It’s that time of the year again. No, not for early Christmas ads or silly “Obama’s a vampire” Halloween masks. It’s the time when Apple reliably releases a new iPhone to a usually-eager public.
Two years ago, I wrote about the then-new iPhone 4S. It was also, by pure accident, the week that Steve Jobs died. While I think that Steve Jobs was awesome, I have also always thought the iPhone – and especially the buy-a-new-one-every-year tradition – was overrated. Two years ago, I felt almost alone in that opinion. What’s different this year, as we receive a 5S and a cheapened 5C, is that plenty of other skeptical voices seem to be out there now.
For example, Apple basically dominated the smartphone market in 2011. Blackberry was more or less a joke (and for many still is) and the Samsung phones were not yet so widely distributed.
Compare that to now: two of my non-Drew friends who I spoke to about the new iPhones made comparisons to Samsung in their answers. One plans to switch to Samsung when he retires his iPhone 4 (yes, a plain old 4); the other will choose the 5S by a narrow margin. And Francesca Morabito (’15) simply stated, “Samsung rules!!!”
Morissa Schwartz (’16) said, “I was for all the upgrades when they actually made a difference, but now it’s just kind of ridiculous. I just switched to the Galaxy S4 because the iPhone kind of fell behind.”
Sean Gamble (’15) said, “I switched to the Galaxy SIII from the iPhone 4, and honestly I don’t think I’ll ever buy another iPhone…so the new iPhones aren’t really something I’m excited about. Android all the way!”
Craig Sacks (’16) who prefers HTC, said of the new Apple releases, “Honestly I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Seriously. You spend how much more money for what? A little upgrade from the 5? It’s bogus. I used to have an iPhone 5. Switched to Android and I can say without a doubt I’m not going back. HTC One all the way.”
And Joe Dohrenwend (’14) said “I really don’t care if another iPhone comes out, happy with the one I have already, and it’s still in great condition and works fine.”
The tone of these comments is so different from two years ago surprised me, even though it has been my opinion all along. But is it only poor college students who don’t need a new iPhone?
Not if we listen to the investors: Apple stock lost more than five percent the day the iPhones were announced and continued to tumble. It has since begun to recover, but that was certainly not the introduction Apple was hoping for.
Then, there’s iOS7, which took up many people’s entire night to download due to the rush of updates. Is it good? Most people seem okay with it, some hate it, some love it. It’s not a make-or-break anyway, because after a few weeks with the OS most users will get used to it. But even here, I found comments that I would have never found in 2011. One online article referred to some of iOS7’s new features as “catch-up efforts” compared to Android and even Windows Phone! And one reviewer said that iOS7 graphically resembles Windows more than the old look.
Apple catching up to Windows Phone? Apple trying to look like Windows? Even if it isn’t true, it’s a new skepticism that I haven’t seen before.
And finally, the tone of Apple itself is out of touch with the comments I received when asking questions for this story. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview, “We’re not in the junk business…the upper end of the industry justifies its higher prices with greater value. There’s a segment of the market that really wants a product that does a lot for them, and I want to compete like crazy for those customers.”
Samsung is not in the “junk business” either – why are so many former iPhone users moving to the Galaxy phones? And claiming that they do more? Only Apple can answer that one.