The Apple Kool-Aid
There was a time in high school when I hadn’t drank the Apple Kool-Aid yet and still rocked my Android phone. I liked being able to pick the phone I wanted based on features, and not just by whatever one manufacturer decided to implement that year. I owned three droids over the course of high school, but by college decided to take the plunge into the Apple ecosystem with a new iPhone.
But I have to admit, when I owned my Motorola Droid X and my HTC Droid DNA, I was always captivated by Apple’s new releases. For a steady few generations of new iPhones, I was glued to the live Apple keynotes streaming from WWDC. I was caught up in their golden age of innovation, eagerly waiting to hear about the latest and greatest features being offered. They didn’t just build beautiful products, but a sophisticated pipeline and unmatched user experience. Apple’s attention to detail in every aspect of its design separated Apple as the clear leader in the industry, and even I knew this as an Android user.
Not only did Apple boast visionary products, but a visionary himself. Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying,
There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will. – Steve Jobs
Apple was lauded as innovative beyond compare in the technology space. But what Apple also did was create an ecosystem for itself with users being able to interact with all kinds of content seamlessly via services like iTunes and the App Store. As these new features were announced, Apple fans far and wide congregated on the Internet to speculate and share leaked information about new developments. These leaks could range from details of new patents filed by Apple or low-quality photos of iPhone components on the production line in Taiwan.
But for Apple’s next anticipated releases, a next-gen iPhone SE and the iPhone 8, there’s not much buzz at all. And as one Forbes article put’s it, the “disappointing iPhone 8 leaks are key to Apple’s boring success.” In its post-Jobs era, Apple simply hasn’t innovated on the scale of a few years ago. But with steady profit increases, Apple has been able to present minimal iterations on its classic products while realizing steady gains based solely on brand power and network effects. While Apple has nestled into its more luxury technology product identity, Android adoption has exploded in recent years (particularly since the death of Steve Jobs in 2007), and due in part to low-cost Android phone offerings in emerging international markets.
But with so much of its revenues teetering on the success of its line of iPhones, maybe now is the time for the iPhone to play catch-up with some Android features that it’s been lacking for years. With the most current leaks suggesting almost no unprecedented features for the smartphone industry, onlookers are left wondering about the future of the company’s innovation, at least in the short-run. I’m left assuming their conservative moves are a way to allow other companies like Samsung to burn out with risky new offerings (no pun intended).
Edge-to-Edge Curved Glass
One feature expected in the next iPhone is an edge-to-edge curved glass display, meaning the complete removal of the home button. With the removal of the home button comes the removal of Touch ID as we know it, with some reports suggesting an acoustic analyzer under the glass to detect fingerprint patterns anywhere on the screen will replace it, and another report claiming a 3D laser facial recognition scanner will do the job. This seems more innovative on paper than in practice considering one technology is forcing the replacement of another. In some respects, it seems like one step forward, one step back.
I feel compelled to note that, despite its obvious… shortcomings, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 actually featured a similar facial scanner that was designed with an even more sophisticated technology than that speculated in the new iPhone, specifically in regards to its ability to detect a person’s face even when wearing contact lens or (sun)glasses.
And for what it’s worth, Apple adopting a curved-edge display would bear a striking resemblance to a Samsung product named for that very feature. (Of course, for every rumor there’s an equal and opposite rumor, and in this case, one report suggests the iPhone 8 might not have that curved display due to production complications.)
The iPhone 8 is also reported to rock an OLED display, a display technology that’s been in use as far back as 2008 with Nokia’s N85. And even today, an OLED screen would be a notable absence in any high-end Android phone, as the technology is quite standard by now.
Lastly on the list of mundane advancements is the iPhone’s supposed wireless charging feature. The Qi charging technology would allow the user to place the iPhone on a Qi-enabled charging surface and charge the phone without the need to plug it in. Personally, this feature his horrendously underwhelming, especially given the fact that wireless Qi charging was a feature in my Motorola Droid DNA back in high school! (And to be honest, it was kind of finicky and annoying, and I hardly used it.)
Bored yet? Me too.
The one silver lining in all of this is, as a result of Apple catching up to the fragmented offerings its Android counterparts, we can probably expect the above features to become standardized across the smartphone market. I’m looking forward to, if implemented, a stark increase in Qi-enabled chargers in public places and popular restaurants, which would actually be a positive externality for current Android users with Qi-enabled devices. In that same vein, we would also come to expect facial recognition and stunning OLED displays to become standard in all smartphones to come, as Apple’s decisions, even if unprecedented, do tend to set such trends.
As someone who used to buy a new smartphone as soon as my Verizon contract would allow me to, I’ve had absolutely no motivation to upgrade from my iPhone 6S to the iPhone 7, let alone seek the “magic” of the iPhone 8. Though I still really enjoy my iPhone, I’ll be looking to other aspects of Apple’s innovation like self-driving cars or even a matured Apple Watch before I hold my breath for truly stunning new iPhone.