September 9, 2014

Long Pending, now (I)mpending

September 09, 2014 Posted by Vijay No comments
Though I have always disliked Apple because of the suffocating ecosystem, there is no doubt that Jobs and Apple revolutionized the mobile phone market. Jobs took it to the next level by convinvcing the world of another must have device in the form of the iPad. By calling it magical and with his marketing abilities it became a runaway hit and was garnering over 80% market share in the year after its launch. Fast forward 3 years after Jobs' passing away, and Apple has not introduced anything revolutionary. Unless a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S qualifies as revolutionary.

Honestly, there hasn't been much innovation even from Samsung which pioneered the Android ecosystem to the beast it is today. Android commands over 80%  of the smartphone market, and most of the credit is due to Samsung leading the efforts and giving customers a cost effective alternative to the oh so expensive iPhone. Even Samsung's Android tweaks have been more gimmicky than revolutionary. Of course some of the features like split screen and the stylus are certainly worthy of mention. While Samsung pulled away from iPhone in terms of smartphone shipments, Apple probably resisted being pulled into the rat race of competing low cost phones.

Samsung introduced the phablet concept via the Note, and the past year phablets have picked up massive adoption at the cost of tablets. So tablet shipments and sales are now on the vane. Apple could not have ignored customer needs when large sized phones in the range of 4.7 - 6 inch began flooding the market. Maybe Apple did not want to be an also ran company when it came to smartphone competition. Probably devoid of ideas, Apple finally seems to have succumbed to the pressure from its hundreds of Android rivals.

If rumors and reliable sources are indeed true, Apple will be unveiling large(r) sized iPhone(s). The talks are of a 4.7'' iPhone and a 5.5'' iPhone. These seem to have been long pending form a consumer electronic giant the size of Apple which seemed to have run out of ideas, especially after the time of Steve Jobs. In this context it is crucial for Apple that its tablet sales have dramatically declined. It is probably a necessity for Apple to slot into the Phablet market with the 5.5'' device. And this makes a lot of sense for those who don't like the idea of carrying around an iPad mini or iPad Air.

Apple's announces today, with invites titled 'wish we could say more', is probably the best time it could have chosen. Samsung's own sales are getting hurt badly from a swathe of low cost smartphones from the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei,Micromax and Lenovo, not to mention Motorola's own Moto G offering. These companies are targeting the budget conscious customers who want latest software with more than respectable hardware specs. And they have toppled Samsung from India and China the most recent surveys from the smartphone shares. That should give a shot in the arm for Apple to market its own offerings to boost its sales and marketshare.

Apple will not have it easy though. The only other product Apple might launch is touted as the iWatch. Wearables as a market has failed to take off inspite of offerings from Samung and Sony, and the recent Moto 360. Part of the reason they haven't taken off could be because the same things that one does on a phone, why do it on a smart-watch. Not to mention questionable battery life. It certainly has not been appealing as a mass consumer device. And the uses of it definitely do not warrant a market on its own. Of course even the iPad was trashed as a large sized iPhone but became a huge hit. Apple could still prove everyone wrong. But times since the iPad have changed. The major market players have pre-empted the wearables market and launched armbands and smartwatches for over a year. Unlike the times of the iPad when awareness of what a tablet could do or offer were far fewer, the awareness in the wearables industry has grown over the past year. So unless Apple provides a breathtaking alternative, it may just be another niche market. Only this time it won't help Apple in its sales or profit margins.

Ditto with the iPhone. With due credit to Apple, no one knew a smartphone could be as elegant and simple and touch friendly until the iPhone launched in 2007. For the lack of alternatives and the sheer wow of a touchscreen phone customers lapped up the iPhone inspite of steep prices. It took 2 years for a dominant alternative like Google Android to emerge in 2009. Ever since then, Apple has always struggled to maintain its ascendancy. This time with a smartwatch, there are already options in the market which have been less than appealing. So customer expectations are sky high and anything less from Apple could severely hurt.

The entire wold looks upto Apple today for the next market segment to open up. Will it be the wearable market, or even an Apple TV? The expectation is certainly for larger sized iPhones and that seems to be a given. But these are long pending iPhone enhancements which are necessary for iPhone to compete. Whatever it be, general customer knowledge of the technology marker and phones and gadgets has never been so high. Apple needs to be at its best ever to regain the growth it once did during Jobs' times.