Apple’s New Product Cycle: Facing the Challenge of Innovation

Microsoft Surface Commercial

[Credit: Microsoft]

Apple’s presentation of the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 in September 2012 angered many iPad 3 owners, but it reflects the new chapter in the life of the Apple Corporation. Samsung and other competitors such as Google have combined to make life difficult for Apple. Even when the iPhone 5 was introduced back in September, it was deemed top of the line but did not receive the “wow” the iPhone received back in 2007. What made the presentation even more damaging to Apple’s work is that the tech writer predictions were terribly right, so much so that there were no surprises at the presentation. Tech writers had already given up the goods on Apple’s latest iPhone and iPad, so there was little response for shock or excitement.

The predictable correctness of tech writers, combined with the predictability of the iPhone line, makes the iPhone a product that, while good, does not appeal to teenagers anymore. Chris Matyszczyk of CNET says that his research shows that the iPhone is no longer the “cool” gadget to own:

“Buzz Marketing’s Tina Wells told Forbes: ‘Teens are telling us Apple is done. Apple has done a great job of embracing Gen X and older (Millennials), but I don’t think they are connecting with Millennial kids’…the iPhone 5 was, for them, a little too staid” (Chris Matyszczyk, “Apple is done, say teens.”

This is not only the view of millennial kids, but also of adults in my generation. I have read a number of accounts by tech writers who own the iPhone 4S and did not purchase the iPhone 5 because they felt as though it was no different than the iPhone 4S. I have talked to iPhone customers personally and have been told the same thing: while they like the iPhone, they are tired and bored with having the same “look and feel” to the iPhone as has been in years past. In other words, the iPhone is becoming “outdated.”

Apple has come to realize in recent days that the company has to change its routine and marketing strategy, since Samsung has come to make more money in a quarter than Cupertino. Apple has decided to make some changes to its product cycle by creating two product cycles, one for the Spring (March) and one for the Fall, six months later (September). This, however, is not such an easy solution to the problem. The problem still remains complex, even if Apple does produce two iPhones each year. Why? Because of innovation. Apple’s problem lies in innovation.

Changing the product cycle from one a year to two a year has only exacerbated the problem. Now, instead of having to spend one year to produce one great iPhone, Apple will now have to innovate twice as much as before. If iPhone customers are dissatisfied with their current iPhone 5, what will customers do if twice a year, the iPhone remains the same with small-scale changes?

In addition to Apple’s product cycle, new rumors have circulated that Apple has two more surprises up its sleeve: multiple screen sizes and colors. First, it was said that Apple would have “multiple screen sizes” in its new iPhone; the next rumor modified the original one and said that Apple would introduce two screen sizes for customers in its next-generation iPhone. Rumors regarding 6-8 colors have been consistent, with many affirming (with certainty) that the new iPhone would feature color options of red, blue, yellow, pink, green, and possibly orange (if not inclusive of traditional colors such as black and white). I told some current iPhone customers about the new options and they were still unimpressed.

Apple must come to learn that screen sizes, colors, and the weight and processor chips are nice features to improve; however, Apple’s software is the root of Apple’s “unimpressive” iPhone criticism by current customers. Until the company innovates the software that constitutes a large part of user experience, it will continue to make changes in vain.