laptop to shatter the mould by being so radically different so full of functions you’d never considered in your wildest dreams, so INNOVATIVE, that you whoop and cheer the maverick CEO for his shrewd vision and design genius – reinventing the wheel 14 times a year.
Rather than some blind grasp for ‘innovation’, what would be most useful is a solution to the annoyances that already exist. There are two things that mainly annoy me about my iPhone – the battery runs out in about half an hour and the back is cracked because I dropped it (someone decided that making a chassis of glass was a good idea).
Praising unforeseen, game-changing features is natural. Lamenting a perceived absence of them every single time Apple hosts a press conference is less so. For my part, if Apple can double the battery life and I can find a more sturdy case, that’s innovation enough for me.