Why Apple pushing its new mobile products to Q3 could be a good thing

Why Apple pushing its new mobile products to Q3 could be a good thing

Summary: Apple shares dropped during after hours trading when CEO Tim Cook said: "We've got some really great stuff coming in the fall." But here's why delaying its mobile updates to later in the year could be a good move on Apple's part.

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TOPICS: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone, iPad
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Tim Cook dropped quite a bombshell during today's Q2 FY13 earnings call when he talked about Apple's product pipeline. Apple's CEO had this to say when UBS analyst Steve Milunovich asked him the following question:

Tim, you alluded to fall announcement of products. Is that indicating that there may not be substantial new products until literally fall? Late September, which means the September quarter could look a lot like the June quarter? Is that part of what you're implying, or were you being more general?

Why Apple pushing its new mobile products to fall is a good thing - Jason O'Grady

Cook replied:

I don't want to be more specific. But I'm just saying we've got some really great stuff coming in the fall. And across all of 2014.

As Larry Dignan noted in Between the Lines, the reaction in after hours trading was swift as Apple's 7 percent gain faded quickly on the comments.

Some pundits have been speculating that an updated iPhone 5S could be released in the summer (June, July, or August) and some have even suggested that an iPad refresh could come as soon as this month. It's easy to see why people would be disappointed to hear "fall" after rumors have indicated "summer" (or even "spring", in terms of the iPad) — but this is why rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt. 

While Cook's comments could be a decoy to divert attention from his real road map, or a page out of Jobs' classic "under promise and over-deliver" playbook (he could release products in both summer and fall, after all) let's take his words at face value for the moment. Not releasing an updated iPad or iPhone until the "fall" actually makes a fair amount of sense and would probably be a good move for the company. 

For starters, there's a growing perception that Apple is falling behind the likes of Google, Windows, and, to some extent, Facebook in the mobile OS department. Not literally of course, (there were plenty of blustery statistics by Apple's CEO and CFO about "usage" and "ecosystem"), but in practical terms, the iPhone home screen from 2013 doesn't look much different from the iPhone home screen from 2007.

Apple's mobile OS consists of a grid of static icons, while other OSes have widgets, live wallpaper, tiles, and yes, even chat heads. Apple has had the same boring, static icons for six years. 

Take a look at Apple's once vaunted music products. iTunes should be taken out back and shot, and I haven't used Apple's music app since installing the Spotify and SiriusXM apps. And Twitter music makes the Music app look prehistoric. Apple staunchly ignored music subscription and streaming services, and now companies like Spotify and Rdio are eating its lunch.

Look at chat. While iMessage is a step in the right direction, it suffers from reliability problems and is unnecessarily complex to set up. Meanwhile, apps like WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Kik Messenger, Viber, and Wickr make Apple look like your grandfather's messaging app. 

Apple should have owned the mobile OS, music, and messaging, but it was too busy counting its money and resting on its laurels. 

Moving its iPhone and iPad announcements back to "fall" seems to confirm earlier rumors that iOS 7 was delayed, but it could be a net positive for the company — if it uses the time to completely overhaul and modernize iOS and its mobile hardware. And I'm not talking about a new "flatter" look from Johnny Ive and being 1mm thinner.

Apple needs to innovate again, and bring back the excitement that made people want the iPhone in the first place.

Pushing back its mobile hardware to later in the year would allow Apple to showcase iOS 7 to developers at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (presumably in June). This will give developers all summer to ramp their apps to take advantage of iOS's new features. 

Apple needs to completely overhaul iOS with features like a live and completely customizable desktop (with widgets, menubarlets, and lock screenlets), customizable default apps (because Apple has also fallen behind in Maps, Safari, Mail, and Calendar, too) and third party keyboards (which Apple can vet to address the security implications). Everything needs to work in landscape and upside-down mode, too. 

Once iOS 7 is given to developers this summer, Apple needs to redouble its efforts on mobile hardware and explore features like NFC, inductive charging, and better cameras and batteries. It also needs to include Retina displays in every mobile product (I'm looking at you, iPad mini). And if people want a five-inch smartphone, make a five inch iPhone. Why is Apple just giving away this market to Samsung/Google?

And it's time for Apple to address payments. Apple has sold almost 600 million iOS devices, and I'm tired of Apple claiming that that mobile payments are in their "infancy". That's nonsense. As I mentioned in August and September 2012, Apple could singlehandedly move mobile payments into adulthood by investing in Passbook, NFC, and other frictionless payment technologies and own the space! Or will it let Passbook wither and die like music and messaging? 

In short, I'm OK with Apple pushing its new mobile offerings to the fall to make a bonafide effort to stay competitive. Frankly, it needs to. If Apple doesn't make some significant moves with mobile in 2013 it will give away even more ground to Samsung and Google, and will become the phone that your parents use, while business, professional, and power users defect to devices and platforms that work the way they want them to. 

Apple is at a crossroads, and it needs to step up or step aside, and I hope that it's using the extra time wisely. 

Topics: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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15 comments
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  • Look how big my cash pile is!

    A lot of people deeply hate Microsoft, for various reasons. Some would say rightly so.
    Apple has a massive stockpile of cash and has literally stopped innovating (product speculation aside and outlined in this article). Their fixation seems to purely lie with maintaining margins and protecting their market (exhibit a. iPad Mini with no retina).
    Is it just me or is this the highway to hate for consumers, note I say highway as Microsoft already blazed that trail.
    Get to the Chopper!
    • Very True

      Yes, without strong technical leadership accountants will end up running Apple. Innovation will be seen as a "cost" to the accountants. Microsoft is a bit different because they have so many product divisions that one or two can fail and they will still do just fine.
      Sean Foley
  • Life is short

    "Apple needs to completely overhaul iOS with features like a live and completely customizable desktop (with widgets, menubarlets and lock screenlets)

    Apple needs to redouble its efforts on mobile hardware and explore features like NFC, inductive charging, better cameras and batteries."

    Life is too short for waiting. Buy a Nokia Lumia 920 today and have all of that today. Or an Android phone.

    Today.

    Life is too short to waste waiting for Apple to copy everyone else.
    toddbottom3
    • I laughed when I read that. Growing perception?

      Its not just a perception. Apple really is behind. They're 6-12 months behind Nokia and will be 12-18 months behind by fall. Software services wise they're even further behind than they are on hardware. And they're about half that behind Samsung.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Oh Toddy!

      You forgot to mention that the Nokia deal breaker is that awful OS WP8 - the market just doesn't want it. I'd rather have Tried & True than Tried & Died.
      Gr8Music
  • It's been a longer than usual wait....

    ...the last round of product announcements was back when the iPad mini was announced (November?). We're now in the unusual position of almost half a year with nothing new or noteworthy, other than some (admittedly major) personnel changes at the top end.

    I'd like to think this is evidence of Apple hunkering down, and focussing on the next product, not the next headline. But also I don't think they need to listen to the pundits and bloggers. They were told that the 5 would fail without NFC. Nope, hasn't happened. They were told that the mini sales would suffer without Retina. Seems to be doing fine. Hell, go back a few years - the iPad won't sell. Go back further - no-one will want to buy from the iTunes Store. Even further - Apple knows nothing about the mobile phone market. Even further than that - these Apple Stores are a bad idea...

    Apple has a good track record of proving conventional wisdom wrong. Most of that happened when Jobs was at the helm though. And most of the stuff released since his death he had still had a hand in, approving designs etc. Now we need the first big announcement of the Cook era. What direction is he really taking Apple in? Can he genuinely overhaul, not just update, their product lines?
    Ben_E
  • Why Apple pushing its new mobile products to fall could be a good thing

    You listed all these drawbacks of using iOS, not sure how waiting to fix them would be good when they should be getting fixed now.
    Loverock-Davidson
  • If it ain't broke...

    I have had the iPhone since the beginning. I had an Android briefly and it lasted about 2 months before I had major hardware issues and went back to my iPhone. In that short time, I did come to love the custom home screens and widgets, but I still mostly just used apps like I did on my iDevices. I did make some comparative notes, though...

    1. Apple's Visual Voicemail is leaps and bounds better than anything on an Android phone. I never had so much trouble setting up and using voicemail in my life. I remember when I first turned on the Android handset and I couldn't find visual voicemail. Apple's Phone App does it right.

    2. Apple Messaging is fine. What more do you need? The only thing I don't get as a native action on iOS that I get on Android is Google Chat. But IMO is a free app that gives me GChat so I have yet to miss it.

    3. NFC. Please, please, please, P-L-E-A-S-E (I AM BEGGING YOU!!!!!!!!) put down the stick and walk away from the horse. It's been dead for years. You keep beating it, but it's dead Jason. IT IS DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nobody wants NFC payments. The only place I've ever seen it available is Staples. It's not this big industry that you claim it is. You want to wave your phone around like a magic wand and pay for things, but that's not the common thought process. I'm fine to carry a smart phone and a couple of cards. I have to carry an ID and insurance card anyway so why not just throw a debit card in the stack? Leave it alone man...

    4. Music App. What more do you want? That was another thing I struggled with on Android. I never could quite figure out where to play my music from. Google Play? Amazon? Native Music App? Crap would just start playing from all over the place and my music was never exactly where I wanted it to be. It was abysmal at best. I can go on my iPhone, click the Music App, click Shuffle, and it works. What more does anyone need?

    5. Camera and Battery.... These are separate, but you sort of bundled them so I'll address them together. The camera is fine. How many megapixels do you need? You do realize that at some point, more megapixels means less quality, right? Everyone wants some 40mp camera on their smartphone. GET A CAMERA! Do you want to look back at your child's life and have photos taken with a mobile phone in all of its grainy, flat, poorly-exposed glory? Or do you want to get a decent camera and snap photos that you'll enjoy for years to come?

    I agree with you on the battery. It sucks. I can get through a day, but if I go out of town for a weekend and forget my charger, I have to buy one. But then again, we can't have streaming music, NFC, Facebook Home, Location Services, GPS, Widgets, Jiggly Icons and Instagram and still expect 8 days of battery life like we got on our little '98 Nokia with Snake and DIY Polyphonic Ringtones.

    Sure, Apple needs a new home screen with widgets and custom layouts (I did like that on Android I could move icons anywhere and not be forced to fill up the screen in a certain way). But really, all the other stuff just seems silly. It all works so why mess with it? Other than Chat integration for messaging, I can't see the use in anything you've talked about.

    As far as the home screen goes, be careful what you wish for. We could be forced into using Facebook Home. I swear I will throw my iPhone in a lake if they add that garbage to it. I don't have a Facebook. I don't want a Facebook. And I don't want Facebook to have anything to do with my phone. Period. I have a phone. I don't have a Facebook Phone. I'd gladly pay triple for a phone that doesn't have anything to do with FB.

    I'm an Apple Fan. But I see the need for certain things that they're missing. NFC and a "Messages" overhaul aren't on the list.
    heymatthew
    • Reasonable post, but...

      You struggled trying to figure out how to play music on an Android phone? Seriously? I'm at a loss for words...

      I'll agree with your points 1 and 2, though for messaging I find GoSMS to be better than the Apple app, for customizability alone. NFC, most people can take it or leave it, it's not going to move units, but Apple probably needs it so that the other phone makers can stop waving that in their face.

      Regarding your comment about home screen, I think you're in the minority, and this is one of the areas where Apple is painfully behind Android. On an Android you can have beautiful, customizable home screen sets, that perfectly suit what you need to do, and express your personality. This is a no-brainer, Apple will absolutely have to adopt this feature or iphone is toast.
      MichaelMcJackson
  • Cook vs Jobs

    a bookkeeper vs a creative sales driven person. It is not all that strange that innovations do not come at a snails pace. It is the history that repeats itself. Jobs recruits a new top-executive and the new executive makes a mess out of Apple. John Ivy is the only man who can come close to Jobs when it comes to his creative ideas and charisma. Anyone who have seen the latest innovations from Mac to IPhone must conclude that they would never have made it to the consumer if Jobs was in charge. Most seems to be done in a hurry and looks sloppy.
    That the market doesn't like Apple that much anymore is a good thing. the market doesn't give a rats ass about any company they think short time and the bourses never work in the interest of a company's customers.
    rhon@...
    • Cook vs Jobs et al

      First Tim Cook is not a bookkeeper although I can understand why you categorize him as that. He has a B.S. degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University and an MBA. from Duke University.
      Second it is Jonathan Ive or Jony Ive.

      I agree that you need a balance as the chief executive. S/he cannot be all engineering, all business or all creative. I think Tim Cook has two of three areas covered very well and being at Apple for 12+ years and having run Apple for several years especially when Steve Jobs was ill, he certainly understand the need for a mix between technology and the liberal arts. I think Jony Ive is a great designer but I don't think he has the depth of understanding or knowledge to be CEO or Apple.
      Tim and the Apple team are executing major new products and time is necessary to get us there. There will be product intros this summer before the big magic in the fall. Patience!
      juanm105
  • Come on Jason

    iMessage is a pain to set up? Since when? Sorry but you have to be completely ignorant to have issues setting up iMessage. The music app needs to be taken out and shot? It plays music. There's the cover flow for those who want the pretty graphics and there's the listing by artist, song, etc. Or you hit shuffle and see what song comes up next. What's the issue here?

    I'll grant that Apple Maps has it's issues - it's... well it's still crap. Fortunately there are many free alternatives MapQuest and Google Maps among them.

    I'll grant that Apple has had the same basic configuration since the original iPhone OS... but if it ain't broke don't fix it.
    NonFanboy
  • Just another whiny tech blogger looking for something to whine about

    Wah wah wah, I want NEW! I want it NOW! Wahhhhhhhhh!
    I'm BORED! I want MORE! Wahhhhhh! I don't want better, I want MORE! And I want NEW NOW, because I'm BORED! Wahhhhh!
    Woochifer
  • Who cares what the market's think?

    I get a little grumpy with the relentless drumbeat of headlines predicting Apple's doom on the basis of their stockmarket valuation. Who cares? The few thousand privileged few who actually own shares? Maybe, although would they be selling* them? The millions upon millions of happy Apple users? I doubt whether any of them would give a rat's dropping for the opinions of the market pundits.
    Having said that, I'll still concede that sometimes iOS irritates me, I wish it had more of the features we take for granted with OSX. But I switched to iOS from Android, finally driven mad by Facebook's nagging. Heymatthew, I hear you loud and clear!
    ian.orchard@...
  • Apple knows...

    Wall Street blows.
    Steve Nagel