Have Apple stopped innovating?

iPhone Closeup

It seems all news articles about Apple now revolve around one of three things; Apple suing Samsung or Samsung suing Apple; Will we see a smaller iPad?; iPhone 5 rumours and release dates.The Apple / Samsung spat shows no signs of ending soon, and does nothing to help consumers or to forward technology and innovation. To me it appears that Apple has changed strategy, and rather than pursue a mantra of ‘be the best’, instead have turned to a strategy of attempting to block others from being the best.

I won’t focus on the deficiencies of the US patent system in this blog, but needless to say, my experience of the UK patent system is that you cannot patent anything that is obvious, does not contain an inventive/innovative step, or is nothing more than a software algorithm or business process. You’d be forgiven for thinking that in the US, you can imagine anything you so desire and as long as you can adequately describe it you can patent it, sit around until someone else invents it, then sue them for patent infringement. I’m sure it’s not this bad, but to the layman that is how it appears.

Latest rumours for the iPhone 5 is that it is widely expected to be announced on September 12th 2012, and become available for purchase 9 days later. Although not an Apple fan (which is probably obvious from this article), I really hope for something new and innovative that pushes the market forward. None of the rumours I’ve heard to date imply that. In fact they seem to imply Apple playing catchup, and dare I say ‘copying ideas’ from their competitors who they accuse of copying them!

Let’s look at some of the rumoured features:

  • 4 inch, widescreen display. Could it be that Apple finally conform to a standard 16:9 display ratio that the rest of the world adopted long ago? Is a 4 inch screen large enough, when compared to competitors releasing high density pixel displays in excess of 4 inches?
  • New, smaller 19 pin connector. Again, rather than going down the standards route that every other manufacturer seems to have adopted by way of a micro-USB port, Apple has stuck with their custom connector, and a whole range of third party products have been launched to support that. A switch to a smaller (still non-standard) connector looks like nothing more than an attempt to squeeze more licence fees out of third parties. Cynical, me?
  • NFC support. This seems essential, but we shouldn’t be surprised if Apple decides to go with their own standard, causing problems for consumers and retailers who have already started to adopt NFC. We can only hope they adhere to the standard, as this will do wonders for raising the awareness of NFC amongst consumers and what it can do for them.
  • LTE/4G support. Another game of catchup where Apple should bring their connection speeds up to that already seen by other operators.
  • Haptic display? This seems unlikely, but if Apple becomes the first to launch a product with a haptic feedback display, this will truly be revolutionary and could cause many to switch from Android devices.

Hardware aside, it seems likely that many new features will not be hardware driven, but instead be software based. iOS originally set a high bar for Android to compete with, but compete they did and in many aspects Android is far superior to iOS. A return to focusing on making software as simple and intuitive as possible could return Apple devices to the forefront of mobile innovation and go someway to fulfilling Steve Jobs – dare I say it – ‘anti-competitive’ stance of wanting to ‘Kill Android’!

Are you eagerly awaiting the launch of the iPhone 5? Do you plan to buy one regardless of what is announced? Do you use a non-Apple phone and plan to switch? Do let us know.

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