So, as promised, Apple introduced a new generation of iPhones at Tuesday’s media event. Now it is also true that Wall Street tends to be somewhat disappointed over the company’s product launches, and this week was no exception. Even as the presentation continued, during which the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s were demonstrated, the stock price slowly declined.
Within a day, some targets for Apple’s stock price were lowered. So what went wrong? Or did anything happen other than typical financial community hysteria?
Indeed, what was so disappointing about Apple’s announcements? All right, there were very few surprises, because most of the details about the updated products were already out there in one form or another. It appears both rumor sites and the mainstream media had glommed on to much of what Apple delivered, so, at the very least, there weren’t many surprises in the event, but that doesn’t mean no good came of it.
Now the problem appears to be blamed on the claim that, at least according to one cable news talking head, Apple does best when they launch an all-new product, rather than do an iterative upgrade. This is the sort of issue that has dogged Apple in recent years, as people forget the six years between the introduction of the first iPod and the first iPhone. They also forget that it took another three years for the iPad to arrive, and you wonder just what other companies have done to revolutionize a market in any nine-year timeframe.
After all, there were digital music players before the iPod debuted, and there were smartphones and tablets before the iPhone and iPad arrived. So it’s clearly a case of higher expectations for Apple.
But you can’t assume that Apple didn’t offer useful features for the 2013 iPhones. The Touch ID or fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s seems a terrific way to enhance security. All right, some people are complaining that not all people have fingerprints, that maybe they have somehow removed them by using their fingers too much. I expect if Apple offered eye scanning, some would complain that a few people have glass eyes. Nobody forces you to use these features.
In large part, I suspect some industry analysts are doing spec by spec comparisons with high-end Android hardware, forgetting that some of the features touted by Samsung and others simply don’t work, or only work in a half-baked fashion. Apple’s improvements in the iPhone 5s appear more sharply focused on things people actually do with those devices rather than just to look intriguing on a bullet point presentation.
The switch to a 64-bit processor is getting mixed reviews. It is surely part of a long-range plan to continue to improve the performance of mobile gear, though it may take an iPad to best leverage the advantages. But I’m not at all convinced there will be an ARM-based MacBook or that OS X will migrate to the mobile processor anytime soon.
The largest amount of criticism is leveled against the iPhone 5c. It’s not the multiple colors, and the construction quality appears far better than most plastic-based mobile gear. That it is basically just an iPhone 5 in a new dress in most respects wasn’t surprising, but some hoped for a lower price. As it is, it’s just $100 less than the iPhone 5s. Had there been no iPhone 5c, and Apple just kept the iPhone 5 in the lineup, the pricing would be the same. That ensures traditionally high margins.
But some expected Apple to make aggressive price adjustments to gain sales in China and other countries where incomes aren’t as high as in the U.S. However, the iPhone 4s will remain in the lineup, and it’s free with a two-year contract. In addition, the iPhone 4 will evidently stay on sale overseas at an even lower price, and that might be more than sufficient to generate decent sales.
All right, Android still has the lion’s share of the market. But don’t forget that the vast majority of Android handsets are low-cost junk, with older versions of Google’s OS. Most people in the U.S. wouldn’t give those gadgets a second glance, but they do sell well to people who just cannot afford, or do not want, something better. They earn very slim profits for the handset makers. But evidently the media and the financial community still expect Apple to give away the iPhone, or they are fated to fail.
Of course, none of this skepticism will mean a blessed thing if Apple manages to move loads of these devices when they go on sale next week. If there are massive sellouts of both iPhones, and sales continue to impress over the next few months, maybe some will not be so skeptical.
That doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t still on Apple to deliver more new gear this year, and you expect they will. But don’t expect a triangular iPhone, although some can’t wait to buy an iWatch or an Apple smart TV. I wouldn’t hold my breath.