Apple’s twin-handset strategy shows it can innovate and adapt in equal measure, says Steve McCaskill
Apple events have become rather predictable recently. Most of the features leak ahead of time, while afterwards, various commentators will argue the company isn’t able to innovate in the same way it has done previously, paving the way for the likes of Samsung to assume leadership of the smartphone arena.
This time things were a little different. While most of the announcements were expected, Apple delivered a new flagship smartphone that is arguably its most impressive since the iPhone 4 and a cheaper model that indicates Apple is refining its mid-range strategy rather than revolutionising it.
The iPhone 5S’ key features had been predicted ahead of time, but they ticked all the right boxes. The first 64-bit smartphone processor, an improved camera that can at least compete with Nokia’s technology and a fingerprint sensor that could change the way we secure our smartphones.
The camera also indicates it is not averse to adopting its competitors’ ideas either. Options such as burst mode and automatic imaging stabilisation are clearly inspired by Samsung and Nokia, and the presence of photo filters is a nod to the popularity of Instagram.
While Apple was once able to dictate what users wanted with an autocratic fist, it has now been forced to react to market trends. The eight megapixel camera seems meagre when compared to the Nokia Lumia 1020’s 41 megapixel sensor, but Apple is confident its iSight innovations will allow it to compare favourably.
Apple’s new found willingness to look to its competitors is not all-encompassing though. Near Field Communication is one of the most obvious things missing from the iPhone 5S, despite the technology’s championing by Apple’s Korean rival and Sony.
The iPhone 5S will clearly be competing for the enterprise and high-end consumers but the iPhone 5C is a bit harder to place. The smartphone lacks many of the headline features of the 5S and boasts an “unashamedly” plastic appearance with polycarbonate cases available in a myriad of colours.
It is cheaper than the iPhone 5S, but not by much, suggesting that Apple is not targeting true mid-range customers, but recognises that discounting older models is no longer an adequate strategy to compete with less expensive rivals and expand its market share.
Its policy of recycling older technology has seen it enjoy some success, especially in the UK, and was fuelled by fears that a cheaper phone could harm sales of its flagship. The iPhone 5C is distinctive enough to attract new customers without stealing them from potential iPhone 5S buyers, thereby protecting its desirability and profit margins.
Apple’s head of marketing Phil Schiller joked during the presentation that the iPhone 5C was free of arsenic, mercury and Android, but the impact of Apple’s rivals has never been more obvious in one of its product announcements. And the company is better for it.
Were you paying attention? We have a quiz about the iPhone 5S and 5C!
And other one…on the history of the iPhone!