We’re gearing up for tomorrow morning’s iPhone launch. You’re an Android fan, and probably figure that the hype is just hype. But tomorrow’s iPhone launch matters to you too. Or at least it should.
The photos have leaked out of Brazil. On the specifications front Vodafone Germany may have given the game away. Still, we don’t know for sure what Apple’s got planned to release tomorrow, and won’t know until just after 4am AEDT on Wednesday morning.
Look, there’s little doubt that this launch, like every other launch that Apple’s done (or any other launch from any other vendor) is about hype. Hype creates expectation, feeds on itself as it grows and hopefully (from a vendor’s point of view) translates into device sales. Apple’s still a business, and they’d like as much money as they can get; a war chest of billions will only take you so far.
Yet I’d argue that even if you’re not going to be lining up to buy an iPhone in the coming weeks or months, the next iPhone launch is still important, and for a couple of factors.
Firstly, the modern smartphone market is one of Apple’s invention. Controversial statement, I know, but bear with me here. I’m not saying that Apple invented the mobile phone, smartphone or touchscreen interfaces. But prior to the iPhone 3G, smartphones were amazingly splintered as a market. To spin things back a few years….
(Imagine, if you will, the screen going all wibbly in the accepted fashion of these things, indicating a flashback) Bought a game on your Nokia Communicator? It probably won’t work on your Sony Ericsson. Heck, good luck getting it working on your next Nokia, and that’s assuming that you’re even able to transfer it across without being DRM blocked in the first place. Which vendor of mobile apps do you buy from, and why do all these permission screens regarding Java keep popping up on my handset? Why does my Windows Mobile phone keep on crashing all the damned time?
(End wibbly interlude. It’s OK. You can stop trembling. Those phones aren’t coming back any time soon.)
The App store, and the 3G that ran those apps changed all those questions. Look at any vendor right now, and they’re all based off a single repository of applications for the mass market; Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry and even Android. Yes, there are multiple Android marketplaces, but what percentage of Android smartphones ever go beyond the stock marketplace? I’d wager it’s very few indeed. That’s the smartphone market that Apple invented. What Apple brings to market, even if (as with Facetime, and indeed the voice activated Assistant feature being widely touted for announcement tomorrow) it’s not the originator of said technology, matters, because it’s where the masses have tended to flock.
That kind of centralised, controlled model was Apple’s first, and it’s bought the company, and its carriers, huge profits. Apple’s got pedigree in the smartphone market, especially when you realise that it’s done that (for the most part) from a single handset. Every other vendor has multiple models, but Apple never has more than two — at this exact second the iPhone 4 in a variety of colours, and the 3GS for the bargain market, but expect that to change tomorrow. The carriers will listen to this, and then make their choices on which models to order, what prices to set and how much promotion to put into each model. Undoubtedly most of those sums have been done by now, but every dollar spent on iPhone stocking or promotion is one not allocated elsewhere. That affects every smartphone user, iPhone or not.
Equally, you can bet that amongst the journalists, blatant Apple fanboys and market analysts, the other folk watching what Apple does tomorrow will include its closest competitors. Not necessarily because they’ll blatantly copy them, but because they recognise that Apple’s got a very solid marketshare and mindshare, and a large number of consumers will opt for iPhone features, be it tomorrow or months from now. They’d like some of those customers as their own, and what Apple does matters to them, a lot. These are the folks that’ll design your next handset, and they’ll react to Apple’s plans, presuming they don’t have an inkling of them already.
I’m sure that at 4am I’ll be reading reports of the usual slickly managed and somewhat overhyped Apple event; the company is rather good at that kind of stage management. At the same time, it’s not just tomorrow’s launch that’ll have impact; it’s how the market will take the new iPhones as a whole that’ll have genuine reverberations for months and years to come.
Nokia image: Wikipedia