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Playing it safe: Apple's lack of innovation has made it dangerously predictable

Two Tails founder Dave Mitchell on life after Jobs

Playing it safe: Apple's lack of innovation has made it dangerously predictable
Dave Mitchell is the founder and games designer of Two Tails (formerly Onimobi), an indie studio based near Oxford, UK and a founding member of the indie group Full Indie UK.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007. That was the day when Steve Jobs took to the stage and unveiled Apple's iPhone to the world.

"Apple Reinvents the Phone with iPhone" the headlines barked.

At the time, Steve Jobs said that the iPhone was "a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone." He wasn't wrong, either - the original iPhone was an amazing device for a stagnated market owned largely by Nokia.

At the time, commentators aplenty predicted iPhone's premium sell and high price point would put it out of reach of the mainstream consumer, but as things stand, lifetime iPhone sales sit at well over 380 million.

Revolutionary no more

Six years on and Apple has been behind a good number of innovations within the industry. It brought us the App Store, which has sparked a truly massive economy in apps and games.

In 2010 we were served up the iPad and later the iPhone 4, which was a marked upgrade over it's cousin the 3GS, with its Retina display and sharp looking case.

But since then, Apple has been dangerously predictable. Three years after the iPad and iPhone 4, and all we've been treated to are incremental upgrades to the iPad (Retina display, camera, etc) and a bigger screen for the iPhone when the iPhone 5 hit the shelves.


iPhone 5 was simply more of the same, says Mitchell

This week saw Apple unveil the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.

Even the most cynical amongst us wouldn't deny that both devices boast impressive technical specs, but such upgrades are the least we expect from Apple now, and they don't spark as much excitement as they did six years ago.

iOS 7 is the kind of welcome upgrade iPhone users have been wanting for years, but when you look past the gloss and the hype it's a largely just a face lift.

It's fair to say, it wouldn't be accurate to describe the iPhone "a revolutionary and magical product" that's "five years ahead of any other mobile phone" anymore.

Where does Apple go next?

All that said, there's no doubt the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C will sell massive numbers - that's about as predictable as the product lineup itself.

But things aren't all rosy in Cupertino. In July, Apple's profits fell for the second successive quarter, down by 22 percent. That's quite a major drop, especially when you consider that iPhone is losing market share to it's competitors.

That's is why I used the phrase "dangerously predictable" in the headline for this piece – Apple's focusing on iteration rather than innovation is exactly what those at the top of the mobile pile where doing when Apple itself came in and shook things up.

Apple is so big and successful that it is becoming extremely risk averse in a time when, in my opinion, it needs to be doing the exact opposite.

Apple is turning into a tanker, trying to steer it's ship without losing it's passengers. Is it inevitable that it'll hit an iceberg one day soon?

The market has moved on massively since 2007, but I think the window is opening for someone to step in and shake up the market like Apple did six years ago. Microsoft? The ball is firmly in your court now.





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Fraser Ross MacInnes Product/Design Director at Danke Games
I think there's more of an expectation on Apple to innovate than there is on some other companies, but it doesn't have a history of constant innovation. Every five or so years, it blows the doors off a product category with something disruptive (iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad) but the incremental cycles in-between never show much in the way of attention grabbing innovation.

The iPod for example, didn't really innovate feature-wise in a dramatic way for a number of years. My iPhone 5 still feels very fresh and though I may be envious of some of the higher end Lumias' cameras, I don't see a mass market need for anything drastically more advanced or 'innovative' than the 5S. I'm more interested in what comes after the smartphone era...
Russell Mckee
technology doesn't work in yearly human cycles