iPhone 5: Proving once again that specs don't matter to most buyers

iPhone 5: Proving once again that specs don't matter to most buyers

Summary: The reaction of tech pundits to the iPhone 5 ranged from "evolutionary" to "disappointing". The record-breaking sales in the first 24 hours proves once again that features, not hardware specs matter to most buyers.

TOPICS: iPhone, Android


iPhone 5 landscape

I called it correctly after the iPhone 5 press event last week that pundits would be panning the newest member of the iPhone family. The press reaction was as I expected, that the iPhone 5 was disappointing and just an evolutionary bump in the technology. In spite of the reaction in the press, Apple sold 2 million iPhone 5s in the first 24 hours, proving yet again that hardware specs don't sell phones to the masses.

"The new iPhone is not a radical improvement. The iPhone 5 is more of the same. Apple missed the boat with the small changes in the iPhone. Those are valid observations but had Apple radically changed the iPhone it would have bordered on irresponsibility in this writer's opinion."

Tech-savvy buyers aside, the average buyer in the street is looking for features and functionality in his/her mobile gear. They want to do things, not brag about speed/memory/graphics. Apple understands this better than any other company in the mobile space.

More: Apple's iPhone 5 upgrade cycle secured with global LTE, 4G support Apple announces iPhone 5: What you need to know | The Apple iPhone 5: Now or later? | iPhone fantasies, Android phones realities | What could go wrong with the iPhone 5 launchTech leaders vacillate on iPhone 5, with growing anticipation of Windows 8 | Samsung vs. Apple: Are LTE patents the next battleground? | All ZDNet iPhone coverage | All CNET iPhone coverage | Techmeme | Apple statement

Are there phones available with better hardware components than the iPhone 5? Of course there are. In years past the primary customer base of early adopters would be all over those superbly equipped phones. The rise of Android with its myriad of well-equipped handsets is largely due to those savvy buyers.

Those are not the target market of the iPhone. Apple understood early on with the iPod that the mainstream consumer market was the giant piece of the pie worth claiming. Every iteration of the iPod and now the iPhone is aimed squarely at that crowd. It is millions, perhaps billions strong, and the one worth going after for huge sales numbers.

So Apple is taking this "disappointing" new iPhone and selling it as fast as it can make them. Business as usual for the company, in other words.

Topics: iPhone, Android

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  • I Had the Impression That the Feature Set Was "Evolutionary" as Well

    Is there some new set of significantly improved features, other than the screen size in the iPhone 5? If not, I'd imagine that the sales are mostly to owners of previous models that wanted a bigger screen, or wanted just to be able to say that they had an iPhone 5.

    I never got the impression that the pundits were disappointed with the hardware specs of the iPhone 5. I thought they were talking about the feature set all along. If that's true, then your point is rather out in left field.
    • But many times the specs...

      denote the "features" that are possible on a given device. Like the amount of ram can affect a number of things on a phone. Also, whether it has a quad core chip or not. Yes (especially Apple users) might not care about it having a quad core until they realize they can't do something because of it that other phones can do.

      Why do you think Apple increased the size of the screen? That's an improved spec that affects "features" on the phone like having having an extra row of icons and better viewing of video.
      • Or sometimes

        a company will pay a software developer to limit what's possible on another manufacturer's cell phone SoC in a feeble attempt to push a few units. Think about Sonic 4 Episode 2, for instance - NVIDIA paid SEGA to use weaker graphics effects on the A5/A5x, both of which have better graphics performance than the Tegra 3, along with other SoCs commonly used with Android tablets that have more powerful graphics than Tegra 3.

        That's the power of marketing.
      • Something that other phones can do

        Like what? An animated screensaver that shows you pretty aquarium, makes your phone such the juice out of the battery and overheat.. all, while the phone sits in your pocket or purse?

        There is no point to run computationally intensive tasks on your mobile device. It has one most precious resource: the battery, and any excessive computing just eats it out.

        What is it else that other phones can do and the iPhone 5 (or even 4/4S) can't do?
        • Doing true multi-tasking for one.

          True multi-tasking would open up a whole other level of software possibilities on iOS. For example, with the Tegra 3 on Android, ASUS has included a hidden 5th core that works when there are few demands on the quad core chip which actually ends up improving battery life. Samsung SIII gives the user the ability to watch a video while doing another task on your mobile device.

          A quad core chip and better specs better future proofs your phone too. Such an expensive device shouldn't be about people replacing it every year no matter what Apple would have you believe.
          • Samsung SIII

            is a cheap piece of plastic....

            I do not have a Mercedes or a BMW but I acknowledge their excellence... I do not have to say that my cheap corolla it is better than those cars..

            The only thing I really hate is the lack of design and quality surrounding every single non-apple product _Hardware and Software_ that push me emotionally and intellectualy to buy their products in the most frenetic way.....
          • Are you kidding me?

            Ok, we have been doing "true multitasking" with single core hardware for well over 20 years. You don't need 4 cores to do 4 things let alone 2! The iPhone 1 did "true multitasking". Apple has just limited what developers are allowed to do because it helps ensure a better over all user experience.

            Here you go: I can stream a movie to my TV while making a phone call and surfing the web or playing a game and still be downloading files. TRUE multitasking.

            As for specs the A6 processor bests the competition in some things and falls behind in others. This is all part of a balancing act and unlike the Authors implies, even tech savvy individuals can appreciate both what Apple puts in and what Apple keeps out.
      • Hollow specs mean nothing...

        People buy iPhones for the far superior user experience and superior ecosystem... Hollow specs mean nothing to real people (non-dorks/nerds). The one thing that iPhone can do that none of the other phones can is deliver the best user experience... And that is why Apple owns the market... It's not about the hollow specs... At the end of the day, there is nothing specs can offer other than a number... Can those specs get you the app you want? Can those specs protect you from the hassles and woes of malware? Can those specs give you a device that is enjoyable to use... No... They are just specs.
        • Do you know what specs are?

          OK, by your argument, Apple should have stayed with the 3.5" screen. Do you really think Apple would have sold 2 million pre-sale units if the iPhone 5 had a 3.5" screen?

          Screen size is a spec in case you didn't know. Battery size is a spec too. Apple increased both of them to give the user a better experience. Specs and user experience are connected you bone head.

          What the hell is a hallow spec? Making up your own "technical" terms?
          • Is Aunt Flo visiting laequis...

            A hollow spec is a spec that is faster/better yet does not deliver a better experience... Like wannabe iPads that stagger and freeze even tho they have a faster processor or more ram... If you don't know what a hollow spec is then you really need to get a clue and buy a vowel... The technology world has a huge history of hollow specs.

            The term hollow spec is not a term I made up, it is very common term.. And by my argument, a competitor's device with better specs does not deliver a better device (nor does it have the huge selection of app that Apple has). By my argument the user experience with the device is far more important than anything else... If you don't agree with that then all I have to say is good luck with the hard road you have ahead of you.
          • Arguing the same point

            As i8thecat4 stated Apple's target is user experience. Every single thing about a consumer electronics device can be broken down to a spec but the spec itself is not Apple's target. This what you don't see to get. Apple will increase the specs of aspects of the iPhone to deliver the best user experience they can but that's it. Many other manufacturers will crap anything and everything they can into a phone to fill up a spec sheet thinking that makes it a better phone. Those are hallow specs, pretty much worthless and of no real benefit, just talking points that the vast majority of consumers will never care about or at least benefit from.
        • idiot....

          Apple doesn't own the market. In many of these "markets" you claim they own; the iPhone ends up being outsold by a SINGLE android device.
          Robert Frizzell
          • No You Are The Idiot

            If you think any "single" Android handset can compete with the iPhone. Overall the iPhone smashes the sales of any single handset. All Android phones combined do have the higher market share though but that will always be the case because of the ability to get "cheap and nasty" Android smartphones.
            Josh Alfred
    • The fact is the specs are fine. Just not ground breaking.

      And, if we are now start going to here a bunch of overblown stories that nobody thinks that iPhone 5 is any good I give up. So far all the initial reviews I have seen say iPhone 5 is great, just no earth shaking changes. Unfortunately, due to Apple always trying to toot their own horn about their revolutionary designs, perhaps its something that goes with the territory when your designs are new and good, just not revolutionary.

      I am getting sicker and sicker of people marching around ZDNet proclaiming that something is amiss with different products when if the truth be known there is nothing particularly amiss at all.

      The fact is that some products will always be the better choice in the mind of certain purchasers, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for poor reasons, but it dosnt make it right to just say "this product isnt so good, it has issues, its not nearly as good as it should be" unless you can point to something about the product thats more than just "something you in particular do not care for", when the fact has been made clear that many others do not have the same problem.

      There is nothing wrong with saying, "I dont like this feature, or I dont find this particular thing helpful, or I find that because it works this particular way its a problem for me", it dosnt make it right to say, nobody likes it, or that its not good, or that a product is actually being panned by just about everyone because it didnt measure up when thats not EXACTLY the truth.

      After reading an article like this it simply becomes a worry that Kendricks next article about the iPhone 5 will be about how a product everyone agrees is so shockingly uninspiring and poor can sell so well.

      It is true that the general public takes very little into account in terms of product specifications of the hardware when they go purchasing gadgets. They definitely seem to be a little more swayed when purchasing computers, the public seems to generally have an understanding that there are things in a computer that will make it go faster, store more and play video better, but even then there is only so much of the public that can only be swayed so far about those things. Money is always an issue and more of those things cost more money.

      But all that aside, I havnt seen any negativity about the iPhone, just some realistic reports that its newness is not ground breaking or earth shattering by any means. The iPhone does benefit now from having a very good reputation of a tried and true design, one that has performed admirably across a number up model upgrades and also has access to the App store, so there you have the major reasons it will continue to sell.

      But I just hope we can manage to maintain some sanity here. From what I see the iPhone is all good so far, without any significant bad. The simple fact it didnt break any major new ground should hardly be any reason to discount it as a great smartphone. Like many products with an IT heritage, its not just enough to say one product is inherently a poorer product than another simply because one has some slightly better hardware specs over another. When people are happy with a particular products performance that alone can often be a big feature worth hanging onto when considering upgrading unless there are price breaks or clear significant hardware or feature issues that make switching brands a truly compelling point to be considered.
      • Very well said

        The iPhone (any model) isn't the best phone for everyone, there is no phone or product of any kind that is. People need to figure this out and let it go when somebody prefers another device over what they selected. I don't care what the guy next to me is using or if he doesn't like what I am using. I never tell anybody they are wrong for making the choices they made in selecting a phone but I won't sit back and just let FUD and flat out lies be posted without a response.
      • Exactly.

        When you have a superior ecosystem and simpler user interface, you only have to maintain a competitive set of feature specs for most consumers to literally love the device. To put it another way, you don't need to throw more hardware specs at customers in an attempt to compensate for a weak ecosystem and interface. Most consumers who own an iPhone, love it. They only care what they can do with the device. It's all about functionality, look, and feel. The "guts" don't matter to them.
    • feature set is weak...

      iOS 6 isn't what's driving sales for the iPhone 5 because (SHOCKER) it's also on the iPhone 4S and most of it's features are also hitting the iPhone 4. At most the only feature that "might" be exclusive to the iPhone 5 is the panoramic camera. Holy shit!!!!!! Must buy now!!!!!!

      Seriuosly the improvements made to the iPhone 5 were cosmetic to support a thinner phone with a taller screen. The only improvement was the A6 chip (ho hum) and a change to the qualcomm Gobi chip to handle the cell signal side of things. This is good because it allows them to make a single hardware device that is programmable to any carrier worldwide. That has absolutely nothing to do with making a 'better' device from a consumer standpoint; it only cuts costs.

      All the additional features such as twitter and facebook integration is merely Apple playing catch up to other mobile OS. However, there will be hordes of iSheep who will rant incesantly that Apple innovated these features and the other operating systems are trying to copy iOS. Dropping Google maps was necessary for reasons beyond making their own mapping application (which has yet to be proven). I'll LMAO when the Apple mapping system ends up sucking as much as SIRI.
      Robert Frizzell
      • There were improvements you over look but

        I would like to hear what big advancements you think would have helped? NFC maybe? Sure would have been feature that might be a benefit to some and maybe a benefit to many in a few years but why not let the tech mature and become widely used first. Their method with Passbook can be more widely used right now. Does that mean it's better, no but it's a more immediate benefit for users than NFC which is what Apple focuses on. Maybe you think wireless charging is a great revolutionary benefit to all? Doesn't mean you are wrong but I don't think it's worth the expense. Does it really benefit me unless I buy multiple wireless charging pads such as for the car and office? Don't I still have to plug those in? Isn't it very inefficient at this point. Many may love it but I consider that one of those specs added to a device not to benefit the customer but to fill up the spec sheet. So what revolutionary tech is the iPhone missing that would have benefited the majority of consumers?
  • Record-Breaking

    I don't know all the numbers, but... with an ever-increasing number of smartphone users, shouldn't the simple fact that (in the U.S.) most people get to upgrade regularly if they are on a plan pretty much lead to ever new record-breaking sales - unless you lose the ones you've already gained and win over no one at all? Once the market is no longer expanding significantly, "record-breaking" may have a greater meaning. Otherwise, maybe anything but record-breaking would be a huge disappointment?
    • I was thinking the same thing..

      when it came to Windows Phone it was all about the "SPECS" now all of a sudden it's about the overall experience and functionality of the device.