Multiple rumors of hardware upgrades coming the iPhone 5 way have been swirling the web. Key line-up of features includes an 8MP camera, A5 dual-core processor and a larger screen.
Comparison of the current iPhone 4 with the present breed of Android phones certainly makes the Apple phone look meek in terms of specifications. And although Apple's next rendition of iPhone will feature super specifications, Apple's present breed of so called specification challenged phones can still give the likes of Samsung Galaxy S 2 which sport magnanimous features and hardware specifications a run for the money.
Merely comparing phones on the basis of specifications is rather myopic. A recent confession from T-Mobile reveals the fallacy of such specification obsession.
In June T-Mobile revealed that it has about a million iPhones on its network. Apple has not launched an iPhone officially on T-Mobile. Most of the million iPhones on its network are pre-iPhone 4 models. These pre-iPhone 4 models like iPhone 3GS do not have the necessary hardware to support 4G and 3G networks. Users with old iPhones on the T-Mobile network are only able to get 2G EDGE speeds. In spite of this deficiency, users have been flocking to buy older iPhones rather than buying the new breed of Android phones.
A pre-iPhone 4 model like iPhone 3GS costs a mere $49 and comes equipped with a 3.5-inch display with 480x320 screen resolution, 8GB internal memory and a 3MP camera with VGA recording. Compared to this, the Android superphone features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with 800x480 screen resolution, 1.2 GHz dual-core chip and an 8MP camera with 1080p video capture capability.
The reason users are willing to use an older iPhone on an inferior network is because they want to be part of the Apple ecosystem. An ecosystem which boasts of 425,000 apps, iOS devices like iPad, iPod and Apple TV and iTunes infrastructure.
Apple recently revealed that more than 15 billion applications have been downloaded from its App store and it has paid over $2.5 billion to developers. It has over 200 million iOs users. Google while detailing its Q2 results also announced that it currently has 135 million active Android devices, about 550,000 Androids are activated each day and more than 6 billion Android apps have been downloaded. While the Android figures are impressive, Apple still holds an edge over Android.
Apple's iPhone strategy is a part of the whole which includes iOS operating system, Apps Store, iTunes, iPad, iPod, Apple TV and Mac OS X - its OS for desktops and laptops. iPhone's success can be gauged only within the parameters of this holistic ecosystem.
When Apple sells an iPhone or any iOS device it sells the whole ecosystem.
Apps available in its Apps Store can be accessed by a tablet, the iPad, an iPhone and an iPod. A user has multiple avenues to enter this ecosystem with the cheapest entry point being the $49 iPod shuffle.
The iPad, iPhone and iPod are a medium to play content and apps that Apple sources from third-party. And to facilitate the supply of these resources to its users it has its iTunes infrastructure which makes download and purchase a simple exercise. It is also a repository of credit card details which users provide to make transactions.
In 2007, Bloomberg reported that major TV networks sold more than 50 million shows through iTunes over a two year period. Over 2 million movies were sold in 2006 and over 2.5 billion songs from labels like EMI, Universal and EMI were sold.
It has also added a cloud-based locker facility, the iCloud, to this ecosystem. It allows users to store music, documents, photos, calendars and apps in the cloud which can be accessed from any of its devices.
Apple also offers a unified experience across all its iOS devices. Thus, users with an iPod touch can easily graduate to an iPad, as gestures and UI used on both the devices are similar. In fact Apple has imported a lot of key features from iOS into its soon to be released Mac OS X Lion. It recently launched a Mac App Store in the same lines as its iOS Apps Store. It is thus attempting to create a coherent experience for users across its devices. Hence, tomorrow Apple MacBook Air users can easily transition to iOs devices like iPhone as they will be accustomed to iOs ecosystem, as they experience similar functionalities on Mac OS X.
Apple dictates the entire development of a device from software to hardware. It integrates the two in a manner that it can leverage its ecosystem and compliment other devices in its fold. It maintains curatorial oversight over apps that are listed on its Apps Store and even chooses what platforms its devices should support. For example, Apple iPhone does not support Flash as it believes that the platform is not suitable for low power devices, touch interface and poses security and reliability issues. Since Flash does not support its ecosystem of device Apple has shunned flash support.
Currently, smartphones are seen as the next device after desktops from where the web will be accessed. Thus, smartphones feature hardware which can optimize the web. However, in many ways Apple has breached the open web culture by promulgating a contrary closed garden culture. Apple devices are hence optimized to run Apple supplied content i.e. native apps rather than web-apps - thus there is still no Flash support. Apple is aware that a smartphone's hardware which has been devised to augment web-apps will not be fully utilized because of the data caps that carriers are placing to limit internet usage to reduce the load on their networks, which has been exacerbated by media content downloads. Hence, Apple can limit its hardware capacity to tap the web's possibilities and rather diverge it to augment native apps.
In the light of the above mentioned strategy, Apple is not bound to copy the specifications which the current breed of Android phones offer. Android phones on the other hand, are bold in packing super specifications like higher screen-resolution, a faster processor or a higher MP camera, since the Android ecosystem is still not as mature as Apple's. The Android Market is still plagued with issues like apps visibility and lack of proper payment mechanism.
Apple is not under compulsion to add superlative features to woo customers as it markets the whole ecosystem. Also, Apple has a significant retail presence through its chain of retail stores which gives customers a peek into its ecosystem. Apple is therefore able to maintain direct contact with customers which helps it to understand its customers needs better; an advantage that Google lacks. Hence, Apple is able to grade the key features its products need rather than loading multiple features.
Users are therefore lining up for Apple pre-iPhone 4 models as they are eyeing the Apple ecosystem rather than just the phone. Samsung, HTC and Motorola cannot offer such a holistic environment as they don't control the software development and Google cannot either as it does not control the hardware development.