Another new semester, another iPhone refresh.
If you are planning on buying the iPhone 5s or 5c … stop. Put your wallet back in your pocket or purse, turn around, walk across the street, and buy an Android phone. You have literally almost no excuse to be settling for a second-rate product like the 5s or 5c.
In the same breath, saying a thing like that to you, my dear readers, saddens me. I do not want to be the bearer of bad news. I do not want Apple to have hit rock bottom. I do not want my favorite computer hardware and software manufacturer to lose its relevance and fade into obscurity. So let’s, in this article, take a good, long look at the Apple Computer Corporation and think about what brought it here and how it might still be saved. Trust me, it is not as hard as it looks.
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, after the late Steve Jobs was brought back to the company despite his earlier ousting in 1985, Apple decided that its products were too diverse and fragmented. With confusing, poorly differentiated products like the Quadra line, Centris line, Perfoma line, LC line, and the newer PowerMac line, Jobs made one of the only intelligent business decisions ever made in Apple’s corporate history: He decided to simplify.
A four-square model outlined Apple’s new product lineup strategy. There were to be two main offerings: a professional level of hardware and a consumer level of hardware, to wit, the Power-series and the i-series. The simplification allowed for professionals and power users to buy the appropriately titled PowerBook and PowerMac, while consumers looking to live an Internet-connected life would choose the iBook and the iMac.
This strategy continues to work magically well, even in the present-day lineup. With the substitution of “Power” for “Pro” in the desktop lineup and the famous “i” prefix for an “Air” suffix in the laptops, the Apple computer hardware lineup continues to be simple, easy to understand, and very intuitively marketed for its intended audience. Most of us know without even giving it a second thought whether we need the greater power of a MacBook Pro or whether we value the lighter form and longer battery life of the MacBook Air.
The same model should apply to the iPhone and iPad. Just stop, think, and try to imagine why that would make sense given the current flurry of criticisms surrounding the iPhones 5s and 5c. What are people saying? The iPhone is too restrictive; it does not grant users the same freedoms with regard to file storage and operating system (OS)-level app integration that Android does; it is under-powered and over-regulated. Sounds an awful lot like we need a MacPhone. It would not even require all that much change—Apple could simply create a revised, slightly beefier phone following most of the same guidelines that applied to the design of the iPhone, but with essentially a developer version of the OS installed. The usual caveats would apply—the OS may be less stable, apps may crash or not run as expected, etc. At the same time, features such as the ability to open any file with any app and play normal web content would be standard system features on the MacPhone. And for the rest of us? We get the standard iPhone—restrictions and all—but the device just works. For most consumers, that’s not a problem at all. Same applies to the iPad: make a fuller-featured MacPad and a more restrictive-but-efficient iPad.
Apple, instead of going downmarket with cheaper tablets and phones, should be driving its premium products upmarket by adding extra features. Sure, the sanctity of the Apple hardware environment would be compromised a little bit, but if the users who want more features get those features, it’s probably worth it to save a product that has lost its best advertiser. Without Jobs to make us drool over a sexy iPhone, Apple will just have to go back to doing what it has always done best: make the best software on the best hardware, for the widest consumer base possible. Come on, Apple, it’s time for Renaissance round two.