Don't Forget Why Apple Fans Love iPhone
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the weekend, my colleague, TheStreet's Jason Notte, broad-brushed Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iPhone as a ho-hum, everyday device every bit as routine, mundane and exciting as "a Kitchen Aid mixer" or "Vitamix blender." Useful, but no longer revolutionary, Notte contends the thrill is gone as investors and Apple fans await iPhone 6.
As I wrote way back in March 2013, Apple's iPhone Does Not Need to Be Revolutionary. On the eve of iPhone 6, that statement is more relevant than ever. As is the key takeaway from the article:
... a series of evolutions ... at some point in the life cycle ... add up to a revolution or two.
That's a key point folks such as Notte miss. However, his "miss" shouldn't trigger overreaction from Apple fans.
Experience: The Best Research
I use an iPhone 5 in my everyday life. In late September -- when my contract with Verizon (VZ) expires -- I will upgrade to iPhone 6 like millions of other folks who will combine to open the floodgates on Android's low-hanging marketshare. Just recently -- for reasons I cannot yet to disclose -- I was issued an iPhone 4s. After using it alongside my iPhone 5 for a few weeks, I have an entirely new and fresh appreciation for the evolutionary versus revolutionary dichotomy.
Relative to iPhone 5, the 4s is slow and heavy. Even clunky. It simply doesn't sit (or fit) in my hand quite the same way as the redesigned 5. The battery stinks. The phone gets hot really fast when I run an app that utilizes GPS. For as great as this phone (and its predecessor) was when it came out, it feels inferior to iPhone 5. Because I skipped the 5s -- like lots of people on the same upgrade cycle -- I bet it's safe to say I'll have similar thoughts when I transition from iPhone 5 to iPhone 6.
Along the trajectory of iPhones, Apple has made nothing but incremental improvements. Incremental improvements that -- at different times for different people -- add up to or at least feel like revolution. And that's exactly the way it should be. Apple should not buck that trend with something unexpected that makes wholesale changes to what we have come to know as the iPhone experience. Profound change would hurt iPhone 6 more than it will help it. But that doesn't make the device's release a meaningless non-event. To the contrary.
Apple will sell more iPhones in Q4 and/or Q1 than it ever has in its history. Mark that down. The lines at major Apple Stores on opening day will be longer than what we see at some ballparks in early April. The blowout sales numbers iPhone 6 produces will continue to lift an already resurgent Apple stock price. Evolutionary revolution will ensure iPhone 6 is a hit. Because Apple would be playing with fire if it drastically changed something that works so well for so many people.
In such a fickle, fad-oriented society where fashions come and go in fleeting fits and starts, there's something to be said for a product that -- while no longer fitting the sexy definition of revolutionary -- keeps getting better each time you buy a new one. You perform some of life's most important tasks on your smartphone. Phone calls. Emails. Messages. Banking. Consuming. And so on. You want to know that the company providing the device for these functions has got it down with respect to utility, performance and design. Who wants to relearn something that has become a crucial 24/7 companion every couple of years?
It's a testament to Apple's greatness that it can make only what appear to be tweaks to each iPhone iteration. That there's no major overhaul required. That it took nearly 10 devices before Apple decided to cater to a sizable gaggle of holdouts by producing a phone with a larger screen size (assuming the rumors are true and this happens). This tells me Apple waits until it gets things just right. And it makes me feel good about the piece of hardware I share and do so much with.
If Apple needed to change the iPhone, it would be a sign of trouble. That it will likely blow away its own record for iPhone unit sales (51 million in Q1-2014) with something -- gasp -- evolutionary, strongly implies Apple and iPhone 6 matter more than they ever have. iPhone can be the tried and true device you replace every two years. Automakers would kill for that type of loyalty from lessees.
Simply put, this is the wrong time to be critical of Apple's iPhone. Ubiquity (on what is a very regional level) is hardly a bad thing. If you say you want a revolution, look to another space. Rumor has it Apple thinks it can revolutionize the wearables market. I have my doubts. I'd rather see Tim Cook go hard after the living room. But, either way, Apple should not change iPhone merely for the sake of change.
Tall order, but if it seeks revolution, Apple has to do to a new space what it did to the Walkman, BlackBerry and PC laptop with iPod, iPhone, iPad and Macbook.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.