When I decided to buy my first smartphone back in late 2009, I wanted to get the best device on the market: at the time, I decided that device was the iPhone 3GS.
I still use it, too. Somehow, this phone has miraculously survived almost 4 years – the worst I’ve done to it was drop it into a plate of nachos (only once). I still like the phone, and it works fine for what I need it to do.
But my trusty old smartphone is beginning to show it’s age, and I’ve been considering a new replacement.
I could buy Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5. But the more I compare it to other devices on the market, the more I ask myself: have Apple’s mobile products lost their innovative, competitive edge?
Perhaps more importantly, I have to wonder: is the iPhone still cool?
Apple: The Original Innovator
Most would agree that Apple set the standard for modern mobile devices with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But it wasn’t too long after those products hit the market that competitors started building their own “copycat” devices.
Years later, competitors have not only built upon the foundation Apple laid in mobile, but are now surpassing it in terms of innovation with lots of useful features you can’t find on iPhones and iPads. There are examples everywhere, but it’s most apparent in products made by Apple’s biggest mobile rival: Samsung.
It’s also particularly apparent to people in the market to buy a new smartphone (like me), who feel that that the iPhone may no longer be the best, most unique, most coveted mobile device available anymore.
Samsung: Out-Innovating Apple?
Galaxy Note 2 (Image Source: DigitalTrends)
You can’t ignore the fact that Samsung has innovated a lot by creating popular new products that Apple is unwilling to try.
The best example of this is the Galaxy Note, a smartphone-tablet hybrid with a huge screen. When that device first hit the United States about a year ago, critics slammed the device, saying that it was too large and couldn’t fit in your pocket. And that it came with a stylus: that relic of the Palm Pilot era, making the Note feel like a step backward.
Consumers didn’t seem to mind: Samsung sold at least 10 million Galaxy Notes. The company then released an even bigger version (the Galaxy Note II) a few months later, which sold another 5 million: a huge achievement for a single Android device.
But most importantly, Samsung innovated by creating a new category of device that people didn’t even know they wanted: much like Apple did when it released the first iPhone.
Windows 8 Home Screen (Source: Wired)
Samsung isn’t alone, of course. Apple’s age-old rival, Microsoft, has released the innovative new Windows 8 operating system, which is built for touchscreen devices like tablets, and offers a lot of advantages over iOS.
All Windows 8 apps can run in a split screen (making it possible to run two apps side-by-side), plus the main menu is capable of displaying real-time updates for things like news and weather. Microsoft even has its own line of Surface tablets that blur the line between PC and laptop, thanks to a clever snap-on keyboard cover. (iPads don’t do any of this)
Microsoft has been pushing this innovation with a new marketing campaign too: by showcasing their colorful, personalized, touch-enabled “Metro” interface, they’re making Apple’s iOS look like a boring old grid of app icons.
Furthermore, these developments by Microsoft are particularly damaging to Apple’s image as a top innovator in technology, in view of the two company’s traditional roles as competitors (think Mac vs. PC)
Even more concerning for Apple is the fact that its current flagship products, the iPhone 5 and the iPad 4, have been heavily criticized as being only incremental “upgrades” from previous versions (with the only difference being slightly faster processors).
If Apple doesn’t release a new, truly innovative product soon, it will continue to lose market share to the competition, particularly in the critical mobile device market.
After seeing several of my friend’s Samsung Galaxy S3’s and Note II’s in action, I’m convinced that these are two of the best mobile devices on the market today (at least until the S4 is released later this month).
I must admit too, that image is important to me. Working in the tech field, I’m expected to be using the fastest, most reliable, and overall best mobile devices (says the guy still lugging around a 4-year-old device).
And like most people, I just want to have a cool new phone.
Sorry, Apple, but that cool new phone is probably not going to be another iPhone.