The beginning of the end for Apple

iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?
iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?

I was asked by my good friend Simon Egan today to comment on what I thought about this article on the BBC about Apple, which basically says they are no longer innovative and have become merely followers. And, despite being an Apple user for well over 20 years (before it was this widespread) I have to say, I agreed with it.

In fact, I completely agree. Apple is no longer special or surprising. It’s too ubiquitous to be different or sought after.

iPhone five with its new dock will annoy masses of people as it will render all their own kit worthless. I have a beautiful Valve based Amplifier that was totally designed around that very connecter. Admittedly I use it with my old style disk based chunky iPod and not my iPhone, but it means the end is nigh.

My sixteen year old daughter broke her iPhone (by dropping it down the toilet) and moaned for a few days but it’s all gone quiet. She is now using my old Nokia and has just stopped complaining because it’s a better phone and you can still text. The rest is a waste of time done better by other devices. I experimented a few years back and lived without my iPhone for three months. I enjoyed it and may well go back there.

Unless apple do something truly radical it will begin to fail. The new Televsion they are due to launch will give them a big positive blip but I can’t see them being able to do much after that. Most of our tech is covered and unless they invent a new category like they did with the original iPod, they may well be left high and dry.

They could obviously extend into Domestic appliances? But for me, that really will be the end. Look at Bugatti, Dualit and the other once great brands that have gone into pastiche brand extensions. That’s where apple will arrive soon enough unless they go back to where they should be and innovate.

12 thoughts on “The beginning of the end for Apple

  1. It’s not often I disagree with you, John, but that BBC article is a heap of steaming horse dump. His comparisons are biased. As one example, he states early in the article Apple spends “a paltry 2% of revenues” on R&D, but gives no figures until MUCH later in the article when he’s using the revenue figure as a stick to beat Apple with. Well I don’t know about you, and I don’t care if they’re biggest company in the world, $3bn is not a figure I’d call “paltry”. Also, to compare a the sales of the 4S and S3 is bent all out of shape. Apart from the S3 being 3 months old and the 4S being 12 months, he uses August sales figures when THE WORLD knows the 5 is out in September.

    And it’s a shame about all the 3rd party add-ons being made “redundant” but a) saying they aren’t innovative enough in one breath but whining about them updating a 9 year old component in the next seems harsh to me, and b) doesn’t it come with an adaptor to ease the problem? It’s a far cry from the days when phones came with bespoke headphone jacks for no other purpose than to completely lock down users *ahem NOKIA*.

  2. Hi Rob

    Thanks for your comments and i’m glad you disagree as you have made me really think about what I wrote. To be honest I think you’re right about the adapter, they did it with the first firewire iPod too, although they did still leave a firewire port on the mac for many years. I;ll get over that, by sticking with my old iPod for my stereo at home, which s six years old anyway!

    And, if i’m truly honest, I didn’t read the BBC article in as much detail as you had. I just thought that the iPhone 5 left me a little cold. My feelings of almost boredom/ambivalence towards it is more due to the fact that it just hasn’t inspired me because it is so evolutionary and not revolutionary, which we had become used to with Apple launches.

    I am sure that when they launch the Internet enabled TV it will be amazing and blow everything else away in the TV world, i think I am just becoming a bit old and grumpy about the fact that my once secret love of Apple is now totally mainstream. Admittedly top end mainstream, but mainstream nevertheless. I don’t like mainstream much and I don’t think i’m alone in that, so my feeling is that from a brand perspective, there are an awful lot of people looking out for the next big thing.

    I don’t know if you remember when Apple licensed their OS to some third party manufacturers, who produced crap kit with it. Now Apple have an accountant type running it, they may be tempted to do it again and widen the availability of their OS. RIM need a new one for their phones, so it may run as an idea. Microsoft got very rich with an OS that was far weaker than Apple’s. If that were the case, i’d be willing to bet on Sony and HP coming back with their excellent products and a great OS, taking huge market chunks.

  3. 🙂 I know what you mean, regarding being left feeling a bit flat. But I just think it’s natural. There was such a spike in mobile hardware / software development from 2008 – 2010ish that it was bound to level off for a couple of years as that rate of development versus advancements in technology is just unsustainable. I’m not much of a visionary so I may regret saying this, but I’m not sure what else you’re going to be able to do with a phone. The whole thing seems to be at saturation point at the moment and until some new awesome technology is developed (wireless charging? Yawn.) then I think we’re in for a few more disappointing iPhone “launches”. Maybe they should stop making such a hoo-haa about it!

    1. yes, good point. Wireless charging would be a simple addition, but maybe better battery life in the first place would be simpler still. Solar charging, or even kinetic, like the watches?

      And i’m certainly with you about the phone being somewhere near the most developed it can get without it becoming silly.

      Do you remember those pens that we all had at school with twelve colours in them? Crap weren’t they! That for me was because they were all trying to do too many things at once and ended up doing none of them well.

      How many multi tools are as good as a single specialised tool? Again, in my opinion, very few.

      Maybe making the iPhone the best phone it could possibly be first would be a very logical start, then some of us may swear at it less and begin to love it more again.

  4. This is exciting, two people disagree with you John.
    I thought the BBC article was truly shocking, bias and clearly written by somebody with a balanced chip on both shoulders. Oh dear.

    But that together with your blog did force me to think about this and that’s a good thing.

    Feels to me as though we have to wait and see with Apple. I tend to look at the overall business performance and then ask myself ‘what next’. Let’s look at the facts. Throughout 2011 Mac growth consistently outperformed the overall PC market. Interestingly some of its remarkably strong growth comes from its mature product line.

    It ended 2011 with $81.6bn in cash and short-term investments. It’s second quarter of tis fiscal year 2012 (it goes Oct to Oct) gave them a net profit of $11.6bn – yes that’s for a quarter.

    The new CEO isn’t just an accountant and he was the obvious choice for the role. Let the man get some traction and show us what he’s made of.

    Steve Jobs left a legacy within the company of innovation – not letting a customer survey lead the way, but thinking always about the what next. It’s built into their DNA and this is what we need to watch. Apple is a wealthy company but with competition surrounding them eager to catch them out. They know this and should be ready for it. Apple hardly look like a company sitting back enjoying a day out on all that cash.

    More than any time in business history, innovation is at the forefront of CEO minds – and if it isn’t those businesses will get caught out. Achieving it is another matter but Apple haven’t done so bad so far….. so lets cut them some slack for another quarter or so.

    1. Rossy. I love it when people disagree with me because it means I have to read more and then I learn more.

      You’re obviously right in that Apple are still hugely cash rich and very, very profitable. My only take away from it is that I think Apple aren’t as ‘desirable’ as they once were. From a brand perspective this is a fundamental change.

      If people don’t feel they have to own Apple products at any cost, they sink into the morass of me too’s and they lose their premium positioning. You know i’m playing devil’s advocate by saying it now and it’s a pretty safe bet that any massive brand will suffer a backlash at some point, so I don’t believe it is about if Apple go into decline, it’s more about when.

      1. So ok but where does that opinion come from? I mean it’s a big statement to suggest a company is not as brand ‘desirable’ as it was in the face of increasing sales across most of their portfolio. So how does a brand guru like yourself make that call?

  5. I’m not sure I am making that call from the position of my branding background specifically. I am saying that personally, my little secret that I discovered 23 years ago and have loved and lived with ever since, doesn’t feel as special now that everyone else has discovered it.

    It’s like hundreds of tourists turning up at your favourite, secret spot, putting in parking spaces, toilets, ice cream vans and signs. It’s still a beautiful place, but it just isn’t as special any more.

  6. Apple jumped the shark years ago, which I’ve been tracking and reporting for a number of years. It’s now a second generation brand, managed by caretakers wandering the planet asking themselves, “What would Steve do?”

    If you’re interested in more details – and evidence – that Apple, as a brand is indeed headed for a major fall, have a look at these articles that go back as far as 2006:

    Rob Frankel

  7. I’m about to change my phone and I won’t have a blackberry again, so I’ve been thinking about what I should have next, (and boring people with the subject too I suspect).
    I started off by thinking which smart phone I would go for, but on reflection I’m not sure I want one.
    The best mobile phone I ever had was an old small screen monochrome nokia. It had great reception and would go for up to a week without a charge. Smart phones would be a step back from the blackberry even.
    I just bought a camera I’m really happy with, and which has shown me just how limited phone cameras are.
    I don’t commute so I don’t need to play angry birds.
    I think I am going to get a really good and simple phone with an address book and a calendar.
    The time has long gone when to own an apple meant you were different and a bit arty; I will enjoy being one of the few who hasn’t got an i-phone or an i-pad…

    1. When I did my experiment a few years ago about life without an iPhone, the one i went back to was my little stainless steel Nokia which is the only phone I haven’t traded in at the end of the contract. My daughter is still using as we haven’t replaced her phone post ‘toilet dunking’ it by mistake.

      First and foremost it has to be a good phone. I’m not sure the iPhone is.

      Just out of interest, I was at the little repair place in Nottingham yesterday seeing whether they could repair my daughter’s iPhone (which they couldn’t) and they were saying that the iPhone 5 cannot be dismantled without self destructing. That doesn’t sound like progress to me considering my own iPhone 4 is on its third battery so far. The same is true of the MacBook Air, which is soooooo delicate that it is almost impossible to disassemble/reassemble.

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