Monday, June 7, 2010

Apple retakes the lead

With today's announcement, Apple has taken the lead back in a big way. Did Apple ever lost the lead will you ask? It depends. First, Blackberry is still a huge player, although they certainly don't look like they are "the future". Android is (or was) gaining a lot of mindshare and momentum - which culminated at the Google IO smartphone keynote (a must-see). It is also clear that Apple was starting to get behind in terms of display resolution, and even battery life - two things that every single user care about.

Today, Apple is striking back with a vengeance. The battery seems huge, and if it holds as well as Steve Jobs says it will, we're very impressed. Note that Steve Jobs did not use any marketing gimmick when the said that the iPad can play video for 10hrs. It can. Secondly, the display improvement is massive. Of course, Android phones had high-res displays for more than 6 months now, so that's about time. If Apple's IPS display manages to do OK in bright conditions, they will strike a big win (the 3GS display does fairly well).

iPhone OS 4 introduces a form of multitasking that should be good enough for 95% of users, although expect pro-Android to criticize it because it comes with some caveats. I don't much that regular folks will pay attention.

Of course, there's the industrial design… Despite all the new improvements (faster, longer life, more pixels) the iPhone 4 is smaller than its predecessor. More importantly, it feels much better in your hand, and I epxect the back to be quasi-imprevious to scratches. The iPhone 3GS now seems like a plastic toy. On the industrial side, Apple benefits from economies of scale that no one else has, so the barrier of entry for using quality materials will stay incredibly high for competitors. That is the advantage of building only a handful of designs.

Finally, there's the cool factor. Most people might not use the video call daily but the video demo was extremely well done, and pretty much everyone was floored by the sign language part - it's true it has never been done by a consumer phone before (in a meaningful way), and this was a powerful moment in the speech.

Competitors are not going to stand still: you can expect Android to come out with more features that use more open standards. Android 2.2 is impressive and all, but overall, whatever mindshare was harnessed in the past few months has been largely lost today, maybe only temporarily because Google can also deliver good stuff.

But there's no doubt that Apple has just regained the "cool" that it had lost during the past 6 months and it is obvious that iPhone developers are going to get out of WWDC pumped up and ready for more apps, paid - or free, thanks to iAd.

It's not really hard to predict that the iPhone 4 is going to be a massive commercial success. Already, a bunch of low-tech people with crappy phones have told me that they will get it. It's a done deal.

Via iPhone homepage

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