This Tuesday Apple held their semi-annual iPhone event during which they announced the latest in their line of immensely popular smartphones. The computing giant announced two models this year (as opposed to their traditional one per event); the feature-heavy iPhone 5s and the ‘budget-priced’ iPhone 5c. During the announcement they flaunted the 5s as their most “forward-thinking” phone yet, a title being picked up by all sorts of tech blogs that is quite accurate considering the company’s previous releases. What fewer people are discussing is how the 5s is thinking ahead of others in the field, and how game changing the announcement of the 5c is.
The Forward-Thinking iPhone 5s
So, how is a device released by one of the largest and longest-running smartphone manufacturers any more forward-thinking than their six previous devices? For the first time, Apple is releasing a device with features that aren’t available anywhere else on the market yet.
The iPhone 5s, with it’s new Apple A7 processor will be the world’s first 64-bit smartphone. For those who don’t speak tech, this means that it will be able to run highly intensive apps that other phones won’t and it will run faster and harder in the paint than a traditional 32-bit smartphone like the iPhone 5 and previous models. While this high intensity processor is sure to cause a massive drain on battery life, it’s the sort of thing that makes techies salivate and wait in line even earlier in anticipation of release day.
The 5s also has a built-in motion sensor, which may not seem like a huge deal, until you consider the app they’re developing with Nike (Nike + Move) that is set to track users’ fitness, sleep and other habits through said sensor for healthier living. Now, you’re probably thinking that this isn’t all that big of a deal since devices like the FitBit and the Jawbone Up already serve these purposes. That’s just the thing though, with the 5s you won’t need to wear a clip on peripheral or a bracelet. The same functionality is packed into a device you already carry everywhere anyway. I fully expect this functionality to be phased into all smartphones and put companies like FitBit completely out of business.
Beyond that there are huge improvements in the camera including a dual-tone flash designed to give off a more natural light and a built-in slow-motion video capture mode. These features as well as the purported slight improvement in battery life, are about what we expected and are the sorts of things most phone manufacturers add when they upgrade. However, Apple did take a recent smartphone functionality trend and push it to a new level this time around, which is somewhat out of their character as well. A number of Android devices released recently have included fingerprint scanners for security purposes, but with the iPhone 5s users can tie their fingerprint to their App Store account. Meaning that their unique fingerprint is required for purchases made from their phone. This kind of password-free security could be what it takes to make apps like Passbook and Google Wallet actually appealing to the general public for the first time.
The combination of uniquely innovative features and brand-new applications for new(ish) hardware features definitely supports Apple’s claim that the iPhone 5s is their “most forward-thinking” phone. This not only increases the buzz for the upcoming device’s release, but sets a powerful precedent for all future iPhone reveals.
The Game Changing iPhone 5c
For the longest time Apple stated they had no intention of developing a cheaper iPhone marketed at a budget demographic. I can’t help but think that the reasoning behind this was the fact that iPhones are quite the status symbol in America. Owning an iPhone over any number of Android devices carries a connotation of higher social influence, affluence and/or technological awareness depending on the individual and various other factors. A close non-tech industry friend of mine from high school tweeted after the announcement that she thought the iPhone 5c looked tacky and that she would probably judge the first person she saw carrying the plastic-backed iDevice. This says quite a lot about the social sway iPhones have on the smartphone market.
Why then would Apple release a device that will appear tacky or second-rate? I think they’re playing the long game here and thinking internationally. At the end of August, Samsung held the highest market share of smartphones in India, one of the world’s largest countries and one with a developing economy (in comparison to the US at least). Apple didn’t even place in the top five. With a half-price iPhone, Apple could easily tap into markets in countries like India while simultaneously broadening their appeal in the United States and slowly pushing back their elitist reputation. It’s essentially a win-win.
The other game-changing element to the 5c actually comes in the form of it’s bright colors and (potentially) tacky design. Look at the phones. Don’t they just jump out as the next big ticket Christmas gift? The iPhone 5c isn’t just a budget iPhone, it’s an entry level iPhone. Competitively priced with entry-to-mid-level Androids, the 5c is perfect for Johnny’s first smartphone. And I can just hear my not-so-little-anymore cousins (13 and 14) pleading with their parents to buy them pink iPhones this holiday season. Sure the 5c may seem tacky or second-rate to college students and young professionals, but their younger siblings and cousins are going to be begging for them.
The iPhone 5c is dramatically widening the demographic range for the iPhone and thus exponentially increasing Apple’s potential sales. It’s honestly one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in tech all year.