In what would seem to be an odd move, Apple put the focus on their mid-level iPhone today. Instead of continuing the trend from years past, and simply introducing a new model at the high-end, and shuffling last years tech down a price tier, Apple actively replaced the iPhone 5 today. It’s replacement, the iPhone 5c is an experiment on several levels.
Plastic has returned to the iPhone line. Many will poo-poo it as merely a move to higher margins. This is certainly true. But I think it goes deeper than that. The cost will be lower, giving the iPhone line greater access to more customers–especially in emerging markets. Apple made it clear during the keynote that China is a top priority.
The bright, bubblegum colors that the iPhone 5c comes in, will appeal to two markets– overseas (asian) markets, and teenagers. And that’s the point. This iPhone, touting the iPhone 5’s tech, will expand the iPhone’s market and hopefully generate a new generation of loyal Apple customers. It’s a land grab, and no one is suggesting it’s anything other than that.
On a technical level, I find it fascinating. The casing is one continuous piece of plastic, which visually wraps around the edge of the device, and iOS 7 (and it’s redesign) brings that same color right up to the edge of that colored plastic. The point here, is to blur the distinction between hardware and software. I think this is a fascinating thing to do. Since Scott Forstall was forced out of the company late last year, the merging of hardware and software has been greater than ever before at Apple. Today’s announcements made that especially clear.
Much the same can be said for the iPhone 5S. That is, there is an effort being made to move the iPhone away from a real world object which forces the user to interact with a fake (skeuomorphic) interface, to a device with an interface that is more closely controlled real world. The M7 chip, and Touch ID sensor both take in data from the outside world and make it usable in new ways. To me, this is the beginning of a trend away from (or at least in addition to) old input methods such as typing and mouse cursors. It’s natural, unobtrusive, and is handled in the background by the computer. More subtle and refined than, say, Google’s Glass experiment.
Undoubtedly, to many pundits and Android fans, today’s announcements will be panned. That’s fine. After all, on the most skin deep of analysis, Apple merely bumped the margins on the iPhone 5 (with the introduction of the 5c) and incrementally improved the iPhone 5s. But, as I see it, in those improvements we’re working our way to a tighter integration between the user, their senses, and the devices that we use to navigate us through this ever-more-complicated world.
We can now speak to our iPhones with Siri, touch it with multi-touch, it knows us with Touch ID, we can see it in exquisite detail with Retina displays, and it even knows what you’re doing (not in a creepy way) with the M7 chip. This I think is a subtle but important shift in the way we interact with devices going forward and it starts with the iPhone 5S.