The Worst Thing About The iPhone 5 Is Also The Most Brilliant

The iPhone 5 is many things: It's a pinnacle of product design. It's a mild annoyance for iOS app developers. It's likely to be the next phone you buy. And it's also, by broad consensus of the people who follow these things, totally boring.

Of course it is. Anything else at this point would be insane.

It Ain't Broke

It's easy to forget, with as much emphasis as Apple puts on its biannual show-and-tell extravaganzas, that its primary objective isn't to entertain us. It's to sell iPhones. Millions and millions and millions of iPhones.

The iPhone 5 will be on shelves on September 21, which is one week before Apple's fiscal year ends and the holiday quarter begins. How important are those three months to Apple's bottom line? Last year during the same period, the iPhone 4S drove Apple's smartphone sales to 37 million units, and an overall profit of $US13 billion. To put that in context, that's more money than Google made in all of 2011.

Those numbers aren't just impressive — they're unprecedented. The iPhone is the most valuable asset of one of the most valuable companies in history. So the question we should be asking isn't why didn't Apple make it more exciting. The question is — other than the standard spec and feature bumps — why would Apple change the iPhone at all? There's a reason Coca-Cola's used the same formula for one hundred years.

That's why, when we say the iPhone 5 is boring, we really mean the iPhone 5 is safe. It's familiar. It's the same phone in slightly different packaging. And, most importantly, it's still very recognisably the most popular smartphone in the world. If you've won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, you don't suddenly trade in your thoroughbred for a one-eyed pony because it's more interesting to look at.

Playing It Smart

Not being boring requires taking risks, and risk is not something Apple does. Not anymore. Why would it? It can skip out on 4G for more than a year after its competitors have it and no one blinks an eye. NFC? Wireless charging? Pass, thanks. And Apple will keep playing it safe until iPhone sales decline. That might be boring, but it's also just good business.

And it's always been like this. The original iPhone didn't have 3G. The iPad didn't have a front-facing camera. USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt both came after PCS had embraced high-speed standards. Apple doesn't make products for early adopters. It makes products for the billions of people who buy things they can easily access and understand.

The worst part? In a vacuum, the iPhone 5 is actually really exciting. For whatever half-baked features it skips out on, it's still a technological marvel and may well prove to be the best smartphone you can buy. If the worst thing about it is that it's not different enough from a phone that tens of millions of people a month spend hundreds of dollars to buy, well, that's fine.

The Boring Future

If you think the iPhone 5 is boring, I've got bad news for you. The iPhone 6 will be too. And the iPhone 7, and every iPhone after that. Minor aesthetic variations on the same well-loved theme. They'll also, in all likelihood, be fantastic.

The only thing that will change the iPhone's design is a dramatic decline in iPhone market share, but that doesn't seem in the offing. Not any time soon, anyway. It takes years to slow down a juggernaut.

So get comfortable with your boring iPhone and your boring iPad and your boring MacBook Air. They're that way because they have to be. Because we want them to be. Because it's the only way that makes sense.


Comments

    And Apple will keep playing it safe until iPhone sales decline. That might be boring, but it’s also just good business.

    I could have sworn everything I've ever learnt about business says that good business is staying ahead of the curb and innovating BEFORE sales decline, silly me, lucky I didn't actually major in anything business related I guess.

    More exciting going from a 3Gs to a 5. Boring for those that buy in each year.

    Because it's phone the world needs, but not the one we deserve right now.

      That might work for the black one, but what about the white one?

    All smartphones are now just a screen, some storage, a processor, a camera and networking, seriously, what are you expecting. How much innovation can really offer a WOW factor in the hardware any more. All the WOW factor will now be seen in the software UX and applications. Apple sales won't decline because of their hardware. Where they will destroy themselves is if they don't get more open with software and communications, things like NFC and an open messaging protocol. It will never happen though.

      "All smartphones are now just a screen, some storage, a processor, a camera and networking"
      No argument here, but there are ways to improve all of those that Apple chose not to go with. Instead they went with a more cautious machine that they could have available, including finished software, by Sept 21.

      Screen: capacitive + gloves generally is not good news.
      Storage: how about expandable memory? USB-OTG?
      Processor: audio quality, photographic fidelity, network capability - all factors of the SoCs used in smartphones, and all variable. Apple has held the audio quality crown for some time, while Nokia included a dedicated image coprocessor in the 808 PureView.
      Camera: lens, sensor, post processing
      Networking: NFC anybody? Antenna design is also pretty important.

      Granted the principle components of what makes up a smartphone these days are generally agreed on, but there's a lot to say about each of those components and improvements that can be made. Apple did not go for those, instead streamlining the basics - not a bad move, just not a bold one. Nokia needs something to wow the market like an awesome camera, screen and wireless charging. Apple just needs to keep doing what they're doing, except better :D

    Given apple's market share is about 17%, it's likely to *not* be the next phone you buy.

    Why do I feel like I'm reading a sales pitch, not an article?

    Because that's the iphone we deserve but not the one we needs right now. So we'll dish it, because he can take it. Because he's not the hero. He's a silent guardian, watchful protector. The iphone.

    "The worst part? In a vacuum, the iPhone 5 is actually really exciting. For whatever half-baked features it skips out on, it’s still a technological marvel and may well prove to be the best smartphone you can buy."

    Sorry, but well behind other smartphone makers in terms of hardware - very UN-impressive phone. You could call just about anything impressive 'in a vacuum' because you have nothing to compare it to. By definition, nothing is impressive in a vacuum, it just is.

    Maybe playing it safe suits Apple's bottom line - but it doesn't suit a consumer base who want to see the envelope continue to be pushed. There is so much more promise in the smartphones we carry around, so much more they will be capable of doing in future. When large market share phones like the iPhone don't include technology like NFC, it just slows that down.

    As a current iPhone (4) owner, I just want to see Apple be the company it was. When it had actual momentum. Back when they wanted to be the leader and they strove, unflinchingly for it, until they were. They got to that point by bringing new ideas to the table.

    But here we are now. They sit atop the mountain (and no matter what Android users or WP users say, they are) comfortably. But since they're reached the top - They've stuck with what works. Good business? Yes. Good progression as a company in a medium CONSTANTLY MOVING FORWARD? Not even in the slightest.

    They didn't get to the top by sticking with what works. They got there through innovation.

    Sure, the decline hasn't happened yet. But we're talking about the tech world - It changes and moves forward at a rate not seen in any other form of media.

    "Not being boring requires taking risks, and risk is not something Apple does. Not anymore. Why would it? It can skip out on 4G for more than a year after its competitors have it and no one blinks an eye. NFC? Wireless charging? Pass, thanks."

    The simple fact is; Apple consumers aren't demanding anything new. You don't see many iPhone users lugging around an android based tablet (I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's not often). You're likely see a Macbook, iPad, iPhone and iPod. All living harmoniously in a nice little Apple package. But they buy those products because they trust the name. And so they should. They're good products - But with no demand for change or innovation, Apple WILL remain boring and their sales WILL decline.

    They used to know how to push the edge and bring us all exciting things that inspired other manufacturers/developers to change their tune. But here we are with a new iPhone that's all the rage.

    Because it's amazing? No
    Because it's pioneering a new type of tech? No
    Because it's the single most powerful and feature filled phone to date? No

    All because it's the next iPhone.

    Now, I don't speak for anyone but myself. This is my opinion and I'm not claiming to know or sway anyone else's- If you agree, great. If you don't, just as well.

      I think you underestimate just how difficult technology is for most people. No, not us, not the people who come to a tech website to read and talk about tech, the vast majority of people. I think you overestimate the demand for change. People who love tech for the sake of tech love change, people who just use tech as a means to an end rarely want any form of drastic change, that means learning new things.

      Well said sir.

    "It’s a pinnacle of product design"

    Hahaha all the new features on the iPhone 5 have already been released by other manufacturers...

    ..and apple call themselves "innovative". Wankers.

      I may be wrong, but I haven't seen a sigle press release or video from Apple even using the word innovation or innovative.

      Even their new video that came with the announcement never even uses those words.

      Please correct me if I am wrong.

    That's what I don't get...

    Everything on the iPhone 5 - every single thing - has been released on other smartphones. And, other smart phones have certain features that the iPhone 5 *doesn't* yet have (eg. NFC).

    So how then can the iPhone 5 be considered the ''pinnacle'' of smartphones...?

      No one has claimed it to be the pinnacle of smartphones.

    seriously is NFC really that important? I don't think it widely spread yet, I am sure it will be included in the next version.

    Never by all means will i get another iphone, i used to have one, thoguht it was great then i got android and android is so much better

      What a moronic thing to say. At the moment, I wouldn't buy a Hyundai. If they made a great car one day, I'd definitely buy it. I would buy any phone in the future, be it android or windows or apple or anyone else, because I cant actually see the future yet. Maybe you can? o.O

    I had to double check that this article wasn't directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

    I always find it funny how people are always experts on how Apple run as a company and what they're doing so wrong. I honestly don't know why I bother reading the comments because they're always the blood same. It takes all of 2 seconds for someone to mention Android and the shitfest starts. For cryin' out loud do you not all get sick of the constant bitching.?

    Doesn't matter what any of the Apple haters say. Simple fact is, Apple is the most valuable company on the planet for a reason... they make great products.

    Does any one else have problems with the giant phones that android phone companies are currently putting out?? are phones not meant to fit in pockets or held properly anymore? its a pity that, as an android fan, ive been slowly pushed to apple since they seem to be the only company that has released a phone with a decent size );

    "Last year during the same period, the iPhone 4S drove Apple’s smartphone sales to 37 million units, and an overall profit of $US13 billion." That's $351 profit PER PHONE?

    I don't think spec geeks get Apple... It's about the experience. The technology behind the phone needs to disappear. Apple makes 75% of the profit in mobile - I think they might know a thing or two on what they're doing. If anything they've stayed true to the strategy of being user first, instead of technology first in that they don't implement undercooked tech. Sure it's not for everyone, but they will always have their place.

    I am quite amused at this debate and the passionate stand-point of most of the comments here, be it for or against Apple. At the end of the day, it is a phone (albeit a smartphone), but essentially it is a phone. there are more important issues in the world aside from which phone is better and which isn't. At the end of the day, buy what you like best. Buy with the comfort of knowing you're not judged by your choice. Embrace the difference, this fosters competition and we, as consumers benefit. Change for change sake, no... but come on, just go with what you personally like, without judegment.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now