The Legacy of the iPhone, and the New iPhone 5C

September 12, 2013 10:26pm
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I find myself wondering about Apple every once in a while.

I’m sure a lot of people do, and quite probably the same exact quandary, too – will the company continue to innovate after the passing of Steve Jobs.

It’s been almost two years since Apple’s founder and resurrector died, and there have been two new versions of the iconic device that has been the iPhone since his death. And it’s interesting to look down the improvements that the device has seen over the years as we ask ourselves, “Is it still getting more and more amazing???”

  • (2007) First Generation iPhone – 2G connectivity, no 3rd party apps, blew us all away
  • (2008) iPhone 3G – 3G connectivity, GPS, introduction of the App Store
  • (2009) iPhone 3GS – essentially a hardware upgrade
  • (2010) iPhone 4 (GSM version) – added retina display, gyroscope, FaceTime, and a new design
  • (2011) iPhone 4 (CDMA version) – added CDMA support, personal hotspot
  • (2011) iPhone 4S – hardware upgrade, iCloud, Siri
  • Steve Jobs passed away the day after the iPhone 4S was launched
  • (2012) iPhone 5 – 4G connectivity, better hardware
  • (2013) iPhone 5S / 5C – 64-bit processor, Touch ID

Maybe just not enough time has passed yet, but it feels to me like some of these cool, new features that have broken new ground for the iPhone are slowing down. I mean, I honestly don’t even really consider Touch ID to be a worthwhile feature on account of how horrible fingerprint security actually is, although for what it’s worth I did tend to discount Siri, too. But are we just reaching the limits of what technology we can cram into these little, handheld devices?

That honestly might be part of it – if you look over the iPhone’s 7-year history, there were three upgrades in wireless connectivity in its lifespan, mostly because of where the mobile ecosystem happened to be when the phone came on the market – 3G was gaining heavy saturation and talks of 4G had already begun, but nowadays you don’t hear so much about increased wireless capacity anymore. If anything, carriers are looking to offload wireless data back onto wi-fi networks, which the iPhone has supported since day 1.

So maybe the next evolution for the iPhone isn’t in pushing the mobile device itself much further, but in integration with all of the other electronic devices around our home – most obviously being our TV and our computer, since Apple already has products in both markets. Near-field communication still hasn’t really picked up yet, but I remember seeing a pretty cool video a while back where a girl sets her phone down on a desk and everything on the device becomes readily available to her desktop PC. We might still be a ways away from digital glass, but I would think that bridging the gap between mobile and desktop shouldn’t be that big of an issue…

…that is, if people actually want it…

But I guess with this latest offering of the iPhone 5C, it makes me start to wonder if Apple knows what the people want from them anymore, or what they want the people to want from them, to butcher a Steve Jobs quote just a bit. Yes, I’m one of the people who think that the iPhone 5C, in its multitude of new colors, does a disservice to the brand by making it seem cheap. Which is funny, because it’s not – it’s really only $100 less than the regular iPhone 5S, but by offering up a bubblegum pack of flavors for us to choose from, it takes a step away from the iPhone looking like the premium device that it is and instead makes it seem like something that every teenager should have in their pocket.

Case in point – just look at the 5S and the 5C side by side…

iphone5sc

There’s no denying that the new white & gold iPhone is a very sweet looking phoneI was never bowled over when the white iPhone was first introduced, but the latest design might actually force me to make a decision when I finally replace my phone whether to go with the same black that I’ve had or switch over to something different. It looks like something a celebrity would carry.

The 5C, on the other hand, to me looks like a kid’s toy. Or maybe something that your girlfriend might use because she doesn’t want a fancy, full-featured smartphone like you have. It doesn’t scream premium product to me, even though still priced in the same vicinity. And the sad part of it is, it doesn’t really even make sense why it exists in the first place.

People bought the iPhone because it looked different, and because it looked sleek and sexy, even if it wasn’t technically the most advanced smartphone available. How many kids and girlfriends were already walking around with an iPhone because it was the cool phone to have before all of these new colors??? Demand exploded when Apple finally released the white iPhone because everyone had been limited to black up until then, but more importantly, because it still looked incredibly sharp even in white.

The new 5Cs don’t look sharp to me. They feel like a callback to the colorful iMacs of the late ’90s, with the reminder that Apple didn’t have any iconic products when Steve Jobs returned and revived the company in part with the new iMac design. They really had nothing to lose, nowhere to go but up … but now here in 2013, they’ve come a long way, they still command the most popular smartphone brand in the world, and seeing a company that’s been known over the last 15 years for its design flailing a bit certainly has me concerned.

If it’s that lower price point that they’re after, I feel like they’ve sure got a weird way of going after it because the iPhone 5C doesn’t make itself all that much more affordable than its counterparts, and besides, if cheaper is the goal then what’s wrong with what they’ve done in the past by discounting older models like the iPhone 4S, which you can now get for a dollar on contract, as compared to the $199 2-year contract price for the newer 5S.

I’m certainly not ready to throw in the towel on the brand or anything – honestly, I’m still on my original iPhone 4 that I raved about getting 3 years ago, but I guess the thing is that when I eventually am ready to upgrade or if I’m forced to when this phone finally bites the dust, I want there to be something new in the latest iPhone that makes me go, “Awesome – I’ve gotta have that!” like I did with the phone that I have now. I want to be blown away by the advances that have been made since I bought this phone in 2011, and that’s going to take more than faster wireless speeds that my carrier is hungry to restrict and better hardware that doesn’t really present anything new, but is simply better for the sake of improvement.

I’m ready to be wow’ed by the next big thing, and I hope that Apple still ends up being the one to tell us how we just can’t live without it. The thing is, I guess I’m just skeptical that the next big thing is going to come in the shade of coral, and the iPhone 5C feels like a distraction from what Apple could really be working towards.

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