The name Apple is synonymous with innovation. Long has the Silicon Valley giant brought childlike excitement into the tech industry, thanks largely to the vision of its late CEO, Steve Jobs. Remember the launch of the Apple II? We don’t either, but it was one of their crucial first steps towards greatness.
Arguably though, Apple’s greatest achievement came in 2007, when the company flipped the smartphone world upside down and back to front with the launch of the very first iPhone.
It changed everything.
Apple said, ‘Forget everything you know about smartphones’ – and we did. Of course, back then we still used our mobiles to call friends, play games, listen to music and access the internet. But the iPhone did something different. It took the normal functions of a phone and made them fun. It made them stylish and artistic, yet simple and minimalist.
‘No keyboards here!’ Apple boldly proclaimed. No, the screen was the phone. Software took centre stage, and the beautiful interface asked us to use gestures to navigate. We were asked to pinch, zoom and pan, using truly revolutionary controls. And after the excitement of scrolling wore off, there was the App Store to keep us engaged. For the first time ever, we had a simple way to browse, purchase and download apps. Amongst these apps were a few games – games controlled (could it possibly be true?!) by moving the phone itself. We shuffled our songs with a shake, and drove fast cars on the tube.
‘How much is this thing?’ we asked. ‘Affordable’ was the answer. Apple don’t create shoddy products and then ask you to cough up a fortune – they create amazing products, and ask you to pay what they’re worth. Which is quite a lot, admittedly.
Yes, the iPhone became iconic for many reasons.
In fact, it was iconic before it was released. This is yet another trick up Apple’s stylish sleeve and one that works tremendously well. People place bets on what they think the company will do next, and hundreds – if not thousands – of blogs are dedicated to following their every move. In 2007, things weren’t so very different. The company said nothing of the iPhone’s release, but leaks, rumours and red herrings abounded on the internet. Our appetites were whetted, and we were desperate for a slice of the pie.
This is a formula that never seems to fail – the cauldron is stirred, and everything is brought to the boil just in time for the grand unveiling of Apple’s latest device.
We can thank Steve Jobs for that. Even as a young drop-out, Jobs was planning all manner of ‘science-fiction’ products for the masses to embrace and love.
Many have speculated as to whether Apple can continue in the same vein now that Jobs has passed on. He was renowned as an innovator, and loved by many.
Apple declared: ‘Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives … The world is immeasurably better because of [him].’
Bill Gates was also incredibly saddened: ‘The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honour. I will miss Steve immensely.’
So can Apple continue to innovate and inspire? Of course they can.
Apple were the first to produce beautiful, brightly-coloured computers – Macs to adorn every artist’s studio. They provided us with the iPod, which revolutionised music. It led to a collapse in CD sales, but this was innovation at its finest. And they’ve since given us the iPad – the first truly portable computer, which literally puts the world at your fingertips.
We haven’t forgotten Android however, Apple’s greatest rival in the smartphone market. Today, they are leaps and bounds ahead of Apple in terms of sales – and Google’s collecting the royalties. Their OS appears on half of all smartphones shifted in the US, rather more than Apple’s 30% cut. Android has licensing agreements with giants like HTC, Samsung and Motorola – familiar brands that make up most of the smartphone industry. The majority of these handsets have big, beautiful displays, touch controls and access to numerous apps. Functions, you’ll recall, that Apple pioneered.
So what is it that Android has that Apple doesn’t? Well, it’s all about control. You can choose from an enormous range of sizes, designs and shapes, all equipped with the Android OS. You can buy Android smartphones that are tailored to business, social networking or games. You can also download any app you like from the Android market. So where does all this leave Apple?
Apple aren’t inherently about pushing the latest gimmicks, or providing you with technology that’ll be outdated next month. Consumers buy into Apple as a brand – not from, but into – because they appreciate the company’s ethics and innovation. You know an Apple product will last, because you know it’s been carefully designed. It functions reliably, and it looks magnificent. That’s the difference between Apple and its competitors.
‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me,’ Jobs said. ‘Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters’.
Today, Android-equipped smartphones risk inevitable comparisons with the iPhone – but they’re just not in the same league. Every Android has taken its inspiration from the iPhone, a fact there’s no getting away from. During disputes with Google, Jobs even declared he’d ‘go to thermonuclear war on this’.
As for Apple’s future, it looks promising. The iPhone 5 will be thinner and lighter, and it won’t compromise on the size of the screen. Nor will it incorporate gimmicks that have yet to be perfected, though it will probably have something thrown in there to surprise us, just as Siri did when it appeared in the iPhone 4S.
That’s just the way Apple operate.