Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The iPhone 5s and 5c - more of the same, but in a totally different way

The bright invitation served 
as a warning of things to come.
So Apple finally made the oft-rumoured iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c official. Was there anything unexpected? No. Everything that was announced was already known well in advance. The iPhone 5s does indeed come with a fingerprint scanner, and the plastic iPhone 5c is real, and not exclusive to China as some people had thought. But looking at the big picture, this is quite a significant change in direction for Apple. A few things have changed since Steve Jobs passed, and yesterday's event proved it. We all know the iPhone 5s was never going to be a huge upgrade over the iPhone 5, but the way Apple announced it was, different. And the iPhone 5c? That's a whole new road Apple are taking. Here's what I think of the iPhone 5s and 5c, followed by some of my thoughts about the change in direction Apple are taking under Tim Cook.

The iPhone 5s is the iPhone 4s all over again
As expected, it's merely an evolutionary upgrade to the iPhone 5. It looks the same, has exactly the same screen, and internal upgrades are marginal. The A6 processor from the iPhone 5 is replaced with the new A7 which is much better (hats-off to Apple for being the first to the market with a 64-bit chip, even if it's almost completely pointless), and the camera maintains an 8-megapixel count but comes with a larger sensor, similar to what HTC did with the HTC One. The main attraction of this phone, is the Touch ID fingerprint scanner that's built into the home button. The Touch ID sensor is to the iPhone 5s what Siri was to the iPhone 4s - one feature that is meant to overshadow the rest of the phone which remains largely unchanged. There is still no NFC, and optical image stabilisation would've made the camera even better. Is it a good phone? Yes it is. Best in the market? No. And no, Apple did not invent fingerprint scanners on phones.
The most significant upgrade on the iPhone 5s. Image: Gizmag
The iPhone 5c should've been called the iPhone 5s
In a nutshell, the iPhone 5c is the iPhone 5 in a new body. That's it. It has the same processor and same camera as the iPhone 5, and no Touch ID sensor. If the iPhone 5s is externally similar to the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5c is internally similar. I think the 5c should've been called the 5s, and the 5s be called the iPhone 6. That's how close the 5c is to the 5. And don't be fooled by the "cheaper iPhone" marketing. It's exactly the same price as the iPhone 5 would've been now under Apple's traditional sales plan. When Apple release a new phone, last year's model always gets cheaper. If Apple didn't make the 5c, the iPhone 5 would now be the same price as the 5c anyway. So Apple took the iPhone 5, put it in a new body, gave it a new name, and are selling it as a "cheaper" alternative to the iPhone 5s when in reality, it's just the same phone (iPhone 5) that received a price cut simply because Apple now have a new phone. It is still much more expensive than mid-range Sony, HTC or Samsung phones. If the iPhone 5c was cheaper to manufacture than the iPhone 5, then to me it was all about increasing their profit margins, and not providing a "cheaper" alternative for consumers. Apple marketing at it's deceptive finest. 
The iPhone 5, now in coloured plastic. Image: PhoneDog
Apple are now dancing to the beat of their competitors
Apple have always been known to be market leaders, trend setters. After iOS 7 however, it was starting to seem like Apple may not be as influential as they once were. Many iOS 7 features were borrowed from other platforms, but everyone borrows so lets move on. When Apple unveil a new product, they have never emphasised geeky, nerdy technical stuff like specs. They always show off the user experience, stuff average consumers can understand. But yesterday's event was different. Apple emphasised specs! This to me shows that Apple now understand that people are becoming more and more knowledgeable with regards to how a smartphone works, and merely showing what a phone can do is no longer enough, they also need to show how a phone does what it does. This has been a selling point of Android manufacturers for years. Giving every detail about the phone's internals - processor clockspeed and architecture, battery capacity, screen resolution and camera build have always been emphasised. And now Apple are doing the same, albeit to a lesser extent. The iPhone 5c is also a huge sign that Apple are now following in the footsteps of their competitors, and they know it. More on this in my next argument.
Apple? Talking about chip architecture?? Image: Extreme Tech
Apple are losing their premium feel
Who want's a hon? Image: Google+
I don't know about you, but ever since Steve Jobs passed, Apple have been very, bright. Look at the invitation in my introduction, and look at iOS 7. Now look at the iPhone 5c. Get the picture? This is a far cry from the professional, sleek and sexy image I have associated Apple with over the years. It's not bad, it's just different. But different in a bad way. To me, Apple were always a premium brand. Their phones were top of the line, and they were really sexy compared to the "cheap" plastic phones running Android. But wait, what do we have here? A plastic iPhone 5c! In multiple bright colours! With colourful cases too! Which..have..holes..in them. Hmm. It's ironic how Apple are lowering their standards to compete with competitors who in their mind, are inferior. This to me is the biggest indication yet that Apple are changing their ways and are following the market instead of leading it, sacrificing their premium label just to compete. 

If you remember my "Top 5: Things I like about Apple" post, you'll see that my top 2 points are that Apple make quality control a top priority, which in turn leads to Apple's strong brand recognition. I have stated many times that in my mind, Apple are a premium product manufacturer. They don't create products for the masses. They create high-end, almost exclusive products with a premium price tag that rakes in profit by the billions. While the iPhone 5s continues this trend and lends credence to Apple's brand recognition, the iPhone 5c looks to be a huge step back for the Cupertino based company, which may be why their stocks dropped. Apple would have been better off sticking to their traditional marketing plan - sell the iPhone 5s as the new flagship, drop the iPhone 5 to the mid-range price tier, with the iPhone 4s as the low-end option. Replacing the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 5c (which is actually the iPhone 5) makes Apple seem desperate. Changing their product portfolio just for the sake of having something new, without actually changing it. Like I said earlier, the iPhone 5c is the same price the iPhone 5 would've been anyway. Deceptive marketing has always been in Apple's playbook, and while many things seem to be changing in terms of their product line-up, colour pallete and iOS, this play looks to be the one thing that will stay the same.