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Has Apple Lost Its Creative Spark?

Steven Blum
14

The reaction among even the most diehard Apple fan to the release of the iPhone 5 has been rather tepid. Reviewers from the Verge, to CNET and CNN have been underwhelmed by Apple's latest entry. Could it be that Apple is running out of ideas? Or is the company trying too hard to play it safe and thus maintain their connection with a loyal fanbase? Whatever the theory, it seems that Apple has lost its creative spark.

Looking at the newest iPhone, it's clear that Apple has invested a lot in the build quality of the device – it is undeniably beautiful – but the fact that the rows of icons that adorn the homescreen have stayed the same ever since the launch of the first iPhone signals to me that there is a creative vacuum happening in Cupertino. As Android pushes ahead with its own innovative resizeable widgets and elegant UI features, and Microsoft premieres live tiles on Windows 8, Apple hasn't touched a single significant element of their UI since they added multitasking in iOS4. The look and design of the phone hasn't fundamentally changed since the first iPhone.

Spec-wise, it looks like Apple is playing catch-up with Android. If the iPhone 5 were announced as an Android, it would probably be classified as a mid-range device. The screen is nothing that will blow you away, the processor is still dual-core and, if you look at the presentation in detail, you'll notice Apple seemed to realize this: not once in their presentation did they compare their latest entry to any of the top Android smartphones out there, preferring to compare the newest entry to older versions of the iPhone. 

Remember When Apple Surprised Us?

The marketing folks at Apple may be calling the iPhone 5 "revolutionary," but in actuality this device was a very safe bet for Apple. And there are real drawbacks for the company in the long term if they continue to only modestly "refresh" their offerings. It seems as if Apple has become such a monolithic power that their size has become a liability. Afraid of upsetting millions upon millions of loyal customers, Apple decided to do nothing instead, except for increase the screen size.

It could be that, in the long run, Apple's fortunes will fade if it does not consistenly have the courage to reinvent itself. We have seen time and time again that no company should take their perch at the top for granted. Microsoft learned that lesson very painfully, but so has Blackberry, Nokia and – to a lesser extent – Palm. The world of smartphones is still a Wild Wild West and big players rise and fall very quickly. If Apple fails to consistently innovate, they could be next.

Sure, it will take a while. They have a long way to fall. But without letting their designers and software engineers run wild, and come up with really interesting ideas to implement*, Apple may run itself into a hole – and I say this as a genuine admirer of Apple (or at least for the products they made before Steve Job's death). Remember when Apple truly surprised us? Remember the first iMac or the Macbook Air? It was product releases like that which made me feel like the company was capable of anything.

I still think Apple is capable of taking on Android and shaking things up, but they'll have to allow themselves to take more risks in the future. By appealing to shareholders in the short term, they may have shot themselves in the foot. And before you jump on me for wishing Apple good will, remember that the more competitive Apple is, the more you will benefit as a loyal Android user. A strong Apple will keep Google on their toes, and we will all benefit immensely from that.

*I am not talking about Apple's new EarPods here. Those look undeniably amazing.

(Top photo: lolyard.com)

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Comments

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  • bill whitfield Sep 14, 2012 Link

    have both iphone and android... android user friendly especially on drag and drop files.... wanna blow my mind apple????
    introduce adding music by drag and drop without itunes and youll find more customers

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  • mo non ur business Sep 15, 2012 Link

    fans* , times* , learnt*

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  • Martin Krischik Sep 15, 2012 Link

    Well, Apple is stuck with a GUI framework which does not resize. That reduce the options for display design significantly.

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  • CJ Brown Sep 16, 2012 Link

    APPLE is no longer an innovator .... they are now just an updater

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  • Apple Conspiracy Sep 17, 2012 Link

    @ Steven

    Please take a look at this graph.
    http://www.gadgeterija.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/badiou-event.jpg

    What do you make of it?

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  • Michael Lile Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Apple innovated? When?

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  • CJ Brown Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Borrowing again from WIRED magazine with their published spec showdown featuring the iPhone5 - Samsung Galaxy S III - Nokia Lumia 920 - Samsung Galaxy Nexus .... the iPhone5 lags in almost every category (1gig of RAM? 1.3 megapixel front camera? Why do I get the feeling its going to take an iPhone5s before there's an APPLE device that actually competes with Android?) ....

    Not surprisingly, Nokia's Lumia 920 is looking very impressive for a Windows 8 Smart Phone (& it appears as a favorite in the page's poll of voters) ....

    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/09/iphone5-spec-showdown/

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  • Jc P Sep 20, 2012 Link

    Apple never was an innovator. Jobs said more then once they stole a lot of ideas from other places, and if they were that into "innovation" would they be busy suing everyone else? Nope, just leave 'em behind.

    You know they've jumped the shark when they are suing a company for having a device with a "rectangular shape and rounded corners". Give me a freaking break... 8-track tapes looked like that!

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  • John Farrell Sep 21, 2012 Link

    Yeah!!!!!!!!!!
    The increasing popularity of android is the main reason for iPhone loosing the customers...:)

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  • Mary Sep 22, 2012 Link

    ok here it is. this article is a sign of profound desperation. No the iphone is not underwhelming as evidenced by over 2 million online orders in the first 24 hours, that it was ordered online in 3 days as many times as the iphone 4S was ordered in a month and that hundreds of people in 4 continents came out for days to get the iphone. but you folks have your alternate reality so dream on. here is what is happening with Google and Android. Google maps have been kicked out of both Apple and Amazon devices ( and don't start telling me Apple maps are not as good because we don't give a rat's ass, its not Google maps that's all that counts ), the asian companies are coming up with their operating systems now and Google the thief/ bully is now desparately trying to suppress the ODM's from rolling out devices running other OS's, Google is facing anti trust in EU and USA, and Apple and Microsoft won injunctions separately in Germany against Motorola, the supposed savior for Google. we also don't care one bit how many crappy shitty androids you activate in a day or a year , Apple is the King that everyone is tripping over to copy. Don't give a damn about your NFC either, the Android community is desparate to have Apple put NFC in the iphone because you know its the only way this or any other new technology will take hold, and frankly I hope Apple kills it. So suck up all your failure and shut up. and for entertainment I recommend the utube video of Samsung's newest ad: the next crappy thing is already here. the Samsung Galaxy Shit.

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  • Kevin Robb Sep 22, 2012 Link

    2 million sales is not world shattering. I would like to see the overall sales since the launch.
    Apple fanatics will buy anything Apple on day one of a release, then discover they have been had.
    Anyone who buys a product based on a brand name alone is not just a fool but an ignorant consumer.
    Seems Apple have at least 2 million fools in their pocket.

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  • CJ Brown Sep 23, 2012 Link

    @Mary,

    You are entitled to your opinion as an APPLE Cult Consumer. I am amazed you waited this long for A) 4G LTE service & B) a 4" screen (but I will not judge you for preferring an IPhone - you are entitled to use whatever smart phone for your own telecommunication) ....

    The fact remains that Android Smart Phone Consumers still have a wider choice of Manufacturers (ie Samsung, Motorola, HTC). We also have our favorite model Android Smart Phones, yet as a group we appreciate the reviews of any Smart Phone (even Apple, if they actually went back to being innovative vs just updating) ....


    It is my opinion that the ONLY thing APPLE iPhone has as an edge over Android is a "brand name in use since 2007", but even a brand name doesn't last for long if the product isn't offering everything a Consumer deserves. I would suggest that you read the reviews for the iPhone5 worldwide (ie Wired, CNN, CNet,. Yahoo Tech, MSNBC Tech, etc ). You may find that Journalists are acknowledging a better iPhone compared to the 4s model. But both Android, as well as Windows, have Smart Phones that are better overall then the iPhone5 ....

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  • John Farrell Sep 24, 2012 Link

    Not a good customer review of iPhone 5 we can say.
    As mobile application developers, I can say iPhone 4 had better response than this....

    http://www.rapidsofttechnologies.com

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  • CJ Brown Sep 24, 2012 Link

    Weighing in with various opinions regarding the iPhone5 (& the obvious 1st complaint is the fact without purchasing an adapter? your new iPhone can not be ported into any previous iPhone accessories). There are positive & negative opinions (its only fair that Consumers get an idea of the good, the bad & the ugly before they spend their money), for instance -


    "There was one consistent gripe throughout — a change in how the iPhone connects to chargers and accessories — but overall the "best iPhone ever" - Wilson Rothman (NBC Tech News)


    [I agree, this will be the best iPhone on the market, too bad APPLE won't provide a free adapter - but you know they want as much $ from Consumers as possible]


    "The three factors that have made the iPhone a success — design, components and compatibility — and while the iPhone 5 excels at the first two, its new connector (which makes older docks and chargers obsolete) takes away points in the compatibility department. (the new connector is smaller, but its supposed to be more sturdy and easier to use than the old one, as it doesn't matter which side is up when you plug it in)" - David Pogue (New York Times)


    [I agree, the iPhone5 features impressive design and decent components - I'm still waiting to see how its dual processor and battery life are before I'll offer "great components" - more complaints regarding the new connector]


    "After more than two years with the same 4/4S look, there's pent-up demand for a new Apple design ... after evaluating the product, Apple has met my expectations except for the changed connecting port (you can't blame folks for making a fuss, but most of those who complain will probably buy the new iPhone5 anyways)" ... - Ed Baig (USA Today)


    [another complaint about the incompatible port connection, followed by an honest opinion that APPLE Cult Consumers will buy anything new - even if its being released to Consumers not 100% ready in my opinion]


    "The iPhone takes to the big screen - yet a 4-inch 16x9 screen is not big compared to most competitors. A feature of iOS 6 is the new MAP app (its problematic), an app that is available as a free download to most iPhone owners — except the new iPhone5. The 4G LTE speeds are impressive enough to sell the iPhone5, which features an improved chip that so far handles cellular data connection just fine. The new connector, however, is a design change that's already rankling people" - Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal)


    [wow! a new MAP app to replace Google Map that isn't free when you purchase the new iPhone5? Another complaint about the new connector port & I'd like to see how the new chip handles 4G LTE, or how long the battery lasts under usage]


    "The new iPhone5 is everything we want in an iPhone (4G, bigger screen, new processor) ... absolutely the best iPhone to date. Chief complaints? Both the Sprint and Verizon models can't handle a voice call and data interaction simultaneously; along with a changed connector that will not work on accessories for previous iPhone models .... even the new, larger screen is smaller than those available on competing Android devices" - Scott Stein (Cnet, who also named named the iPhone5 as an Editors' Choice)

    [I agree, this is the best iPhone out there, except the complaints about the changed connector size sure sounds like the #1 complaint ... yet what got my attention was a complaint I was unaware of it & its regarding how both iPhone5's sold for Sprint / Verizon will not be able to handle voice call & data interaction simultaneously - that doesn't sound innovative to me]


    "An absolute home run .... so light that it just doesn't feel real. Yes there are apps that don't fit the 4-inch screen yet, but its really not a big deal. The headphone jack, however, has been moved to the bottom of the iPhone 5, like it is on an iPod Touch" - MG Siegler (TechCrunch)


    [I'm curious to see how light the new iPhone5 is, whether its strong enough to not need a protective case - and if it does require a protective case? will how thin it is make a difference? I'm guessing the location of the headphone jack will be a love it / hate it depending on the consumer - certain apps not formatting to the new 4 inch screen? it sure sounds like a smart phone being rushed out to the public to cash in on the christmas season that's not 100% ready to be sold to consumers]


    While reviewers agree it's the best iPhone, the question remains ... how does it fare compared to a Samsung Galaxy S III - or other competing smartphones? There have been some criticism of the Android OS (I think we've all had certain complaints about Android OS, but guess what? we can modify our Smart Phones with ease), along with some of Samsung's add-on software features (does anyone <3 bloatware? I don't); yet I haven't found a reviewer willing to say "the iPhone 5 slays the competition" (has anyone? If so? please post here). Most reviewers answered with an "it's up to you to decide" & I wonder if there's a legal reason behind that.

    C J

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