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Another Look at the Apple Double Standard

You just know that Apple can’t catch a break. If new products have lots of new features, we’ll it’s too many. There will be lots of bugs, and customers will face plenty of aggravation as a result. But if it appears that things haven’t changed that much, Apple is criticized for having lost its innovation mojo.

So we have the stories — obviously unconfirmed — that the next version of the iPhone will not be impressive. It will look mostly the same, and the critics don’t seem to care about the components. So if, as expected, it has a faster processor, better graphics, and improved camera parts, that’s not important enough. It’s whether the case will be a tad smaller or larger, or whether it has a headphone jack.

Of course there are just so many ways you can take a rectangular case and make it altogether different; well, except for those silly designs where the display spills onto the side. And I think you can tell from my comments what I think of that. While Apple has given iPhones subtle physical design changes over the years, the variations are more about display size and square or rounded edges.

The real differences will mostly be internal, but the speculation doesn’t mention that very often, past the headphones, or lack thereof, and faster parts. Maybe Apple should release a rounded smartphone. No, wait, leave that to Samsung!

In saying that, handsets from Samsung and other companies are often touted as the next great thing. It doesn’t matter if flashy new features really don’t work, or are unimportant to most people under normal use. A few new features on an iPhone aren’t enough, a few features, some of which are useless, on a competing product must result in a serious conundrum for Apple.

I frequently observe this phenomenon in reviews from Consumer Reports and other publications where the proven negatives don’t quite match up with the total score.

Regardless, the real innovation was the first iPhone. Everything else has been iteration, and that’s the way things are supposed to work. When comparing the changes from one year to the next, don’t forget that most people don’t buy upgrades every year. It’s usually two years, and that may be moving to three years simply because the existing products are so good already.

So handset makers have to deal with a new reality. Even if this year’s iPhone is two or three times faster than the ones from two years ago, it may not be so obvious when running most apps. So what’s the point? With an iPhone 6, I would have to consider whether to consider the alleged iPhone 7, or save money and stick with what I have after it’s paid off.

That’s the question already being asked about the iPad and Macs. I still have a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro. I’d love to have a MacBook Pro with Retina display if I could justify the expense, but the one I have, upgraded with an SSD and more RAM, is really fast enough otherwise. Maybe next year.

As it stands, the tech industry is, to a large extent, following Apple. The iPhone is obvious, as is the iPad. Before the iPad arrived, tablets were mostly confined to ugly convertible PCs, and manufacturers are still trying to push that form factor. Today’s PC notebooks designs are otherwise heavily influenced by Apple. There are MacBook Air equivalents, MacBook equivalents, and MacBook Pro equivalents, all based on Intel’s UltraBook reference design. But how many of the people attacking Apple for a lack of innovation would say the same about most PC makers? Don’t they by and large build essentially the same products with different case colors, slightly altered case elements, but little else that’s new or significant?

Yet another example is the Apple Watch. It’s not good enough, but it still outsells all other smartwatches, even the ones that cost a lot less. In order to put Apple’s product in a poor light, sales are also compared to the Fitbit, which barely plays in the smartwatch space. This is the same as comparing the iPhone with an iPod. But that’s no longer done, since iPods are yesterday’s news with declining sales.

Those who demand that Apple boost volume regardless of price, or cut the price to match that of the low-end competition, fail to realize that only one company is making large profits from all its gear. Most PC makers make very little profits as they descend to the bottom with loads of cheap junk. That may seem a proper way to do business from their standpoint, but it’s not Apple’s.

Even with lower iPhone sales, Apple still does far better than the Samsung Galaxy. Where Samsung hits high volumes is in the low-end smartphone or feature phone market. But those products rarely deliver decent profits. So why should Apple imitate another company’s failed approach? Even as fewer iPhones may be sold in the near future, Apple is in no danger of suffering from red ink, or facing irrelevance.

Then again, there was a certain tech pundit who claimed that calling the Mac operating system macOS would kill the platform. It’s hard to get wackier than that.