Just a few nights ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the D: All Things Digital conference. Though he, expectedly, left out any direct hints at new products we did get a view of where Mr. Cook feels like Apple is positioned now.
Cook assured attendees that Apple is “absolutely not” in trouble and has some “incredible plans” that they have been working on.
Apple’s CEO stopped short of directly addressing plans to combat Android’s skyrocketing unit sales numbers, but allowed a slight dig at Android stating: “Globally, there are a lot of phones that are labeled as smartphones but are used more like feature phones.” Mr. Cook added that: “Some tablets are being bought and not used because the experience is not great.”
I think Mr. Cook took the opportunity to let Apple’s products speak for themselves. Apple still has the best selling smartphone in the world and is raking in profits that are insanely higher than nearly any other company. Apple has oscillated between being the most valuable and second most valuable company in the world (next to Exxon, currently). That’s crazy.
Though some feel that the iPhone 5 was a disappointment, the numbers show that this is wrong. Apple sold over 27 million iPhone 5s in the last three months of 2012. Holding Apple to a higher bar is certainly common, yet most seem to hold that bar at a different height.
Apple is hardly perfect and has stumbled recently (Apple Maps, anyone?), but those stumbles are quickly recovered from and largely forgotten. There are simply too many major successes to allow a minor stumble to knock them out of the race.
Apple Maps sucked. I have used it as my primary maps app since its release, and have seen marked improvement since then. Google Maps no longer feels much different, other than the lack of public transit directions. That might be annoying to me, but I rely on another transit map instead. Many people may be in the same boat. Google Maps on the iPhone doesn’t do subways.
Siri is another beast. I’m not really sure why she’s there. I talk to her on occasion, but it’s frustrating when she doesn’t understand me. Siri is not pushing the envelope, but I wonder how popular these voice interaction features really are. I’m not seeing a ton of ads from the Android side pushing their voice stuff. Maybe people don’t really use it that often.
People expecting Mr. Cook to reveal hints at what Apple is working on were likely disappointed. Apple doesn’t hint at what they’re working on. They never have. That will probably never change, but this doesn’t seem to hurt them. There is some mystery and intrigue into what Apple is doing and this why reporters fly from all over the world whenever Apple calls. This alone shows how exciting Apple is and that people are in love with their products. Reporters don’t cover what people don’t want to hear about. An example of how Apple operates is the iPhone. Apple didn’t say they were working on a revolutionary smartphone that would completely change the market. They just announced it when it was ready.
The argument of “Is this enough?” comes up often when Apple announces new products. Especially the iPhone. Each new iPhone model is a disappointment to pundits, and is surely the death knell for Apple. This has not been true so far. In fact, it couldn’t be further from what customers show with their credit cards.
The original iPhone launching without 3G but with a high price tag was supposedly a disaster that would result in zero sales. That didn’t happen. The iPhone 3GS was not widely seen as a big enough upgrade for iPhone 3G users. This may have been true, but iIt sold like crazy and even outsold newer Android devices years after release. The iPhone 4 was great and everyone loved it until the antenna issue was discovered. It kept selling like crazy and outsold the competition. The iPhone 4S was supposed to fail because it wasn’t a big enough upgrade over the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4S outsold the Galaxy S3 last (2012) quarter (Q4). The iPhone 5 was supposedly not a big enough upgrade compared to all of the competition out there. It is outselling all of them. It sold 1 million more units than the Galaxy S4 during their opening weekends.
It may not seem like Apple is pushing the envelope with the iPhone because it doesn’t have all of the features that some Android phones have. I have a hard time finding a legitimately useful feature that Android has and the iPhone doesn’t. True, there’s no NFC for sharing photos and documents when you touch your phone together. Right, there’s no eye tracking when you’re reading a website or watching a video. I’m not really sure that customers are crazy for those features. Are you?
While we have no idea what Apple is working on right now, that’s a fun thing. When Apple does something new, they do it big. iPhone. iPad. MacBook Air (not big, but incredibly slim). When we finally get to see their answer to the TV problem and their entry to wearables (Fitbit or Pebble competitor?), people will care and like buy more of them than competition like they usually do.
I find it interesting that, while nobody knows what Apple is working on, we always seem to actually know what Apple is working on. Controlled leaks to WSJ and other unauthorized leaks keep people reading, interested, and wanting. Just look at Mr. Cook’s face when he talks about TVs in the D11 interview.