Just read Hideki Francis Onda’s blog post on some predictions for next week’s big Apple announcement and thought is was a good time to throw my own thoughts into the overfilled swimming pool.
At this point it’s pretty useless to talk about what industry the new tablet is going to dominate or how much better or worse the new iPhone is going to be next to an Android phone or even *shudder* Windows Mobile 7. There is plenty of speculation and rumor out there and I give little to none of it much attention. There are very few people out there with real information or actual insight and the rest of the lot is just quoting or mis-quoting other people who are just guessing.
I liked Francis’s spin on it. So rather that trying to forecast what will be announced, I’ll focus on what direction I think Apple is going to go and what they should be working on. My hope is that this will align well with the announcement, but to be very clear, This is simple wishing and speculation on my part.
1. Apple needs to diversify the iPhone line. I see multiple iPhone platforms coming out. I image this would work like the Macbook and Macbook Pro lines. No, not the iPhone nano. But a diversification of different levels of customer. The iPhone Basic would be a lower cost iPhone for entry level users who basically stick to simple use. Games, Navigation, Standard apps. Effectively a traditional cellphone users who wants to play with an iPhone. Then an iPhone Pro line that would throw in all the bells and whistles, but at a higher price point. A forward facing camera for video chat, biometric security, built in RFID host/slave capability and a high quality camera. By splitting the line, Apple would achieve several things. Greater overall market share by reaching deeper into the low end cell phone market while maintaining dominance at the top of the smartphone market. They can also break away from the annual refresh cycle which should smooth the new purchase and upgrade spikes. The iPhone needs to break away from the new adopter market and find a home that is solid in the mass market.
2. iPhone 4.0 needs to clean things up. More than add great new features, it’s critical for the iPhone to start doing a better job at the things it does now. Push notification is still a mess, with so many applications using the feature, simply fighting over a single pop up bubble and badge notifiers creates a traffic jam and renders the feature nearly useless. Android and even Blackberry handle this much more efficiently and without background processing (which I still think is somewhat unlikely on the current hardware configurations). App management certainly needs a lot of work and Apple needs a way to make things easy for novice users while improving the experience for power users. The current interface hasn’t changed much since the days before the app store and if the iPhone can easily manage thousands of songs, it should be easy to navigate and find an app out of more than a few dozen.
3. Customization. Everyone else is moving full steam into skinning and customizing your UI to match your personality. I understand the iPhone shying away from this for the first year or so as it needed to create the iconic image that is now recognizable (and imitated) now all over the world. Of course, now that the iPhone has reached the top of the heap, it no longer gets the “it’s cool cause it’s rare” crown. The next step beyond this is customizable user experiences. Having an iPhone no longer makes you cool, but having one that looks like no one else’s might (not really, but people think it does). Firefox now has personality and Google chrome has themes. It’s time for Apple to open up customization on the UI.
Now to finish off some thought on the iPhone’s future in Japan. I think it goes without saying that Softbank has done Apple a solid here in Japan. The success of the iPhone in Japan is through no small part due to the concessions made to Apple by Softbank to allow the iPhone to be itself here rather than try to fit into the narrow traditional mobile structure that has existed in Japan. The advertising blitz and well executed sales channel has also contributed greatly to the overall positive image of the iPhone held by the Japanese consumer. While it isn’t on everyone’s wishlist, everyone knows what it is and generally people think it’s cool. This is contrasted greatly with the planet killer craters left in the landscape by Docomo’s failed smartphone launches. I do not see Apple and Docomo pairing up anytime soon,for no other reason than I don’t think Docomo is capable of both having and executing a good idea. Rumors abound about Apple moving over to Verizon and from what I hear about the general dissatisfaction with AT&T I am hardly surprised, but at this point in the game Apple has little to gain by partnering with the big “D” in Japan. Of course an internet mobile device powered by Emobile would certainly get my interest.
We still have a few more days until the big announcement, but I think the general consensus is that interesting things are on the way. I’ll be following the announcement live and you can check back to this website to hear more analysis on the impact of the news, particularly on how this will effect us here in Japan as soon as it hits the web.