Since the day of Apple’s iPhone 6 announcements I’ve been relentlessly attacked by my friends. They claim that Apple is now copying Samsung, and that I’ve lost the ability to see this due to bias.
The primary evidence for this seems to be the fact that I’m considering getting the iPhone 6 Plus. One particular friend got downright mean about it, saying that me liking it makes me non-rational, and that I’d like anything Apple did up to and including a phone holster (low blow).
That’s the part that’s bothering me: Them not seeing the difference between what Apple is doing now, and what Samsung/Android has been doing all along.
There are a few things to mention here:
- This is one of several friends who now uses and prefers Apple products, after arguing with me for years that they sucked.
- This person seems to be forgetting that his preferences don’t apply to me, so how he can get angry about me liking something is quite peculiar.
- He is also ignoring my quite clear arguments in favor of the device, and the fact that I acknowledged the downsides just as clearly in the same piece.
But in order to do this properly, let’s take the charges one at a time, starting with “copying”. First, a definition:
- When entity 1 has not had an idea about something, sees entity 2 do it, and then releases something nearly identical.
An example would be Samsung copying the iPhone. As the trials showed, Samsung wasn’t even on the map until the iPhone came out, and what they released was blatantly stolen from the iPhone design.
So let’s just start there, i.e. with the fact that the entire industry didn’t even exist until Apple created it. That’s the context we need to be in while we’re talking about how Apple is copying someone.
Let’s take the most obvious charge first: Device size. Apple has been saying for years that their competitors’ phones were too large. They said it was silly. They said they wouldn’t do it. And now, in this release, they are finally releasing larger phones.
Question 1: Are they late? Are they behind their competitors?
Absolutely. Hard to argue, really, and nobody at Apple is arguing it. Tim Cook himself mentioned his competitors when he talked about device size with a reporter, saying, “We released larger phone sizes, like our competitors before us…”, or something to that effect. He clearly acknowledged that they were following.
Now, question 2: Are they copying?
Absolutely not. Having a larger device size is not something that Apple failed to innovate on. Apple was fully capable of both the idea and the implementation years ago, and simply thought it was bad form. They thought it was a fad. They thought it was silly. They thought the competition was wrong, and that there wouldn’t be enough customers asking for it.
They were wrong.
Turns out, millions of people want massive phones. So, due to massive demand, they finally did this thing they could have done years ago but didn’t want to.
That’s not copying, that’s being wrong about a market due to design arrogance.
Too many options
The next charge I’m being hit with is that Apple is copying, and has lost its way, by releasing too many options for its products. The phones are multiple sizes. They’re releasing a 12″ MacBook, there’s an iPad mini, the Apple Watch has many options and colors, etc., etc.
This seems like foaming at the mouth to me. People hate when Apple doesn’t given enough options. The only thing they hate more is when they do.
I have a simple explanation for this. People who recently switched to Apple (like the friends attacking me) feel somehow betrayed, as if the cool club they just got entrance into is now accepting everyone from the neighborhood.
What I believe is happening is that Cook is very slightly opening the valve on options when compared to Jobs. He’s not going to break the valve off and just make anything, but he’s going to have more options than Apple has had in the past.
Imagine a scale of options from 1 to 10. Imagine that Android and its partners are a 10 on that scale. Everything they release has infinite customization options available. And imagine that Jobs’ Apple was a 1 on the scale, with very few options (and if you don’t like it, eat it).
In short, Jobs was too extreme in one direction, and Android is too extreme in the other, and I think Cook’s Apple is going to move slightly towards a middle. Not a 9. Not a 7. Not even a 5. But something like a 3.
Why? Simple: they want to have a play in the Android market where they’ve been completely absent. Android users like thousands of options and thousands of colors, all on their 40-foot phones.
So Apple is saying, “Fine, there’s a market for millions of those? We’ll put out a larger phone device for them and have lots of color options on our watches.”
Not leaving billions of dollars on the table is simply good business. We can argue all day about whether Jobs would have released the larger phone or not, but based on how many people wanted the larger phone he simply would have been wrong not to. Jobs was famous for being right, not for not being wrong.
The important thing here is that Apple is still focused on innovation that we don’t see from these other companies that they’re supposedly following.
Samsung seems to think that putting a kickstand or a giant whip antennae on their phones is innovation. They’re all about gimmicks. The Note is both larger and wider than the iPhone 6 Plus, and is virtually impossible to hold in one hand. And their implementation of features always feel partially cooked at best.
Apple, on the other hand, just revolutionized the credit card industry—in a release that wasn’t even about that. They just made NFC into something useful. I live in the Silicon Valley and I’ve never seen a single person pay using an Android phone.
Apple just took a technology (NFC) and made it into something millions of people will use every day instead of just bolting it on two years ago so they could say they had it. That’s the difference between adding features and innovating.
Then they did the Apple Watch. Did they copy that? Did they follow? Lots of other people have watches out. Why was that not copying?
Because they did it right, that’s why. And they advanced it far beyond where the industry is today. It’ll be the same when they announce their TV, which I’m guessing will happen in 2015 after the Apple Watch launch.
There are places where Apple is actually behind with regard to true innovation, where Android or one of its vendors are ahead. I’d put Google Now in that category. I think Siri is strong, but Google Now is breathtaking.
But in the overwhelming majority of cases, Apple continues to lead from miles ahead. For the larger device they simply decided they were wrong about the form factor and are now going after millions of Android customers. I’m imagining the headline from naysayers:
Apple foolishly makes a device just because millions of people can’t wait to pay money for it.
Apple was wrong about the device size issue. No question. They let their design sensibilities overpower the market research, and now they’re eating a Big-Bird-sized crow.
But don’t be confused: they’re either the only ones innovating or the only ones doing it well. Here’s what they’re releasing in just the next few months:
- A complete reworking of the credit card payment system
- You can now pick up and resume activities between mobile and desktop
- You can now receive regular (non-VOIP) phone calls on your laptop/desktop
- You can now receive regular (non-Messages) text messages on your laptop/desktop
- You can now pay for things wirelessly using your watch
- You can now send voice or video via “text” message without leaving the native application
Sending one-time tokens instead of credit card information? Answering your regular mobile phone on any Mac? Being able to do regular SMS from the native texting app? Being able to move between your Macs and your mobile devices and pick up where you left off? Sending voice or video right from your texting app?
When was the last time anyone but Apple made an innovation of this type?
So what was the point of all this? Oh, yeah. My answer to the question is simple:
No—Apple isn’t copying Samsung.