Tuesday’s much anticipated Apple media event didn’t bring a ton of surprises, but it did feature some very solid hardware and software. As expected, Apple brought out two new iPhones, the 5c, which is essentially the current iPhone 5 in colored plastic cases, and the 5S, which is a highly updated version of the 5 featuring a 64-bit A7 processor, fingerprint scanner, improved motion sensing chip and three color options.
The phones, when they ship on September 20 will run the new iOS7, which will be released as a free update on September 18. iOS7 will run on the recent versions of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Pricing was not changed much with a 16GB iPhone 5S going for $199 with contract but the 5c is only $99 with contract, an aggressive price that helps Apple compete with less expensive Android based phones.
Many analysts saw the announcements in a less than positive light because they feel Apple is losing the innovation edge to companies like Samsung, which makes a wider range of phones, some with larger screens. According to insiders, Apple is experimenting with iPhones featuring screens as big as six inches, but whether they actually come to market remains a question. Phablets, a new breed of large screen phones that are the size of small tablets have been a growth area for Samsung and others, but while some love the larger screen size, others have issues actually carrying one just for that reason. Think about carrying an iPad Mini that also makes phone calls in a pocket; not very practical for most people unless they live in cargo pants.
One move that was a surprise was the announcement that moving forward, the iWork, iMovie, and iPhoto mobile apps will be free. This will help Apple compete more effectively in the business sector currently still dominated by Microsoft. When you cut through it all, Apple has brought out improved phones that are evolutionary, not revolutionary and it’s not realistic to expect every new product to be groundbreaking. It needs to be pointed out that Apple hardware is still of higher quality than most competitors and it still remains the only company that produces both the hardware and operating systems, yielding a better integrated product. The iTunes store an remains dominant for digital content and the app store is a vast improvement over the Android app universe in terms of quality, and selection.
However, there’s no question that for Apple to remain in a dominant position, they do need to innovate. I wouldn’t count them out two years after the death of Steve Jobs as many of the people he trained are there and working as hard as ever. There are fascinating rumors of a smart watch, an Apple television set, and their new top of the line Mac Pro is an incredible computer for high end users. Their laptops continue to sell like hotcakes and the iPad is still the tablet to beat.
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