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An iPhone user’s take on WWDC iPhone 4 announcement: A lost opportunity [Opinion]

By Alok Saboo on June 9th, 2010

Despite my critical remarks against Apple’s policies, I have remained a loyal iPhone user for the past 2 years. During this period, I have used all the three generations of the Apple phones (iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS) and have been quite happy with the performance of my “jailbroken” phones. So much so that after every WWDC I would “hold up my head in pride” that no other phone came even close to what the iPhone had to offer. For the first time, after yesterday’s WWDC, I started doubting Apple’s ability to maintain the smart phone dominance in the future.

If you missed the keynote, you can catch all the action in the following short video.

After the brilliant display of “technological muscle” by Google at the recent Google I/O, I was hoping that Apple would fire another round of salvo at Google and other smart phone manufacturers. Especially since Jobs responded to an email saying, “You won’t be disappointed”, I had my hopes high. To say that I was disappointed with Apple’s announcements at the WWDC would not be an exaggeration. Let us look at the major announcements that Steve Jobs made – iPhone 4 and iOS 4.

iPhone_4

iPhone 4 – Why it doesn’t live up to expectations?

Android handsets are rapidly closing the gap between the Android OS and iPhone OS (iOS 4). WWDC was a good opportunity to ebb this flow and widen (or at least maintain) this gap. However, Apple seems to have given away this opportunity.

iPhone 4, without a doubt, is one of the most “gorgeous device” around and will surely drive hordes of consumers into the Apple stores. It is a significant upgrade from the iPhone 3GS, but unfortunately that is not enough to beat the standards set by the recent crop of smart phones. The retina display is surely a great addition, but is it enough to make up for all the missing features on the iPhone? Gyroscope is a useful addition to the iPhone 4, but its utility needs to be seen. Looks like the Gyroscope may excite the gamers more than anyone else. Facetime, a great feature, is restricted only to iPhone 4 and only on WiFi and hence is almost useless for some time till a few of your contacts get the iPhone 4.

iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2 (Froyo)

With Froyo, the Android OS has come of age. It has matured and stabilized as a mobile OS and is capable of delivering stellar performance. In fact, in terms of features, Android easily beats the iPhone OS (depending on whom you ask). iOS 4 was a good opportunity to maintain Apple’s leadership as a mobile platform. However, Apple again disappointed.

Android_vs_iOS4The only major additions, other than the metal in the name, are multitasking, folders, and unified inbox. Didn’t Android have all these since ages? Google Android, on the other hand, offers cloud sync, complete integration with Google services, tethering (EVO 4G), and Flash support. If it were not for the difference in the number of apps between the two platforms, Android would have beaten iOS 4 hands down. Android platform is attracting developers in large numbers and the difference in the number of apps on Android and Apple iPhone is rapidly disappearing, making this a short-lived advantage.

Apple was so starved of content for the WWDC that Jobs spent a significant amount of time talking about applications such as iMovie, iBooks, Zynga Farmville, Guitar Hero, etc. – none of which are worthy of the time spent on WWDC and (IMHO) have any potential to have a meaningful impact on the platform.

Final Thoughts

In summary, Apple’s lead currently (if that exists) is based on cosmetic factors and something than can be improved upon by Android handset manufacturers within a few months. Given that Apple is the only company developing iOS 4 based handsets and that it has an annual cycle to launch new handsets, I will not be surprised if Android closes the gap or beats Apple in this race to mobile supremacy in very near future. However, for Apple to beat Android, it will have to make ideological adjustments – genuinely offering choices to consumers. Apple cannot take decisions in the garb of offering choices when it works in its favor (read introducing Bing in iOS 4) and not offer choices when it hurts the company (read offering Flash on iPhone).

The iPhone 4 launch has not affected the demand of Android handset. In fact, Sprint HTC EVO 4G, reportedly, is already sold out. A poll, currently live, on Lifehacker, suggests Android beating iPhone by around 36% margin.

iPhone_vs_Android_Poll

The numbers, unfortunately, are not in favor of Apple and it may soon have to concede the leadership position, if it does not change its philosophy. More importantly, the competitive landscape appears to be changing. At one point Apple would define the standards for smartphones and lead the pack. This does not appear to be true any longer, Apple is now catching up with the competition and unfortunately has not been able to close the gap completely.

To me, WWDC was a lost opportunity where Apple could have reclaimed some grounds that it has lost to other smart phones. I will echo some of the points raised by Readwriteweb in terms of what Apple could have announced on WWDC – Cloud sync, 4G, Free MobileMe, Widgets, free Navigation, Voice Inputs, etc.

The smart phone customers are a demanding lot. In the absence of some of these features, it may not take them too long to change loyalties. If Apple wants to dominate this space, it has to be little more considerate to the needs of consumers.

Please, please, please – Stop taking customers for granted!!

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  • Simon Hibbs

    I agree that for some geeks, Android may be a better option. For example I love Python and Android has a Python scripting environment available. Apple has nothing like that. For other geeks, there may be other obscure technical advantages that matter to them. However it can't be denied that with the new phone Apple has all the key features the mass market cares about, and has implemented them in a far better way. Lets face it, for the vast majority of iphone users the only feature they'll actualy be remotely interested in will be the screen. Two weeks ago we were hoping the iPhone 4 display would be comparable to the laters Android handsets, but in terms of user experience it appears they've jumped the equivalent of a whole generation in screen technology.

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    Simon, you make a great point!!

    The iPhone 4 has lot of things which make it very attractive for the lot of users. The question, however, is whether the iPhone has “jumped the shark”. At one point, you could almost without any doubts claim that the iPhone is the best smart phone available. Today, that may not be true. And the way things are going, it certainly wouldn't be true the near future.

    Apple could have used the iPhone 4 to cement the lead, but IMHO there is far too little in the iPhone 4 to keep it ahead of the competition for too long.

  • Gman

    Alok, it's important not to get caught in the 'features race'. iPod never had as many features as it's competitors but that didn't stop the masses from buying it. And geeks like you probably liked there Archos or Zune HD better but it didn't matter Apple ruled. As a owner of a Nexus One and iPhone 3G, I have to say that I fell in love with the Nexus one beautiful screen and speed, and sidelined by slow iPhone 3g. With the new display I will be jumping back on the iPhone wagon. For me and many others the screen is equivalent to seeing a beautiful woman. Steve Jobs gets it.

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    Gman,

    That is a very valid point and I would love to probe this further.

    Implicit in your argument is that the major attraction in iPhone 4 is the Retina display. If it were not for the screen, would you have bought it (given that you have a Nexus One)? The answer to this question may not straightforward.

    My whole point is that the value proposition of iPhone 4 is now more cosmetic (which admittedly is an important element). However, this can easily be imitated away by several Android handset manufacturers. As an iPhone fan, I was disappointed to realize that the major selling point for iPhone is the display. Many Android based handsets are already coming close in terms of features and it will not take them too long to match or beat Apple design elements.

    In terms of software, Google already has made clear that Gingerbread edition will focus on user interface. In terms of hardware, HTC EVO or Droid X are very compelling. Combine this with the Google services that are available on the Android, it makes a very compelling case for NOT buying an iPhone. Wouldn't you agree that the level of improvement in the Android handsets since inception has been greater than that in iPhone?

    I may be wrong, but I would have loved to see Apple/Jobs do more than this to cement their numero uno position.

    • Themagic8ball

      What would you like to see Apple do? – I think much of the impact of the iPhone 4 was lost owing to Gizmodo’s reveal earlier, have you taken that into account? Please specify what Apple need to do in order to resume the number 1 position. Be concrete not abstract.

  • Gman

    Alok, it's important not to get caught in the 'features race'. iPod never had as many features as it's competitors but that didn't stop the masses from buying it. And geeks like you probably liked there Archos or Zune HD better but it didn't matter Apple ruled. As a owner of a Nexus One and iPhone 3G, I have to say that I fell in love with the Nexus one beautiful screen and speed, and sidelined by slow iPhone 3g. With the new display I will be jumping back on the iPhone wagon. For me and many others the screen is equivalent to seeing a beautiful woman. Steve Jobs gets it.

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    Gman,

    That is a very valid point and I would love to probe this further.

    Implicit in your argument is that the major attraction in iPhone 4 is the Retina display. If it were not for the screen, would you have bought it (given that you have a Nexus One)? The answer to this question may not straightforward.

    My whole point is that the value proposition of iPhone 4 is now more cosmetic (which admittedly is an important element). However, this can easily be imitated away by several Android handset manufacturers. As an iPhone fan, I was disappointed to realize that the major selling point for iPhone is the display. Many Android based handsets are already coming close in terms of features and it will not take them too long to match or beat Apple design elements.

    In terms of software, Google already has made clear that Gingerbread edition will focus on user interface. In terms of hardware, HTC EVO or Droid X are very compelling. Combine this with the Google services that are available on the Android, it makes a very compelling case for NOT buying an iPhone. Wouldn't you agree that the level of improvement in the Android handsets since inception has been greater than that in iPhone?

    I may be wrong, but I would have loved to see Apple/Jobs do more than this to cement their numero uno position.

  • Dotroy

    So if you are sick today what will you do ? Wait for something that works better in 6 months or take medication which is available. Cut the crap ..FACE time rules …and I know you will start your bla bla again ..saying it is not a new thing ..it has been done before ….for but me I saw VDO phone 10 years ago in a land phone (did not work) and face time works.

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, much appreciated!!

    Promise will not start my bla bla :-) But will respond to your point briefly. I completely agree that Facetime is a great feature and unlike lot of other similar products we have seen in the past, it works!! However, it's utility is minimal at this point of time. I don't know about you, but not more than 1-2 people in my group will own the iPhone 4. However, that does not take away the innovativeness or the utility of Facetime, quite the contrary. If Apple can truly make the technology open, it can revolutionize video conferencing.

    All I am arguing is that Apple did not make the most of the opportunity at WWDC. There was nothing which can stem the growing Android influence. I desperately wanted Apple to do something to tide the flow, but did not happen and I am afraid Google has seized the initiative.

    BTW, I continue to use my iPhone and hope to upgrade to iPhone 4 soon :-)

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    Guess you already have a partial answer in iPhone 4 – better screen, front facing camera, more Ram, etc. But with more space in the iPad, Apple could clearly have done a lot more, e.g., SD card expansion, USB port, microphone, etc.

  • abc

    “The iPhone 4 launch has not affected the demand of Android handset. In fact, Sprint HTC EVO 4G, reportedly, is already sold out.”

    This at best is misleading. EVO being sold out doesn't equate to anything or proves anything other than maybe there wasn't enough units made in the first place. But the truth is high tech devices like these are sold out because they are being bought and resold on the secondary market such as eBay and other sites. This is how some people make money.

    Furthermore, let's not even equate that some people are tied by contract for years to carriers such as Verizon wether by personal preference or job discount that carry androids phones while AT&T is the sole carrier for iPhone which has the smaller base of subs.

    And even though you post suggest you're hoping for a iPhone victory… that's not the case as it clearly states your preference. You write one way but think the other.

  • http://truvoipbuzz.com Alok Saboo

    That surely is a possibility, but it would be hard to deny the facts that clearly suggest that Android is gaining significant mind and market share. Just to let you know, I have been an iPhone user since the first one came out and would love to see Apple doing something to keep the iPhone on top.

    But the way things are going, I am afraid that may not be the case. Much as I would like Apple to remain on top, may the best prevail. Let the market forces decide…

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