Apple is going to release a new iPhone 6! No, wait. There may be two of them! Or three! Who cares. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is a hot new competitor! And then there’s the Galaxy Note 4! They will really be hot sellers. Pffft. Oh, and Microsoft with new Windows Phone 8.1 devices! And Google’s next Nexus smartphone! Crickets. Amazon’s new 3D smartphone! And all of those other new smartphones from just about anybody else that can get FCC approval and be released in the next few months! Yawn. It’s so tough to decide which device to buy, because, I mean, you have to have the latest and greatest new hardware right? Nope. Now more than ever, chasing after the latest and greatest new smartphones is like joining a conga line of lemmings dancing around a carousel looking for a cliff to plunge off of.
Don’t get me wrong here. The latest crop of smartphones will feature some nice new devices. Some of the new features might actually make them attractive upgrades from the latest models. But the reason you don’t have to waste any energy trying to figure out which one to buy, or waste any money buying one, is that the last round of new smartphones was also pretty darned good. More importantly, what the smartphone sellers are selling these days has nothing to do and everything to do with devices at the same time. It’s called the Cloud. And Apple might just leap ahead of the competition with iOS 8.
Smartphones are the sex. The Cloud is the kid which results, that you have to nurture for the rest of your life. And that’s just what the big mobile guys want you to do. Lure you in to their ecosystem with fancy new gadgets in hopes that you’ll be their Cloud customer for life. Once you’re hooked, its easy to spice up that tired marriage with shiny new gadgets every now and again. But that’s been the game we’ve been playing for some time now. The devices are the bait that leads you on a march to the alter.
Take the iPhone 5s. It was ground breaking new hardware with a 64bit chipset that Apple described as “forward looking” and comparable to a desktop. Only thing is no one really did anything with all of that processing power. The iPhone 6 will probably have another new chip, but I doubt it offers much of a difference from its predecessor. And it looks like it won’t need to in order to power iOS 8.
Apple is on the verge of taking advantage of something that the other companies cannot at this point. And that’s an ecosystem that includes great hardware and what looks like a software/services combination that might actually work. Apple is going to be making it easier for its devices, ranging from smartphones to MacBooks to Apple TV to connect and play with each other. Apple is calling that Continuity. It’s also making noise that it might have figured out the Cloud. At least its going to open up its Cloud a bit so that developers and users can actually take advantage of it.
If Apple succeeds, you might actually be able to spread your device purchases out over a few cycles of new releases. Once the first Apple device lures you in, it becomes an easy glide path to the next, and then the next.
We’re reaching a hardware innovation plateau (we’ve actually been there for some time) where new wiz bang features like 3D viewing, eye-tracking, and gestures can barely disguise how superfluous they are to the core experience most will come to rely on a smartphone for. Ask Samsung about this. They’ve been trying to compete by introducing all sorts of new features for the last several iterations of their smartphones that quickly get forgotten or turned off.
Besides a well rumored new screen size (or sizes) and using the Lightning port as the headphone jack, Apple probably won’t be selling hardware features this year as much as it will the new features we’ve seen with iOS 8.
And you won’t need an iPhone 6 to take advantage of iOS 8 if you have an iPhone 5s because of the untapped power of that “forward looking” smartphone. Apple won’t tell you that though. And certainly it will come up with a feature or two that will only be available on the iPhone 6.
And then there is the supposed new screen size or screen sizes. I may be giving Apple more credit than it deserves, but if the conventional wisdom of a larger screen iPhone does come true, it is looking like Apple let everybody else sell them for a few years while the market determined the sweet spot for display sizes.
This theory depends on two things. Apple has to get it right with iCloud. There’s history that spreads some doubt about that. And second? Apple has to hope that users don’t realize that last year’s iPhone 5s is good enough to power them through until the next cycle. For those on a budget (the iPhone 5s will probably sell cheaper if history is any guide) that’s a great thing. For those who already have an iPhone 5s, there really won’t be a rush unless they absolutely must have a larger screen.