iPhone and innovation: Is hardware the only place Apple can go to keep up the buzz?

iPhone and innovation: Is hardware the only place Apple can go to keep up the buzz?

Summary: Speculation about the next iteration of the iPhone has already begun - but how many times can Apple reinvent its classic handset?

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OK, so it was a quiet news day, but I was still surprised by the excitement generated last week by the rumour Apple is maybe – maybe – testing something that maybe - maybe - will turn out to be iOS 7, maybe even running on a iPhone 5S (or an iPhone 6, depending on what Apple names the device).

Apple iPhone 5
How many times can Apple reinvent its classic handset? Image: CNET

This revelation is, of course, all rather dog bites man. The excitement would be more justified if Apple had decided to stop developing new iterations of one of the most wildly successful smartphones of all time.

And sure, Apple wrongfooted everyone with an unexpected refresh of the iPad in October, but most industry watchers are expecting an iPhone 5S (or iPhone 6) to surface from the middle of next year. So, Apple testing a new OS and device now would fit in with that schedule - not to mention being a handy way to ignite interest about what the next version will look like.

With the seventh iteration of the iPhone, Apple faces a classic dilemma: it has a successful product in a hyper-competitive market, with users expecting regular updates. The question is how to deliver enough that's new and interesting in those updates to keep users wanting to buy the next iPhone, but without ruining the formula that has made the device so popular.

So far, Apple has pulled off that balancing act, and the new features in each successive iPhone have been enough to keep demand high.

But the iPhone 5 – despite a taller, thinner form factor – met with a somewhat underwhelmed reception from critics when it arrived, suggesting that some iPhone fatigue may be setting in.

An NFC chip and perhaps some kind of fingerprint-reading security are being touted as among the likely additions to the next version of the iPhone. Perhaps, after putting the software first in the last couple of versions, it's time to give the iPhone a serious hardware upgrade to make it stand out among the black rectangles of the smartphone world.

What next?

Indeed, already the next wave of iPhone speculation has begun - we're seeing rumours of more colours and variations in a choice of screen sizes, and even suggestions that Apple will unveil a mini-iPhone sometime next year (although, as this year is apparently the 'year of the phablet', a mega-iPhone might make sense too).

As this year is apparently the 'year of the phablet', a mega-iPhone might make sense too

The iPhone was launched in mid-2007 and the design has remained pretty much unchanged through all the iterations that followed, a reflection of how spot-on the original formulation was.

But how many iterations of that device can Apple go through without losing the excitement?

There are plenty of other interesting opportunities for new types of hardware - from hybrids to mini devices - that it would easy for Apple to venture into; however, the company tends to stick to the (high-end) mass market. Hence the ongoing curiosity around Apple's potential interest in TV - a new territory to conquer.

While Apple isn't going to hang up on the iPhone anytime soon, perhaps it's possible the next big Apple innovation will come outside of the smartphone's traditional form factor.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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46 comments
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  • They cannot.

    They are being outpaced by the competition and they will end up just like they were 17 years ago.

    Both Windows 8 and Linux have surpassed OS X and Android has passed up iOS years ago.

    With the Tegra 4 and Amoled Screens, the iPhone and iPad are on borrowed time.
    slickjim
    • Re: They cannot

      I am assuming you have used OS X, iOS?

      What a load of crap, all operating systems (including Windows 7) are fine for use..

      OS x just works, no issue with it crashing, no issue with applications purchased not working, no issues with viruses, no issues with navigation, no issues with networking.. So what more does it need to do?

      Windows 7 is fine, have to use for developing at work (which fortunately my Mac Book can dual boot too).. Consistency in operating system is OS x, (for me) is so much better. Hate having to find where to find rarely used applications, configuration settings in Windows XP, 7, 8...

      In end of day a opperating system is meant to be easy to navigate, be relative secure in not getting viruses and let you do some serious work!!

      I have seen people of little computer experience operate a iPad without any major concern, who would be struggling with windows 8... (80 year olds)... I have seen people love the experience of getting a new game for there iPad... Personally paying a extra £100 for a device not having to worry if app is 100% compliant or not (such as with fragmentation of android), is money well spent..

      How many people are going to get confused with Windows 8 RT Surface, Windows 8 Surface and the many other versions?
      bradley_crouch@...
      • oh I am sorry

        Does my opinion offend you? Yes I have used both! OS X is needlessly complex for simple tasks like screen shots... OS X fans hate the iOS features of the Desktop and yet they seem to be the most user friendly parts. Then of course the lack of Bluray support stinks as well.

        iOS is way too locked down and not worth the hassle.

        As for your assumptions of viruses and app problems, sorry but, we are not talking about Windows XP anymore and infections are rare now.

        As for Windows 8, it is only guys who haven't spent time with it that preach that junk!
        slickjim
        • Re: oh I am sorry

          > Does my opinion offend you?

          No, everyone is entitled to there opinion..

          Everyone I know who uses iOS and OSx are happy.. Then we walk in different circles.

          Many friends I have enjoy Android, it does look impressive.. But very happy with iOS, does all I need it to and just works..

          Windows 8, not that keen on yet.. But happy enough with Windows 7..


          > OS X fans hate the iOS features of the Desktop...

          Sorry love app launcher, notifications which are from the iOS system.. Then it doesn't force me to use in OS X if I don't want to..


          To print screen OS X, never had the need.. But a quick search on google has informed me, which isn't such a hard task, also seems to have some nice cropping features as well. There are hundreds of tasks I need to google for Microsoft to get working, so don't see it such a big issue (for non common tasks).

          Look on Amazon for blue ray for OSX, amazingly there are drives available.. Then I don't have a desire for blue ray on my PC or Mac, so not a big issue for me (and many others).

          > iOS is way too locked down and not worth the hassle.

          iOS, like andorid is always adapting.. So sure few more features will be available on iOS 7... Sure my iPad and iPhone will be able to update, as been the case for many years...

          Personally I a have had no issues with iOS being locked down, but each to their own.

          > As for Windows 8, it is only guys who haven't spent time with it that preach that junk!

          So a non intuitive user interface is okay, its the user at fault if he doesn't know how to use it.. lol..

          Take it your not tech support, as having to deal with some customers (which I have to), take it from me it is not a fun task when they are 1000's of miles away.. Personally I love consistency, if it works, don't break it.. OS x and iOS are the operating systems, not the applications that I want to be running or wasting time in navigating around!



          > iOS is way too locked down and not worth the hassle.

          99% of the people don't care, most people buy app (or free) and want it to work! I am happy to spend £1 on a game that gives me heaps of fun, just don't want to waste time in getting app to work on a system developer hasn't tried.. Nothing more frustrating then buying something you can't run as your hardware is slightly incompatible..

          I had several people over for New Years, several had a new iPad and where amazed at the games and ease of use (including one 80 year old who possibly learning windows 8 is a bit beyond them and frustrating)...
          bradley_crouch@...
          • apple products just work? Don't tell that to the "geniuses"

            apple geniuses are always booked solid to give lessons to people who don't know how to use their apple products. If you were right, that wouldn't happen.

            http://www.apple.com/retail/learn/

            You have just been proven wrong by apple themselves.
            toddbottom3
          • Re: apple products just work? Don't tell that to the "geniuses"

            Well amazed I didn't have to go to course to learn iOS and OSx... Also amazed friends didn't go to courses, we just must be amazing...


            But then if it is free (which it is) and it makes someone get more out of there device, then why not? After purchasing a iPad (and your a tech illiterate), wouldn't you like some free pointers? Sure 80 year old friend would like some nice free advice, some nice tips on using device, possibly a nice day outing..
            bradley_crouch@...
          • Let's summarize Bradley's posts

            "apple is great because you don't need any training to use their stuff.

            apple is great because they give free training on how to use their stuff."

            You can't make this stuff up. Defend the hive.
            toddbottom3
          • > Let's summarize Bradley's posts

            I didn't need training for iOS or OSx, but then I am not everyone! I never claimed that everyone would be able to use OSx, or iOS without any training, just like every other operating system under the sun.

            I haven't gone to a apple course, so not sure what they teach you or to what level... Possibly you could enlighten me here?

            I would have thought training possibly might show how to setup mail accounts, networking, to which some people have little or no knowledge on... So yes sure telling someone what a POP server, how to hook up mail system to Hotmail, possibly is to complicated in what ever OS one uses?

            Does your granny have any idea on what a POP account is, how to set up Hotmail Pop account on there PC? Work the internet? Well mine wouldn't, so having someone show them this is possibly a good thing?

            You MAY not need training, but its is OBVIOUS to most that some people have no knowledge on anything with computers (regardless of OS).. So yes having training is a good thing, we can't all be as knowledgeable as you!

            But then in your world, I am sure that everyone knows how to run Windows 8, Android with out any training ?

            Like I said, I use Windows 7, XP, iOS, OSX .. Have no gripe with either, OSX and iOS is for my personal use and enjoy (like so many other people)..

            For all you android, windows fans.. Yes they are a great operating system, but so to is iOS and OSX..
            bradley_crouch@...
          • Toddbottom3 loves to

            take specifics and turn them into generalities, then build a broad-brushed strawman, then knock it over. He also uses Apple as his gold standard for everything, which is odd since he despises the company so much.
            baggins_z
          • iPhone data recovery

            What if I lost all my data on iPhone after upgrade iOS 5 to iOS 6? What can I do to recover data from iphone? There is an amazing iPhone data recovery software can do that for you - Tenorshare iTunes Data Recovery

            from " any-data-recovery "
            DannyHuston
          • no need for training.

            Training may not be of any benefit for you as it covers the basics, like doing a screen grab or using a spell-checker.
            Saxwulf
          • Let's summarise toddbottom3's posts...

            'I make stuff up'
            frogspaw
          • Let's summarize Toddy's post:

            I see people at the genius bar therefore they must need help on how to use thier product. Nevermind the majority of those people are older people or those who have never used a smartphone. And I hate Apple with a passion.
            athynz
          • you can't iHandle the truth

            Of the incoming debacle
            Master Wayne
          • Look at this from another angle....

            I don't think you're getting the idea of the article.

            For a mobile device OS iOS is very successful and many people like using it. Your 80 year old can use it, because it's a UI that has been consistent since the beginning of the first generation of iPhone.

            Whereas in Windows, a major UI change is made every a few years, it is understandable that people have to learn how to use it and it takes time. Give it a couple years time, and people will be getting used to Windows 8.

            Maybe the consistency in UI that you tout maximizes ease of use. But the main idea of the article is, the iOS is getting STALE just like the Windows desktop does. As you said, if it is not broke, why upgrade? This work well for users but for companies like Apple, you simply cannot afford to have that mentality. In a couple of years, the 80 year old who likes his/her iOS device so much he/she sees no compelling reasons to change devices.

            In fact, once the novelty falls off, people *will* try something different. Many of my friends who had just finished the contract on their previous iOS device actually switch over to Android because they see the iOS as "more of the same".
            CyberGuerilla
          • Major UI changes is made every few years?

            Please detail these major UI changes. I'd say going from Windows 3.x to the Windows 95 UI was a major change. And from the Windows 95 UI to Windows 8 was a big change. Where are the others?
            ye
          • Consistency of UI with previous versions is a complete non-factor

            for someone using the UI for the first time.
            baggins_z
          • That is a very good point about iOS

            The design of iOS make it simple to use, but at the same time it also limits how it can grow or develop in terms of an operating system.

            Android on the other hand is clearly growing in terms of functionality and features. At the same time it is becoming easier to use. On the same level as iOS.
            Emacho
          • OS X and Windows 8

            OS X has like 3 or 4 buttons to do a screen capture and with Windows 8, you push print screen and it takes a screenshot then dumps it to the pictures folder. Ubuntu, you push print screen and it captures the screen shot then asks you where you want to save it.

            As for Windows 8 being problematic, it is nothing of the sort. It is very different from Windows 7 and requires about 20 Minutes to figure it out but, once you do, it might be the most intuitive OS on the market and most of the people I know that spend time with it love it!
            slickjim
        • Re: oh I am sorry

          @slickjim --

          You seem to be getting your information confused and simply looking half-baked sources up and regurgitating it as an original thought. Don't do that.

          You should clarify that you are speaking about iOS and not OS X. Your mention of taking a screenshot in OS X is skewed. It's easier than doing so in Windows and iOS.

          Bluray support - really - you are still crying about that at this point ? Especially since 2 flagship products (now 3) are coming without a DISC slots at all.

          iOS isn't anymore or less locked down than any other mobile OS - webOS - Android - WinMo -- which are all significantly locked down moreso than their desktop counterparts - which is where the comparison issue lies.

          And funny enough there is enough drastic fragmentation that many Android Users are beginning to complain about and if you want to talk about backlash or causing the demise of a platform.... I wouldn't say that this will be a kill point for Android - but things are building up to come back and bite Google and the OEMs soon enough if they don't correct the situation. (more specifically on the phones)

          Android has surpassed iOS only on Number of Units sold as it is available on dozens of different types of devices form various phones to various tablets to various laptops. However as for Usage - iOS dominates the market.

          Mobile Safari is the global leader on Internet access for mobile devices. All of this has been a consistent mainstay since 2007-2008 shortly after the first iPhones came onto the market.

          Windows 8 market share has not passed up OS X. You are delusional.

          December 2012 desktop Market Share:
          Windows 8 ± 8.2%
          OS X ±14.2 %
          Linux ± 2.1%

          Basic Internet searches before you post - might do you some good.


          AND ONE MORE THING (for your small brain to handle) most of the iOS features being ported to OS X are not new. They were around in various forms in the early Betas of the original OS X a decade ago. The Mac User base at the time did not like the radically different OS changes Apple made - so by the time they released the initial Final for OS X 10.0 they had reintroduced a "Mac-like" interface and functionality.

          Apple found a different approach to introducing those changes back into the Desktop version by means of iOS. As it was a different form-factor and not a "Mac". Now everyone likes the features and wants them on their desktop.
          uberfu