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Will Apple's next big innovation wipe away the memory of iPhone 5C?

Our Mobile Gaming Mavens on getting things back on track
Will Apple's next big innovation wipe away the memory of iPhone 5C?

Apple's iPhone may have hit record sales in the most recent quarter, but it would appear iPhone 5C didn't have all too much to do with it.

In Apple's post results conference call, Cook admitted that the performance of iPhone 5C had "turned out to be different than we thought", with many on Wall Street speculating that the idea of a 'budget' iPhone will be quietly dropped when iPhone 6 is unveiled later in the year.

But, if we accept Cook's first major innovation since he became CEO has proved to be something of a failure, should we have faith that the rumoured major upgrade to Apple TV or possible iOS wearables will perform any better?

We asked the Mavens:

What should Apple's next big innovation be, and will it have the power to spark the company back into major longterm growth?

Harry Holmwood

Harry Holmwood

CEO at Marvelous Europe

TV definitely remains open for someone to come in and win the UI war.

With more and more people now starting to understand and want Netflix, iPlayer, Spotify etc, I think the mass market is ready (at last) for an easy-to-use TV device that people can understand. Getting something that you plug into a TV, connects to your wifi, means you never have to change input or channel and 'just works' still seems to elude everyone.

Apple is arguably well positioned to deliver this but there's an issue to struggle with - a lot of Apple's success has been predicated on them making desirable products - beautiful pieces of hardware you want to own and interact with. A TV plug-in box, pretty much by nature, is invisible.

It's not a piece of furniture, or jewellery, which arguably other iconic Apple products become.

So the question is, can Apple deliver its trademark beauty in a software-only form? Will the magic still work when it has to be shown on someone else's screen?

I suspect gaming will be a secondary part of any purchase decision though, as it is with phones.

[person id="3" name="John Ozimek"]
I just wanted to slightly set the record straight on the 'failure' of the 5C.

For probably the past three years, analysts and industry 'watchers' have proclaimed the fact that Apple was losing ground to lower cost rivals, that not enough choice was a bad thing, that there needed to be an iPhone Nano, that Apple has lost the race against Android, and whatever other reasons people came up with as to why they seemingly could run Apple better than Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook.

No, the 5C hasn't been a huge success, but actually, it seems to have bumped the 5S - and if given a choice, Apple fans choose the more expensive option.

Apple has had the best quarter ever in terms of profits; it dominates the premium smartphone segment, it earns almost double the margin than Samsung on its devices, and it retains its customers. That, to me, is not poor leadership.

Anyway - not wanting to start a flame war about Apple versus Android…

Apple tends to innovate in areas where predictions aren't being made - Apple likes to surprise. So if it does announce something in wearable tech or home entertainment, I would expect it to not be as simple as a smart watch/updated iTV.

We've seen the acquisitions covering haptic screen technology and 3D spatial mapping, and it has also been busy filing patents covering a 'smart' pen (over 20 patents filed to date), mobile commerce, solar powered laptops, and plenty more.

I think that by 'innovate' we really are asking whether Apple will create a new category of device which it will dominate - as it did with the iPod, touchscreen phone and tablet. But there has been so much convergence towards the phone/tablet device, I don't really see why you'd want to fragment it again by pushing limited-use devices.

So I see the innovation coming in ways to expend the Apple experience in ways that simplify the way we interact with everyday devices.

So, for example - maybe Apple likes the idea of a smart watch not as a means of checking texts and answering calls (fragmented experience) but as a way to transfer subtle hand and wrist movement into gesture controls (simplification). [/person]

Keith Andrew

Keith Andrew

It's not poor leadership, no, but to me, Cook was simply minding the shop up until the launch of 5C.

5C was Apple's first new move under Cook's leadership, I think, and it hasn't performed as expected - which, to me, suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of both who iPhone currently appeals to and who Apple wants it to appeal to. It's not disastrous, but I think it is notable and not exactly the start he would have been looking for.

What makes it more significant for me is that I think Apple has missed the bus when it comes to an app-equipped Apple TV.

Ouya has taken the shine off the idea of mobile apps on TVs - players want cheap games, yes, but they don't want mobile ports designed for touchscreens and five minute play sessions - and the relative lack of interest in iOS control pads suggest that games on Apple TV isn't going to be the money spinner we all through it would be 12-18 months ago.

(I also think wearables are a nonsense fad we'll be laughing about later this year. Please don't go there, Apple.)

[person id="3" name="John Ozimek"]
I don't disagree, but to say it's all down to Cook is very simplistic. Jony Ive was given responsibility for the device and software, so perhaps he's just as culpable. And anyway, it's still done better than the Moto X...

TV is a commodity market - only a couple of companies can even afford to make the screens any more due to the cost and thin margins. Definitely not a market Apple would go for - it looks for big margins and exclusivity.

What about an Apple TV with an HD pico-projector built-in? That way you don't even need the TV any more...

[person id="26" name="John Griffin"]
The 5C was aimed at both younger western audiences (kids and students) and emerging markets (China, India, Brazil etc).

It's probable that the uptake in the first of those categories is underwhelming and that's most likely due to the fact that Android and Windows Phone have caught up to a certain extent and are as appealing to that group and still more affordable.

“Apple will have to work on the software tier to achieve the 'wow' factor we have all come to expect.”
John Griffin

However, with respect to emerging markets its still way too early to say. That's the problem with a public company it has to try and achieve ridiculous things in three month chunks.

I think there is plenty of opportunity for Apple to succeed going forward with the cheaper model strategy as it looks to exert influence in these markets through other channels. I am not saying it has got it spot on with the 5C - there are no doubt adjustments required - but there is plenty of time for this broad strategy to play out and, lets face it, plenty of cash too.

Which brings me on to tellie. Apple is one of the few companies that can be successful in almost any market it decides to take on. Given its overall valuation, to move the share price significantly, it almost has to dominate or re-invent any market it moves into.

There are some interesting comments, so far, on how television differs. I think Harry made the point about just how exciting a set top box can be, which means Apple will have to work on the software tier to achieve the 'wow' factor we have all come to expect.

The online TV ecosystem is far ahead of where music was when Apple made its move which will also make it more challenging.

I think they are going to have to spend big time to have the same impact here, like buy HBO (from Time Warner) or something and Netflix. This could get seriously interesting as Apple is almost certainly going to have to buy its way in here.

A lot of people anticipate them coming out with a range of TV models. I'm not sure about that. A set top box strategy gives them a lot more flexibility as people's TV purchasing patterns are very different and often longer than for other devices.

With the recent uptake of large flat screen TV's is the market really ready for another new high end very expensive TV from Apple?

If Apple can't be the biggest player in the market then it almost certainly won't do it. [/person]

[person id="2" name="Oscar Clark"]
I find this a hard one to answer as I fell off the Apple PR-train a long time ago. I have the greatest respect for what it has done (and continue to do for the industry) but innovation isn't really high on my expectations.

Quality execution where others have trialled is probably more accurate.

The iPhone wasn't the first smartphone, but it was the first that captured the imagination and that had a unified user experience. The technological innovation itself, however, wasn't its true selling point in my opinion.

Similarly, although the 5C hasn't taken off as pundits predicted I think its a bit harsh to point at Apple and say that it failed. The tech press made the case for such a platform seem entirely compelling. The 5C in my estimations is a refresh build of the 5 and I imagine that there were economies of scale which made that compelling.

However, it suffered by comparison to the 5S (and possibly wasn't cheap enough) and in the process made the 5S seem even more aspirational, as Harry said.

There is one thing that does bother me, however. The attention to detail in terms of the user experience seems to have slipped in my view… just a little.

Look at the holes of the 5C cases which showed through partial elements of the description on the back of the device. It looked messy. That's something Apple could have controlled and something I believe it would have done in previous years. It's not a big deal, but it matters in subtle subconscious ways.

Similarly, in the iOS 7 redesign, the fading that occurs when transitioning between apps or when the screen blacks out after a period of inaction cannot be stopped adding a precious second or two before you can do anything. Again it's subtle, but rather than giving you that sensation of delight, it feels slightly wrong. It feels like Apple doesn't care as much as it did when it had to.

Still there is still room for something new (at least new to Apple fanboys) and for me I'd join those expecting something to do with TV. Howeve,r rather than another set-top box, I'd be looking at the way your phone and tablet work with the TV with an HDMI dongle or similar device.

This is something which has been starting elsewhere with Android dongles as well as Google own Chromecast (I believe Roku did something similar) but it seems to me that this is an area which offers an opportunity to take over the sitting room elegantly.

Having the ability to use your iTunes account, your phone, your tablet and your TV together in smart ways with a well executed user experience and without an ugly black box…that's probably where I'd go.

By the way didn't Apple talk about game controller devices with the last update? Have we seen those yet? Just saying.[/person]

[person id="4" name="Wilheim Taht"]
I believe Apple will come in with a flat screen like nothing we've seen before. Something beautiful for the living room, leaving the competition behind.

Anyone think iWatch is in fact is a TV, and not a watch? There was a good piece sometime ago about it. Might have been this one.

Would be its best marketing trick so far. A true 'Apple moment'. [/person]