Apple’s Next iPhone Must Resurrect the Wow Effect

By  |  Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 1:52 am

The arrival of Google’s Nexus One smartphone is like the Beatles following Elvis Presley. Elvis revolutionized music and retained his immortal status, but The Beatles were great in their own right. The technological advantage that Apple had when it introduced the iPhone is diminishing (think Fat Elvis). And so the next iPhone will need to be another game changer for Apple to remain on top.

With the original iPhone, Apple addressed the shortcomings that most devices in the category had with fresh, innovative ideas. Initially, there were many second rate imitators, but now, products including the Palm Pre and Nexus One match if not surpass the iPhone in numerous ways.

I love my iPhone, and couldn’t imagine life without my apps. However, there are great alternatives for people who have not yet upgraded to a smartphone or want to save on their monthly service fees.

Case in point: A few months back, a friend and I were sitting in an East Village bar waiting for a bossa nova show to begin. We both whipped out our phones (his was a Pre) and had the proverbial “size contest.” I couldn’t knock the Pre, and he is very happy with it.

Moreover, AT&T’s decision to carry five Android phones is prescient–Android has no place to go but up. While it’s still not fully mature, Android is a great operating system for device manufacturers that do not have their own OS, and that is somewhat reminiscent of the early days of Microsoft Windows.

What is Apple to do? It will do very well due to the strength of its brand, and dedicated users like myself, but those strengths will eventually decline into inertia. Even a phone that leaves the Pre and Nexus One in its dust will not be good enough–Apple must bring back the “wow” factor in order to maintain its leadership of the market (or cede and focus on another groundbreaking product).

I’m confident that Cupertino has enough tricks up its sleeve that it could leave the rest of the industry chasing the iPhone again. There is room to play as the smartphone category grows, but anything less than a revolutionary product simply isn’t good enough for Apple.


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14 Comments For This Post

  1. IcyFog Says:

    So what new iPhone feature would “wow” you? In the N1 review link, there’s nothing described there that if I had iPhone would make me switch to an N1. In fact there are no N1 features that wow me. It doesn’t compare to The Beatles at all in my opinion.

  2. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I’d love the iPhone the become THINNER!

    Right now I have an iPod touch 3rd gen (an iPhone with 32GB is too expensive for me), but I AM planning to get an iPhone later on. But now I got used to the ultra-slim design of the touch, the iPhone just seems a fat ancient device to me 😛 I don’t think I really want something like that in my pocket…

  3. David Worthington Says:

    What would ‘wow’ me? Fair question. I think that Apple could be very creative with its use of sensors, and leverage the GPU for parallel programming. Beyond that – I never imagined a fully touch screen device that knew whether it was being held up or down.

    Apple can think well outside of the box, and it can do it better than I can.

  4. AdamC Says:

    You need a wow factor here is one a battery that lasts for days. I believe it will be from Apple, watch for it.

  5. Stark Ravin Says:

    Gotta love the tech press. This is the most baiting, wrong-headed blog post I have read in a long, long time.

    Worthington must be an old tech hack who flourished in the days of the WinTel hegemony, because he is committing the sin that all such old tech hacks commit: that that model will somehow reproduce itself in this new, consumer driven smartphone market. That notion is stupid and narrow. The WinTel model of hacking together beige computing boxes with a Microsoft OS worked in an industry driven by large corporations and MIS managers. That phase of the tech market is long gone. Assuming that Android is going to become the Windows of smartphones and that that dynamic is somehow going affect Apple the way it did the Mac back in the 80’s and 90’s shows a stupidity beyond belief.

    Consumer electronics markets (which is where today’s smartphones play) have radically different dynamics than the desktop market of yore. Even if Apple were to continue to make only incremental improvements to the iPhone on a product basis, it would still have multiple other dials to play with (content, branding, pricing) to keep it ahead of the competition on every level: margins, marketshare, product support, design, ease of use, etc.

    These old hacks who think the WinTel model will repeat itself in the new, consumerized tech market just drive me nuts. Their brains are off kilter in an old, dead alternate universe.

  6. Steve W Says:

    “…reminiscent of the early days of Microsoft Windows.”

    Oh? What year did you have in mind – 1983?, 1885?, 1989?, 1993?, 1995….

    If you think Windows NT4 and Windows 95 were the early days, then you forgot that once Windows was an upgrade from MS-DOS; and MS-DOS (with PC-DOS) had 70%+ market share all through the eighties – thanks to IBM.

    Apple is the only computer brand from 1991 to survive the introduction of the IBM PC, and no computer brand from 1984 has survived the introduction of the Macintosh.

    So, if this is a repeat of history, then one might expect Google’s Android OS to do well, while every company that builds an Android phone goes out of business.

  7. David Worthington Says:

    @steve I’m not saying that it’s going to be an exact repeat of history – things are very different in today’s consumer electronics market. But Android will likely be increasingly popular among device makers that do not produce their own OS. DOS/Windows came along, and was that solution for white box hardware. That is the link.

  8. george Says:

    The experience will sell the device, not a review of the hardware specs.

    Of course, a review of hardware specs is much easier.

  9. David Worthington Says:

    @George the experience is why I’m in no rush to drop my iPhone, but people are having positive experiences with some of the other devices too.

  10. george Says:

    @ David. Of course – Experiences are different. So, the consumers decide with their wallets – it’s foolish to say to somebody “Your experience is wrong.”

  11. tom b Says:

    Where’s the “wow” in Droid? It doesn’t beat the iPhone significantly on price. It certainly does not match the iPhone on features; integration to iTunes; or richness of its dev environment. It’s big selling point is it’s good for ATT-haters. In the US. Last I checked, people buy phones in other countries, too.

  12. AJ Says:

    You want “Wow”? How about a CHEAPER DATA PLAN! I know this is not up to the phone manufacturers, but come on! Throw us a bone, here.

  13. Noel Barcellos Says:

    Innovation and WOW is not a generic term.. its in the eyes of the beholder.. the music example is great. The reason I say that is no matter how great an artist TRUELY is, the only people who end up loving them are the ones that took the time to find out and actually listen to what they are saying or how they designed the music.

    Android is amazing to me because I take my time to try and utilize AND apply all the feature to my everyday life. The freedom that I have on my android phone far surpasses whats on the iphone. Ive also taken alot of time trying the iphone and have alot of things I like, such as how the games look due to the more powerful gpu.

    I find it funny how people say there is nothing WOW in the nexus one. How about wow the 1ghz cpu makes everyday tasks just that much faster. What about how the 1ghz cpu is faster on android than it is on windows mobile. (I mention that because people will be quick to say that the cpu is not part of the OS, but the real power is how the OS uses the speed) That is one of the MAJOR reasons why the iphone is a good phone because everything works smoothly on 600 mhz when there are some windows mobile phones using that speed and more and cant get it done.

  14. Duker Says:

    the best thing they can do is offer the iphone on a different network…

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