The iPhone 5 – How Apple Continue To Test Brand Loyalty

Last week saw one of the biggest anti-climaxes in the history of Apple, as the iPhone 5 was launched to an audience who already knew exactly what it was going to feature.

Unheard of under the late Steve Jobs’ watch, the already-leaked phone matched the prototypes we’d all seen in height and design, coupled with a ‘no-one will really notice’ faster chipset and iOS6 features which are very tenuously classed as ‘improvements’.

Oh, and there was a slightly better battery and a smaller camera. According to the official tech specs, the advertised improved power cell can be proven by 225 hours of standby, 25 more than the 4S, but this is still way short of the 700+ on rival Android devices. And surely this improved battery is going to be chowed through by the phone’s LTE high speed data capability, so a true improvement won’t be seen? As for advertising the smaller camera as a feature? I’m really not sure how this improves the handset one bit, other than admittedly making the device thinner and lighter than before.

And then there’s the connector. Oh dear. Apple has finally decided to sack off the 30-pin connector of old (you know, the one which features on all four of your docks and five of your chargers) in favour of ‘lightning’, the ridiculously-named replacement. Other than saving Apple space on their device, this new connector does nothing to improve the phone whatsoever, preferring instead to inconvenience millions of dock-wielding punters. Fear not though! Apple have unveiled an adapter that can bridge the 30 pin of old to the new connector. The bad news? A cursory glance around the Apple store shows that the bulky accessory is going to retail at £25 and isn’t available until a month after the phone comes out.

As far as technological bollock dropping goes, Apple could well have really done it this time. They must still be reeling from having to dish out bumper bars due to the notorious iPhone 4 signal issues, and the consumer backlash around the lightning connector can surely only result in these adapters being given away for nothing to satisfy furious fanboys?

Another big let-down has already been talked about by app developers who have been getting hands-on with the iOS6 pre-release. Firstly, the replacement of Google Maps with Apple’s own seems to lack the detail of the old, with the map’s usefulness being glossed over by demonstrations of flashy 3d fly-over functionality. Also due to the Apple/Google fall-out, the old YouTube app has been removed, replaced by a money-making ad-heavy one.

It isn’t just Apple who are getting complacent either. The UK mobile networks have been jumping on the money-making bandwagon, with O2 only offering 24 month contracts with the iPhone 5, knowing full well that customers who HAVE to have the latest tech will still pay and get hooked into long-term deals.

So, overall, what we’ve got is an expensive and not-much-improved-over-two-years device with the inconvenience of having to buy all-new accessories, a loss of operating system features, and some new earphones which surely can’t be of any interest to those who value half-decent sound quality and so invested in decent lug-hole speakers years ago rather than putting up with the awful bundled ones of yore?

When Apple first launched the original iPhone five years ago, it was playing catch up to a grand master in the form of Nokia. Following the vast improvements to its device, the iPhone 4 truly became a leader and almost made Nokia bankrupt, but now it seems as if Apple is on the back foot once again, this time behind the slew of Android devices from the likes of Samsung and HTC.

So, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Of course there is. Apple die-hards have already been pre-ordering in their droves. The guaranteed 5S next year will also up the ante once more, and there is a massive question mark over where mobile phones can actually go next from a technology point of view, with 3D devices not exactly setting the world alight.

One thing’s for sure, those thinking that Jobs’ legacy has been decimated would be wise to look at all the other times when Apple have been written off; they’re sure to not go down without a fight.

The Techpocalypse 2011

So, it’s been an interesting week for technology users to say the least.

First, we get the announcement that many were expecting regarding the latest iPhone, the 4S from Apple. No redesign outwardly, but inside is a processor faster than before, a new, improved camera and a whole host of other lovely features courtesy of iOS 5. It came with the usual Apple backlash, that after a 16 month wait this wasn’t good enough etc etc, but in reality, what would a redesign do? A bigger screen would cause a massive headache for app developers who would be forced to resize their wares, and the build quality and design of the iPhone 4 was always one that would stand the test of time. The technological changes are easily a big enough leap to keep the device ahead of the game in the mobile market and the phone has since become the most pre-ordered of Apple’s handsets.

Then came more news from Cupertino – that the founder and revolutioniser of the tech world, Steve Jobs, had died aged only 56. We’d all known that he’d been ill for some time but the news still shocked the globe. Never before had we seen such a figurehead in the relatively young computing and technology world and one who had been so visible at product launches and speeches across the planet. Jobs truly was a man of the people, and one who had an idea and the desire to make something of his life that would change millions of others’ lives forever. And he succeeded.

After such a massive blow, this week Apple seemed to have been dealt a boost, after Samsung claimed they held back the announcement of their new handset, the Nexus Prime as a mark of respect for Jobs’ passing. More likely is that they simply aren’t ready to unleash this Ice Cream Sandwich Android OS beast yet, but they truly are the main rival to Apple’s monopoly as proven by their Mobile of the Year award at the T3 Awards this week.

Another major player, RIM, have also now handed Apple a big advantage with the now-global failure of many BlackBerry services including the rioter’s favourite BlackBerry Messenger. Initially confined just to a few regions, the server issue now appears to have surfaced Stateside and if people needed convincing about the imminent iPhone 4S, then this may be the proof they were looking for.

But then came iOS5. Launching two days before the handset on which it comes as standard, the operating system has seen numerous problems as millions attempt to download it and install it on their i-devices. The ‘3200 error’ is trending on Twitter and rather than having some great new features to play with this morning, users are instead left with iPhones in various states of app-deletion and recovery mode loops.

Of course, this is purely symptomatic of Apple and their success. Which other company would see this level of excitement over the release of an Operating System? No-one. The hype around iOS5 is warranted as it pretty much changes the entire way people will use their iPhones. This is proof that Apple have almost single-handedly made the impenetrable accessible and turned technology into that which can be used by anyone from grandchild to great grandparent.

And for that, I think we have one man to thank. Rest in peace Mr Jobs.

Apple – Have They Done Some Wrong?

So, as Mr Sod and his law would guarantee, as soon as I wax lyrical about Apple, I get hit – big time. My iTunes account has been hacked.

I got sent an email receipt for about £7 or so. Straight away I knew that wasn’t me – I tend to only use iTunes for music storage and syncing, rather than buying anything, so immediately I realised that someone had access to my iTunes account and potentially my bank details.

A lot of people panic and start blubbing at the first sign of Internet fraud, but although I wasn’t best pleased, I reasoned that I take enough precautions with my online use that this shouldn’t be a massive widespread issue and that whatever had happened could be resolved, albeit with some amount of hassle to me.

I reset my iTunes password as well as any other website accounts that used similar passwords and tried to find a contact number for Apple. This is where they suddenly become less user friendly than usual. By putting all their efforts into design and in-store experience they are somewhat lacking in the direct contact routes in times such as this. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate why they do it – I can only imagine the number of calls from Grandma Joan they would get saying “oooh lovey, my Internet machine’s been infected by one of thems flu virus thingies” if the number was more up front, but I did actually NEED to speak to them. After resorting to Google searches around the same kind of thing, it appeared that ad-hoc iTunes gift card purchases were the most common Apple fraud. But what had I experienced? Some rogue downloads of Music From The OC Volume III. Typical, I can’t even get a hacker with decent taste or decency.

Anyway, eventually I tracked down a link to an Apple web form and dropped them a line. To be fair, the autoresponse gave all the right noises, telling me I’d hear back soon.

Sure enough, the next morning, a very personal (although obviously templated in parts) email came through from Sarah who was going to personally deal with my issue, and had already reunded the £7, no questions asked. Whether or not it really is someone called Sarah helping me, or if it’s a former brickie called Kev from Sunderland, it doesn’t really matter, it’s that personal touch that is missing from so many other companies that matters.

Anyway, I then checked my iTunes purchases through the software itself. Uh oh, another four sets of purchases totalling £25 each. Starting to get a little bit more concerned, I was re-assured by Sarah’s email, and simply sent her the additional fraudulent orders.

Hopefully this will all get resolved quickly and I won’t have to trouble my bank for a new card. Certainly, what could’ve really put me off Apple has so far made me like them even more. Simple things, done nicely. Why can’t all companies be like this?

Apple – Can They Do No Wrong?

Yesterday the sleep/on off button/whatever it’s called on my iPhone 4 suddenly stopped working. The spring had obviously gone. As I was out and about, I thought I’d take it to the Apple Store to see what could be done.

Obviously it was in warranty as the things have only been out for less than a year, but even so, for some reason I wasn’t expecting an easy experience. Paranoia strikes again.

How wrong could I be. The first assistant I spoke to (forgive me Apple if I’m not using the right brand words to describe your sales staff) registered me for an appointment, explained they were pretty busy, but said they had a slot in ten minutes time. He asked me to enter my name and Apple ID on screen and that was that. This was all done via the nearest display Mac to me. Talk about networking.

He then pointed me towards a lady with an iPad who would book me in. Sure enough, she took my serial number and pointed me towards a waiting area. To be fair to them, they were a couple of minutes late seeing me, but judging by how busy they were this wasn’t hugely surprising. A young chap (how old do I feel) then came over, introduced himself, asked me not what the problem was, but how he could help me fix things. I told him the switch had gone, and without a quibble he explained that unfortunately the only way to resolve my issue was to replace the handset as the one thing they can’t fix in-store is buttons. Not an issue for me one bit. Whether it was to be a re-conditioned model or a brand new handset, this would be one free from the little scratches and knocks that accumulate over time. All fine by me.

Luckily I had backed up a couple of days previously at home, as the assistant mentioned I would lose the data on my phone. I was a little worried, not knowing how much data iTunes actually does back up when you plug your phone in.

I was probably sorted by my new Apple best friend inside five minutes, but it didn’t feel rushed, just efficient. He even offered to dispose of the new phone’s screen protector plastic sheath for me.

When I got home, I went about the usual paranoid checking via Google of what I could expect from restoring my phone from a backup…and then went ahead and took the plunge.

EVERYTHING was restored. To a ridiculous level of detail. Even down to the fact that I have my battery percentage showing. Texts, contacts, even voicemails, all present and correct.

I don’t know if it is just me, but whenever I have had to repair/replace a phone before, I have always lost something. Not this time. A 15 minute restore saw to that.

Okay, so my music, photos and apps weren’t but these could be easily synced from iTunes. I choose to do these manually anyway. And even more incredibly, all the app data also re-synced itself once the apps were back on the device. So, here, I am with a brand new, unscratched iPhone 4, with all my stuff on there, not having to start again on my hard-earned Angry Birds and Cut The Rope achievements, and with an even better impression of Apple than I had previously.

This brings me onto their announcement this week around the iCloud. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is nothing new. Companies have been doing the same for years, but stick that magical ‘i’ in front of it and you wow the unconverted.

So, are Apple just masters of the Emperor’s new clothes? I don’t think so. I think they are just particularly good at taking the impenetrable and making it mass market through beauty of design, incredible functionality, usability and the sense of prestige that users feel when they wield an Apple device. They truly do put the user/customer/client/friend/whatever they choose to call us regular people at the forefront of everything they do.

Good job Jobs.