Innovation dead end...or evolutionary step?


11 September 2013

Yesterday, we witnessed the unveiling of a plain smartphone, and a really good smartphone. You can safely ignore anyone who tells you that Apple was showing nothing more than trash. It’s clear that the iPhone 5s will be a success worldwide and sell many, many units. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t—after all, the new smartphone has everything it needs to succeed.

First of all, the new phone has a universally tried-and-true design—we probably all remember the way new iPhone 4S users complained about the stretched-out display when it first launched, but ultimately, people can get used to just about anything. Second, the new phone seems to have a similar display to the previous model—to which everyone seems accustomed and expects. Third and fourth are its processing power, both in terms of its main processor and back-end processor, which suggest some very interesting possibilities for both general app development, as well as for games. Finally, there’s the new phones’ Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which recognizes a user’s fingerprints to unlock the phone and authorize purchases from iTunes. This is definitely the kind of feature that will sell the phone to iPhone fans, in the same way that Siri was the must-have feature for the previous model.

It would be naïve to assume we understand exactly how this new feature works before we get our hands on it ourselves. However, it’s hard not to wonder about the exact way Touch ID works. Is it possible, for instance, that fingerprints might be, as Apple designer Johnny Ive himself mentioned, stored not only on a user’s phone locally, but also in the cloud? Surely, this possibility is the reason that Apple is not sharing the API with third-party programs...but we’ll have to wait and see.

And on the matter of innovation itself...let’s face it. Yesterday’s announcement was yet another successful evolutionary step, and perhaps nothing more. We have to say...we liked it overall. We actually want to spend our hard-earned money on it, even if these fabled innovations don’t necessarily seem like vital improvements. The new hardware seems good enough on its own—it has its own merits and its own downsides, and predictably enough, it also has plenty of supporters and detractors. Is it innovative? Compared to the previous iPhone, yes, it’s innovative enough, and perhaps that’s good enough for now.

There is much speculation that our collective future lies in portable electronics, particularly wearable tech. We’ll definitely be waiting for Apple to unveil its iWatch product, and if that ends up being a disappointment, perhaps that will signal a real beginning of the end. But as to which company is clearly “winning” the war to bring consumers the best gadgets in the world...this isn’t just an idle question, but as some might call it, a holy war. And it may not be resolved for many years.