Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Is Apple Still Capable of Magic?

Apple Sep 10

Apple has just unveiled the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C and iOS 7. It’s now coming to two years that Tim Cooks has steered Apple on his own. Its long enough for the legacy of Steve Jobs to be left behind, enough time for the new Apple to show what it can do. We all want to ask. Can Apple still innovate? Can Apple still create stunning new products? Can Apple still make magic happen?

Following Apple’s September 10th event, the company’s stock price closed 2.28% lower. It seems to signal a lukewarm response to their new product line-up. I suppose what they had to announce came quite as expected.

There’s much less secrecy surrounding Apple’s upcoming products nowadays, so we’ve heard a bunch of things from early leaks.  The plasticky budget iPhone 5C, and the fingerprint sensor, which Apple calls Touch ID, in the iPhone 5S flagship are such examples.

The new iPhone 5C is essentially a remake of last year’s iPhone 5, now in a plasticky case available in a variety of colours. It’s supposed to be a budget iPhone. But at just S$140 cheaper, or about a 15% discount from the iPhone 5S’ retail price, one wonders if there’s really enough price differentiation.

The iPhone 5S, on the other hand, could be a little more interesting. The CPU has been upgraded to a 64-bit A7 processor. The main camera, while disappointingly still remaining 8 megapixels, now has a 15% larger backside illuminated sensor. The biggest hardware update of interest is probably the fingerprint sensor that’s been integrated into the home button. The updated hardware is supported by the new iOS 7 to deliver a bunch of new tricks, such as 120 fps slow-motion video.

The updates are all very nice. I’m sure many people will run out to buy the iPhone 5S. But I feel sort of underwhelmed. The Apple event has not quite broken new ground. The days of the original iPhone, the MacBook Air, and the iPad, they aren’t happening.

Probably the most interesting hardware introduction from Apple in this post-Jobs era is the Mac Pro. The design is different. I’m shan’t go that far to say that it’s revolutionary, but it’s certainly original, unique, elegant and practical. But it isn’t in the same class as the MacBook Air.

Meanwhile, we have rivals like Samsung proving that there’s a market for phablets. In fact, it’s a very big market. Too big for Apple to ignore, so they followed with the iPad Mini. The leader has become the follower.

It’s not that Apple is doomed. They still make great products. It’s just that they don’t make magical products anymore. They aren’t leap frogging ahead. They aren’t creating new product categories. They aren’t opening new markets.

They are just evolving and improving their product line like other tech companies.

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