Is the iPhone 6 Apple’s last chance to regain firm control of the mobile phone market? Clare Hopping looks at what Apple must do to secure its position ahead of its major rivals.
I’m not an Apple-hater, brought to this earth only to defame the iPhone. I am very much a Mac fanboi. I’ve been using one for the last ten years and I am pretty much allergic to PCs. I’ve also used the iPhone 5 for six months and can confidently say the company’s products are brilliant… but are they brilliant enough? I’d argue not.
With the iPhone 6 launch looming, it’s crucial Apple deliver an innovative new product that can place the ever-improving Samsung back in its shadow and fight against the goliath that is the Android platform. If it doesn’t, it could be curtains — and here’s why.
Let’s get one thing straight: Apple clearly isn’t selling as many phones as it would like — consumers are flocking in droves to rival platforms. Android will continue to dominate with 80.2 per cent of marketshare by the end of 2014 and even the oft-maligned Windows Phone is set to steal some of Apple’s joy in the worldwide smartphone market.
According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker Samsung shipped 31.3 per cent of smartphones in 2013, compared to Apple’s 15.3 per cent share. Not only that, Samsung is charging ahead with its shipments that increased 42.9 per cent compared to Apple’s 12.9 per cent growth year-on-year.
Even the smaller manufacturers are nibbling at Apple’s heels. Chinese manufacturer Huawei held 4.9 per cent of the market in 2013 with an increase of 67.5 per cent compared to 2012. Even Lenovo, although only holding 4.5 per cent of the market, saw its year-on-year sales increase by 91.7 per cent. No doubt Lenovo buying Motorola’s device division from Google will boost that even further this year.
The iPhone 6 needs to make a huge statement if Apple is to even begin to take the fight to its rivals.
Waaaaay behind in features
The iPhone’s success to date is largely thanks to Apple setting the precedent on rolling out innovative new features, but I would argue that’s no longer the case — or if it is then those ‘innovations’ are easy to find elsewhere on more affordable, or better-equipped products.
Retina Display? Meaningless — even my entry-level Moto G has the same resolution as the flagship iPhone 5S (326ppi) and rival flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5 pack a monster 432 ppi.
64 bit processing? Does anyone care right now? Fingerprint reader? You can find one on the S5, too. M7 coprocessor? Who cares? Do these words actually mean anything when you’re using the device on an everyday basis? I’d argue not.
Worryingly, almost every flagship phone has features that out-spec the iPhone 5S. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are both water resistant, have expandable storage and more sophisticated camera tech. Will iPhone 6 match these offerings? Is matching them enough?
Back in the day iTunes was a huge trump card for Apple and the iPhone became the best portable music player in the world. Now that trump card is vanishing with people migrating to multi-platform streaming services such as Spotify. iTunes revenues are down and I’m hardly surprised. Now I’ve discovered Spotify, Soundcloud and Sonos, the service can die for all I care.
Apple is obviously feeling the pressure of the waning power of iTunes, buying Dr Dre’s Beats business in the hope of introducing a new service to its devices. Could this be musical shot in the arm the iPhone needs? The appeal of the iPhone 6 as a music playback device could hinge on this acquisition alone.
Apple’s other trump card, the App Store, is less of a draw. There’s now less need to buy into the Apple ecosystem because the company no longer has a huge monopoly on the coolest apps. Cross-platform apps are becoming more popular and even iPhone-only apps like iMessage are running out of steam as smartphone users flock to third-party apps like WhatsApp and Viber to message their friends for free.
Evolve or die
Let’s not kid ourselves — iPhones have a huge amount of support. They’re everywhere. They’re also great phones. But I cannot help but feel the handset’s golden age is over unless Apple do something incredible with iPhone 6. Everything relies on iPhone 6 being truly innovative — not just matching its rivals but trouncing them spectacularly.
Here’s hoping Apple gets it right. Certainly it’s made plenty of tweaks in iOS 8, but is it enough to draw in the masses? Surely there’s no killer feature there, just an awful lot of spit and polish, some of which – family sharing, for instance – has already been around on rival OS’s for a long time. We’ll wait for the hardware to emerge to say for sure, but so far we’re on the fence.