iPhone product line

iphone_6_5_2x

Throughout 2007, I gained first hand knowledge of the first limited release of the iPhone. The upcoming general market release of the iPhone 3 was even influential on my day-to-day work, whereby the user interface designs for the mobile technology/products we were developing had to be overhauled to increase the competitive offering of our product’s user interface. Through tech-savvy Apple fan colleagues, I got the opportunity to marvel and tinker with the first-generation device. Bear in mind, this first release was before the advent of the App Store, so the functionality was limited to what Apple released on the single screen device.

The iPhone captured and has continuously held the public attention since it’s birth. Given the stories that reveal Apple’s approach to the iPhone, and the subsequent birthing of the iPad, the iPhone risk has been widely successful. In leapfrogging the then dominant players of Nokia & Blackberry/Research in Motion, Apple demonstrated remarkable skill in reinvigorating the smartphone industry into the powerhouse it is today.

Android as Google’s answer to the iPhone has been a worthy source of competing innovation but the very nature of it as a free and “open” development framework make it problematic and arguably it’s own worst enemy. The fact is that while Android as a smartphone operating system/ecosystem does claim superior unit volumes, the argument of quality over quantity prevails. Apple’s farsighted approach to development and a walled garden have and will continue to give it the first mover advantage. The evidence is clear that any serious startup will first develop for iOS and later consider Android is testament to this. Already we see, as of 2014, Samsung is beginning to take greater control and follow the Apple path in developing its own software for its flagship smartphone device, and move away strategically from Google/Android.

Blackberry, Nokia and Microsoft have all been the big losers in the smartphone industry. Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia remains to be seen given initial moves for their product releases. Windows Mobile continues to suffer from adoption and subsequent relevance. Microsoft missed the boat which penalizes it tremendously.

Apple’s continuously improvement of the iPhone has been observed to follow an alternating year/release cycle. Coupled with the separate and distinct iOS software development, one intriguing consideration remains to be proven: would Apple eventually create a SIM-less and telecommunications agnostic smartphone and radically change the industry?

The potential for this is a scary thought. Apple also holds back on adding the SIM slot into its computer devices. If Apple hit the button and reduced the SIM complexity across all it’s product lines, it would overnight forever change consumer electronics.

Overnight the data usage revenue lines of the telecommunication industry would be decimated. This move is unlikely forthcoming anytime soon but moves towards this future have already been dabbled in by Amazon…

Samsung & HTC seem convinced that a large screen form factor is optimal whereas Apple’s research and subsequent market releases suggests otherwise. Other technological innovation that Apple is yet to embrace includes near-field communication (NFC) and its enabling proximity/touch interface capabilities. Indeed, Apple’s focus on the fingerprint sensor is a tantalizing move, given it is now Samsung who is following behind in adding that capability in its latest product offering.

The manufacturing capability of Apple via its partners like Foxconn is unparalleled. Here I refer to technological investment into precision laser cutting as a method of manufacturing all the unibody plates. This insight reveals how Apple’s multi-billion dollar investment sets the company up for the foreseeable future as the first mass-scale application of this technology. Apple’s cornering of the market for the machinery further locks out and creates even harder to surmount barriers for new players to overcome.

This manufacturing precision is the secret to the Apple unibody design which is shared across all it’s product lines.

The product design journey that led to the iPhone was long and required a few general releases. Not only that, but technological advances were also required for chipsets to become small & powerful to enable the required functionality with long lasting battery life. Other key supplies & material include the gorilla glass and LED display.

To date, I have personally owned every model of iPhone, having ordered online or queued up as part of the launch events. For the last few years since the iPhone 4, my dad has become the immediate beneficiary of my upgrades, and we resell the older unit.

Unique selling points and value propositions have existed for each model of the iPhone. The original iPhone wowed the world with its overall form factor. It should be remembered that the original iPhone did not have an App store ecosystem! That feature was what made the iPhone 3G the first mainstream unit that got the world’s attention. Until that point, Apple controlled 100% of the user experience on screen. Coupled with iOS 4.0, the iPhone 3GS was arguably the first model/wave that helped the product line become the global phenomenon that it is today. The change in form factor with the iPhone 4/4S also saw the first introduction of retina display or high-resolution screen displays. Antenna-gate was a memorable blooper for Apple, but fortunately Apple saw the error of their ways, only after much negative publicity. The iPhone 4S has had remarkable staying power partly because of its improved battery life, enhanced camera and overall sleekness. the iPhone 5/5C/5S introduced a third product segmentation, with Apple recognising the need for a product to compete more directly with the cheaper Android smartphones. Although the 5S was the big success that stole and absorbed the vast majority of media attention, the 5C has still performed well and served its purpose in broadening the appeal of the iPhone.

With the iPhone 6, Apple continues to refine its fingerprint sensor home button. It is highly anticipated that he 6S that launches in late 2016 will incorporate the Apple Watch’s haptic touch technology and thus negate all those potentials for issues with a sticky home button. The increased size and introduction of the iPhone 6/6 Plus demonstrates that Apple is listening to the market and acknowledges a previous market segment that Samsung and HTC were exploiting.

The latest news that iOS 9 will focus on further backwards compatibility is a sign from Apple that they care about the entire family of iPhone products and that there remain a small but sizeable market of iPhone3/4 generation users.

The introduction of the Apple Watch in part seeks to consolidate the grip the iPhone (6) has on the market. Although creating the dependency of Apple Watch ownership and operation being reliant on an iPhone 6/iPad 2, the market as of mid-2015 seems to have accepted this.