iPhone DNA is more experience than technology

Published: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 6:38 p.m.

As sure as the east wind blows, every Apple release, especially the flagship iPhone, comes with a chorus of homers and haters trying to defend, tear down and otherwise expel perfectly good oxygen in an attempt to serve up credible analysis.

My turn.

We all know that iPhone was, is and will continue to be the game-changing computer of this generation and beyond. Make no mistake: This is a computer that functions as a phone and not vice versa. As consumers, we have either embraced the entire ecosystem of Apple products, or we have rejected it and sided with the competition, namely Google and Samsung. Yes, there are still a few holdouts on mobile computing. You know, the people who still write checks in the grocery checkout, but they don't count. They laud the technology in ball-point pens, not smartphones.

So fast-forward to last Tuesday when Apple

announced two new iPhones, the flagship 5S and the all-new 5C. Even before CEO Tim Cook put down the microphone, the comments began to flood in from bloggers and Internet trolls, none of whom have even sniffed either device let alone held one but seemingly know enough to analyze them as if they were their right and left hands.

Most of them miss the point in their mixed bag of love and hate because they fail to recognize that the identity of any Apple device is not in the particular device itself but in the DNA of the company that makes it. You see, Apple is not a tech company in the same sense as, say, Samsung or Sony. Apple, in its truest sense, is an experience company.

We saw that with the original Macintosh computer in 1984. Mac, with its curious mouse and display, ventured into uncharted territory — namely our homes.

The original iPod in 2001 transformed the way we experience music and, of course, iPhone in 2007 turned the entire tech industry on its head. Experience is the Apple signature. The t's are crossed with perfect timing and the i's dotted with impeccable showmanship.

In this light, we have the seventh and eighth incarnations of the iPhone. One, of course, is an outlier, the new 5C. This device is an updated, yet reincarnated, iPhone 5 with a plastic rear that comes in more colors than a pack of Skittles. Yes, the device is cheaper — by $100 — but it allows a refreshed model to hit stores instead of slapping a discount on last year's technology. The device is aimed at emerging markets where not everyone has a pocketful of plastic to pay full price for a flagship device. Does such a device further the Apple experience? Not really. But it does expand the reach of the experience to millions of new users in countries like China. Smart move, but it doesn't move the needle.

The 5S is the model that everyone is talking about. Haters are quick to point out Apple's unique two-year life cycle of iPhone. Other companies strive for a revolutionary annual refresh; Apple evolves what they consider to be a near-perfect device. Being a mid-cycle device, the 5S updates will be more internal while saving an exterior overhaul until next year. Does such a process work? Wall Street hates it, but consumers will ultimately have the final say.

Internal upgrades are not sexy to the casual user. Gamers will jump for joy that the device has crossed the 64-bit plateau. Shutterbugs will marvel that the camera has a faster lens and larger pixels and health nuts will be happy with the new M7 chip that can track and record continual motion. These are, indeed, major upgrades but are unlikely to garner the headlines Apple received with SIRI's introduction on the 4S.

Enter, Touch ID. This is the so-called fingerprint scanner built into the home button that allows a James Bond-esque scan of the finger to access the device and even make password-free purchases in the iTunes Store. This kind of technology gives users something to brag about at the water cooler. In the end, isn't that what we want? For Apple, it gives them the first steps in a unique technology that could lead to passwordless web browsing and, eventually, secure mobile payments.

So, what is the verdict?

In the end, if you looked at the iPhone 5 as a boring and outdated device, you will probably not like the 5S because the approach was not to “out-tech” the competition. Likewise, if you viewed the iPhone 5 as a near-perfect smartphone, then the additions to the 5S will speak to the way you experience the device and probably tempt you to upgrade.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top