Love him, hate him, or even if you didn’t remotely care about him, Steve Jobs made Apple relevant. In the modern Apple era, he had a great track record of popularising genres of consumer tech. To date, Tim Cook has only helmed iterative hardware refreshes. For better or worse, his best ideas so far have been changing the colour of a phone to gold, and not releasing a smartwatch.
It might not be great when a company viewed as a prime innovator in the tech world (whether or not that’s actually the case) is helmed by someone whose best moves so far have been not making a product, and picking a colour out of the Crayola box. However, the iPhone 5S and 5C launch event showed that’s precisely what Apple has done since the loss of Jobs. Apple’s stock dropped around 5 per cent after the event, and that’s where it remains at the time of this writing. That’s not a huge drop, but it does show that the market didn’t care very much about the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, and perhaps it didn’t appreciate the lack of anything else.
One thing to remember, though, is that the phones Apple introduced on Tuesday weren’t supposed to be innovative, but the new colours and fingerprint scanner made the devices seem newer than they actually are. The iPhone 5S, for instance, is on the S line of Apple phones. This line is decidedly not innovative. The numerical line of iPhones – the 4 and 5, for example – are the innovative products with the radically different designs. The S line just swings in afterwards and spruces everything up. If the iPhone was a video game, the S would be patch 1.1, while the 4 and 5 would be standalone sequels.
Funnily enough, this time around, the 5S is actually more innovative than the S line has been before, thanks to the new colour options and the inclusion of the fingerprint scanner. However, it looks just like an iPhone 5. It acts just like an iPhone 5 (your thumb only having to touch one key now thanks to the Touch ID, instead of multiple of keys). It’s priced like an iPhone 5, and you likely won’t notice the iterative SoC upgrade while checking Twitter or playing intensive iOS games; Plants vs. Zombies 2, for instance, runs flawlessly on an iPhone 4S.
The reign of Tim Cook has thus far been boring – not bad, but just a shrug. It’s unfortunate that his first reveal of a new product would’ve likely been a smartwatch – a type of device that has so far only been met with that same shrug summarising Cook’s Apple reign. If Apple released the smartwatch, and it ended up similar to all the others, that would’ve been worse for the company’s image than not revealing one and chugging along with phones that don’t really hurt the company if they aren’t radical new devices (since we’re all buying smartphones anyway).
Yes, Apple has been stagnant, but considering the most innovative products in the tech scene right now – Google Glass and the Oculus Rift – don’t do much at the moment, the entire scene is stagnant right along with Apple.
There’s one thing to remember, though. While introducing a comparatively radical colour to a flagship and not releasing a smartwatch are boring manoeuvres, Cook hasn’t yet had the time to do something innovative, and the tech industry isn’t at a place where it can make something truly new. Perhaps we should wait until the iPhone 6 to see if Apple will continue its current snoozefest.