Word from the street: The next iPhone better wow us

The next iPhone is rumored to be announced in a few weeks and conversations with Apple's customers makes it clear it needs a big wow factor.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Boring Apple
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

AllThingsD has reported that the next iPhone may be announced on September 10, which fits with the expected timing for the launch. The next iPhone should be launched with the next version of iOS which has already been detailed by Apple. As usual, no details of the next iPhone have been shared by Apple, but through many conversations with owners of Apple's products it's clear there better be a wow factor.

I have been making a nuisance of myself for several months, approaching those in the city center I see using Apple gear to see what they think of it. Historically, it was common to hear gushing praise of the iPhone, iPad, or MacBook that's being used. That's not the case anymore as I'm regularly getting a different reaction from owners.

When I approach those using iPhones, I'm not usually hearing about how fantastic the owner finds the phone as I would in the past. More often than not I hear that the owner likes the iPhone but she/he is hoping the next model will be really cool. Not all of these owners are carrying the iPhone 5, either. I see a lot of iPhone 4s in peoples' hands. When asked why they often reply that the iPhone 5 isn't different enough to justify "wasting" an upgrade. They are waiting to see what the next iPhone has before they even consider upgrading.

I don't see unbridled enthusiasm over Apple products that was common in the past.

This is a very different reaction than I used to get in the past, as many I've approached were excited about the upcoming iPhone. That overwheming excitement over the years led to the image that Apple's customers will happily buy every product the company produces. That's not the impression I am getting now, which is surprising.

I get much the same attitude when I speak with iPad owners, either of the two models. Owners typically state they like the iPad or iPad mini, but without much enthusiasm. The iPad does what they want but they can't point out any feature or function that makes it wonderful. They like it but they aren't jumping up and down about it as they did when the iPad first appeared. More importantly, they aren't even thinking about the next generation iPad. I'm getting a distinct impression of a sense of acceptance that the iPad is what it is, without much enthusiasm about what it might be in the future.

This lukewarm reaction is distinctly different from what I've seen in the past. It's clear that most iPhone/iPad owners I approach find their gadget to be OK but that's about it. The unbridled enthusiasm over Apple products is strangely absent. It's as if these owners have come to the realization that it is what it is. Maybe future models will rekindle the fire, but then again maybe they won't.

I was surprised to find out that many iPhones I saw were doled out by employers. This wasn't the case of the majority by any means but more than I expected to see. 

There was also one young professional using an iPad mini in a coffee shop who was "given" it by her employer. They told her she could use it for anything she wished, both at home and at work, but that she had to give it back if she quit her job. It was kind of a Bring Our Own Device (BOOD) program, I guess.

This is not a scientific study by any means. My impressions are the result of speaking with many Apple product owners over the past few months. These owners are from all different age groups and professions, and included quite a few college students. I do believe these conversations represent a wide spectrum of Apple customers, and I've been surprised in the consistency of the reactions I've gotten in these many conversations.

My feelings towards my iPhone and iPads are much the same. I like them, they do what I need, but I feel they are getting long in the tooth. I wish there was a wow factor but it's missing.

One of the most recent conversations I had with an iPhone owner brought up an interesting point that may explain what's behind this lack of enthusiasm I'm regularly hearing. He admitted he's not very excited about the upcoming iPhone, and when I asked him why he had to think about it for a minute. What he said next may be behind what I'm seeing.

"Apple hasn't produced a single big product since Jobs passed. All of their current products are a legacy of the Jobs era. There's no indication that Apple can still innovate in a big way."

This guy isn't a techie nor anyone special, he is just a long-time customer of Apple's who admits his love for its products has dimmed. Even so, he went on to admit what most of the Apple customers have told me. He'll probably buy the next iPhone and maybe even the next iPad. The magic hasn't totally dimmed.

See related: 

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Definitive guide to keyboards for iPad and iPad mini (Spring 2013)

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