But They Didn’t – Circa 2013

But They Didn'tA day after the iPhone 5 was released last September, I wrote a blog post entitled “But They Didn’t”.  The blog post extolled the iPhone 5’s apparent engineering excellence, but it lamented its inability to facilitate game-changing innovation.  The following is an expert from last year’s post about the iPhone 5, which is followed by my views on their year’s release of the iPhone 5s:

I don’t feel good about the iPhone 5 because Apple has offered up nothing to change the world, which is the one thing we’ve come to expect from this company.  Rather than give us something that could make a difference, they gave us the technological equivalent of a beautiful woman (or man) who thinks of no one but herself or himself.  Great to look at but doesn’t necessarily make you or anyone else feel better for the association.

When Apple released the first iPhone, it radically changed what a phone should do and how it should do it.  When they released the app store and integrated it into the iTunes ecosystem, they created a platform that enabled world-changing innovation that literally altered people’s lives.  When they created the iPad, they fundamentally changed the way people learned, recreated and consumed content.

When Apple created the iPhone 5, they had the opportunity to yet again do something revolutionary, something to change the world, something to make an impact on everyone’s lives, but they didn’t.  So what could they have done?

At a minimum, Apple could have introduced an NFC-equipped iPhone.  That in itself wouldn’t have been revolutionary, but the services and capabilities they could have created and enabled via NFC could have been revolutionary.  The market leadership that they could have demonstrated could have been amazing.  The new businesses that they could have enabled and the new services they could have inspired could have been revolutionary.  But they didn’t.

So here we are a year later at the launch of the iPhone 5s.  Did Apple step up to demonstrate that game-changing thought leadership that they failed to demonstrate last year?  Nope, not hardly.

For those who didn’t see the announcement, Apple introduced a handful of additional engineering refinements to the iPhone 5.  They introduced a faster 64 bit processor. They revealed a motion co-processor to enable smother performance from directional and movement-based apps, they introduced a little better camera and they introduced a finger print sensor.

The finger print sensor, which can be used to unlock the phone and make iTunes purchases, has the potential to be a game-changer.  Unfortunately, only time will tell if it will become one.  But regardless of what happens over time, today’s visceral reaction didn’t invoke one of those “Could have had a V8” moments in which you instinctively felt that this would be a real game-changer.

All in all, Apple came away, in my opinion, with another swing and a miss.  In fact they created what I would describe as a colossal “ho hum” moment for themselves.  Forget that they didn’t present a game-changing innovation; they didn’t even address what many people have been clamoring to get, which is a larger screen.

All in all, I think Apple had an opportunity to revive their reputation as an industry-leading innovator with this iPhone’s release, but they didn’t.  In fact, I think they took one more step towards convincing people that they’ve lost their mojo.

As Steve Jobs would say: One last thing:

If Apple can no longer lead by demonstrating innovation, are they at least following the lead of every other smartphone maker by putting NFC in their new iPhone?  The answer is that they could have BUT THEY DIDN”T!!!

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