Apple’s cohesion in mobile, personal computers and digital content is in stark contrast to the disarray that its many competitors in the Android world like Samsung now find themselves. And, as witnessed in San Francisco this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook is prepared to move fast and consolidate this victory
The financial travails of players like HTC, LG and Samsung, which yesterday announced 10pc job cuts, and not to mention Microsoft which had to write down billions after acquiring Nokia, show that none of them are winning in the smartphone wars. Not even close.
This phase of the smartphone revolutionary wars is over and the others players – who made no secret of smelling blood when it came to ousting Apple in the smartphone space – are now in headlong retreat. Apple is the only player to have achieved any kind of decisive victory.
While it has less than 20pc global market share, Apple is the only big player actually making profits from every device it sells.
Watching from the side of the stage at Apple’s special event in San Francisco yesterday where I observed Apple’s senior management, including Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi, laugh and bounce along in unison to One Republic, a few things Tim Cook said only moments earlier gave me a slight chill of recognition.
Apple is out to consolidate its victory. It will do so by ultimately making iPhones more affordable for the masses.
Yesterday, Apple released a whole slew of new technologies – the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus smartphones, a new Apple TV set top box powered by Siri and new Apple Watch devices, materials and straps. It also launched two new operating systems, the TV OS and watchOS 2.
But it wasn’t only the new devices that fascinated me, it was Apple’s deft move to consolidate its victory by locking in a base of loyal users.
Cook noted that the smartphone market is indeed saturated and while Android players like HTC and Samsung lick their wounds, Apple reported a 35pc growth in smartphones sold in its last quarter, while sales of the iPhone rose 75pc in China in the last year alone.
Apple’s cunning plan to keep iPhone users and win new ones
So how does Apple keep growing? It comes up with an ingenious iPhone Upgrade Program. This means that users can sign up to a programme whereby they pay at least US$32 a month and are guaranteed a brand new iPhone every year.
Not only this, but Apple is making it easier for Android users to switch to iOS. Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi revealed that iOS 9 in the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus contains a tool for allowing Android users to transfer their favourite apps over to the iPhone.
‘We have changed everything about these new iPhones’
– TIM COOK
With victory comes great responsibility. If Apple does get users to commit to an upgrade path every year, it has to bring out devices that won’t disappoint.
And certainly the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus do not disappoint. While they are identical in size and shape to last year’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, under the hood they are a completely different pair of machines.
“We have changed everything about these new iPhones,” Cook promised. The new phones come with 12MP rear-facing cameras and 5MP front-facing cameras. They can record in 4K and feature an entire new 3D Touch capability that allows you to use gestures to peek at content, apps or create new actions.
Another nice new feature is the Live Photos technology which allows you to create a Harry Potter newspaper effect by stitching a sequence of photos together. This isn’t video, but stills carefully crafted to even include background noise, like the sound of a waterfall that comes to life when you touch it.
Apple’s march on the enterprise was also embodied in the brash new iPad Pro, a 12.5-inch iPad that features a whole new display technology capable of 5.6m pixels.
At first I was skeptical about a 12.9-inch device but when I got to look at one yesterday the same giddy feeling I got when I first saw the original iPad in 2010 returned. Images, magazines, videos, it all feels more intimate and the technology no longer gets in the way of the content.
“iPad is the clearest expression of our vision for the future of personal computing – a piece of glass that transforms into anything,” said Cook.
“It transforms the way we learn and work and we are partnering with IBM and Cisco to transform how people work in the enterprise.
“We asked ourselves how can we bring the iPad even further. Today we have the biggest news in iPad since the iPad.”
Never mind the enterprise, I thought, the iPad Pro would make a stunning personal device as well as one that can be embraced by artists and creatives. Of course, Apple realises this, and yesterday unveiled the Apple Pencil, a stylus that intelligently reacts to force allowing artists and designers to draw with accuracy, and a new Smart Keyboard that magnetically connects with the new iPad Pro.
‘iPad is the clearest expression of our vision for the future of personal computing – a piece of glass that transforms into anything’
– TIM COOK
The other big news from yesterday, aside from a slew of stylish new silver, gold and rose gold materials, watch straps and a collaboration with Hermes, was Apple TV.
While rumours of an actual television from Apple have been discussed for years, Apple does things in its own way and its own time and is sticking to its vision of turning every TV on the planet potentially into an Apple smart TV.
The new Apple TV has Siri at its heart and users can simply talk to their TV and say what they are looking for or feel like watching. The new TV OS takes a lot of leanings from iOS and features like weather forecasts and settings are eerily similar.
Under the bonnet on all these devices are advances in microelectronics and chips like the A9X chip in the iPad Pro, the A9 chips in the new iPhones, the new 12MP and 5MP camera sensors in the new iPhones and the new remote control for Apple TV which includes accelerometers and gyroscopes, show a technology giant on top of its game.
In the smartphone space Apple is out to consolidate its victory in a clever, more far-reaching way and expect to see the iPhone upgrade scheme emerge to become a scheme that will no doubt be extended to include iPad and Mac devices.
But still there are more questions than answers about Apple. Apple said yesterday that the new iPhones go on sale on 25 September in the US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Singapore.
Apple has yet to confirm a release date for the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus for Ireland, even though some mobile operators like Vodafone are already taking advance orders. The arrival of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in Ireland is most likely to happen in October.
There is still no indication either of when Ireland will get the Apple Watch. The vital Q4 sales season is already upon us, so the question is will Apple bring the Apple Watch to Ireland before Christmas or will we have to wait until the New Year. Only Apple really knows.
But what is patently clear is this: Apple has won this phase of the smartphone war, it is seizing territory as its rivals retreat in confusion and it has no intention of letting go of new users who ditch Android for iOS.