Missing the Point: Innovation is not a checklist

by Uluroo — 29 January 2018

Five minutes, forty-eight seconds! A new record!

Reset the timer, because someone just claimed that Apple doesn't innovate anymore!

This time, Jurica Dujmovic of MarketWatch is throwing down the gauntlet to challenge Apple's innovation abilities, and he says, "Keep focusing on bling, Apple, and you will continue to decline."

Generally the word continue implies that a given event has been happening already, right? Wrong.

I used to love Apple.

Back when it made the first device in every product category it entered.

Wait.

Its phones were revolutionary, simple to use, and the desktop computer image and video-editing capabilities were unmatched.

But the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone. Jurica, like Uluroo, obviously saw the first iPhone as revolutionary because of how good it was — not because it tried to check off a feature list.

Checking off feature lists is exactly what Jurica wants Apple to do, though.

And while iPad Pro still is, in my opinion, one of the best tablet devices ever made...

Hold on to that thought for a second, because this train of thought is derailing quickly.

there are fewer and fewer reasons to stay within the Apple ecosystem. Most of it comes down to the company losing ground to its competition due to the lack of innovation...

[Screech] [skid] Kaboom.

So Apple doesn't innovate. But what about the iPad Pro?

... which is especially evident in the realm of smartphones.

Ignoring the product categories in which we know Apple does innovate and then twisting around another product category to pretend Apple doesn't innovate there somehow qualifies as analysis. Okey dokey. Uluroo shouldn't really be surprised by anything after the Tide Pod-eating.

For example, Apple’s current flagship, iPhone X, announced by Tim Cook as “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone” is by no means all that revolutionary.

Jurica is forgetting this because he forgot what made the original iPhone so good. Apple didn't provide a truckload of features and say, "Here you go, consumers!" It had, and still has, a focus on quality, not feaure lists. But nope, let's forget about that and ask for a checked-off list, even if it's printed on crumpled paper in a mix of Comic Sans and Papyrus. As long as the list is checked...

Its most highlighted feature, edge-to-edge screen, was already done before, most notably on the Samsung Galaxy S8, plus and Note 8, all of which came out before the iPhone X.

Uluroo's reply to this is So what? The iPhone X's edge-to-edge screen is preferable to Uluroo because if you ignore the side bezels — and Samsung's monumentally pointless curved displays — the iPhone X has a better screen-body ratio. Samsung may have done it first, but who cares if they did it first when Apple did it better? Jurica pretends that first is always best. This is incredibly naive; the first iteration of something is almost never the best.

Morever, this is the first time that Apple used the OLED screen display technology that has been a staple in the Android flagships since 2010 (Google Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S1).

Here's Phil Schiller revealing the iPhone X for the first time:

The Super Retina Display uses OLED technology. This is the first OLED display great enough to be in an iPhone. Traditional OLED displays had great benefits, like high contrast and resolution... but they came with tradeoffs... Brightness ... color accuracy, at least compared to our Retina Displays. The Super Retina Display overcomes all these deficiencies and lives up to all that we expect from an iPhone display.

What Schiller means here is that Apple is not the kind of company that will just throw a bunch of features together to make their devices. They, unlike Samsung, have a focus on quality. They wouldn't incorporate a new technology until it was "great enough" to be in the iPhone, and in Uluroo's opinion, that says something good about Apple's methodology. If you want the exploding checked-off checklist, Samsung is for you. If you care about quality, there's Apple.

iPhone X features 458 PPI [pixels per inch], resulting in a 2436x1125 resolution. By comparison, Samsung’s S8, which is half the cost of iPhone X has 2960 x 1440 resolution (571 PPI).

In a remarkable show of integrity-filled reporting, Jurica links to an Amazon listing of a 64GB Galaxy S8 for $634.88 and a 64GB iPhone X for $1,136.88. Sound weird? That's because the 64GB iPhone X retails for $999 via Apple and the 64GB Galaxy S8 retails for $724.99 via Samsung. But way to twist the pricing to make your point, Jurica.

Second, the display thing probably has nothing to do with this article:

"The iPhone X reportedly has the best smartphone display ever created — better than the Galaxy Note 8's"

See? Feature lists and spec sheets don't always translate to a better device or even a better display.

What about that cool selfie portrait mode? You know, the one that sharpens the face and blurs the background, making it ideal for Instagram and Snapchat? That feature as well first originated on an Android device, most notably Huawei P10 released eight months before the iPhone X.

Oh, and surely the Huawei P10 was the epitome of smartphone awesomeness. Er, mediocrity.

"Huawei P10 review: two steps back"

(In case anyone was interested, the Huawei P10 is a shameless ripoff of the iPhone 6's design, but it's only a problem when Apple uses preexisting features and design choices.)

Nobody says the iPhone is the best phone because it had a feature first. Even the phones that had specific features before the iPhone X never had all the features together in such a quality package.

There’s also wireless charging, touted as “radically different.” Yet it’s another feature that has been present on smartphone devices since 2009 and is available in the majority of flagship Android smartphones.

Nobody cares. For one thing, wireless charging is a welcome change for iPhone users. For another thing, the fact that wireless charging was on phones before the iPhone X does not mean those phones were better than the X. Even the original iPhone, which Jurica touts as innovative, did not introduce a ton of new features. It took preexisting techologies and put them together in a device that was simply better than the competition. That is exactly what the iPhone X does.

Remember that Apple losing its innovation edge has been a long time coming. I started noticing it from the day that first Apple Watch was introduced and the company insisted on putting the spotlight on celebrities wearing it.

Okay, so what? That doesn't mean the Watch isn't a better product that Android Wear smartwatches. Uluroo thinks it's far superior, but you can't prove it's not innovative simply by saying Apple gave a celebrity focus. Any watch is a fashion product to some extent, especially at the Apple Watch's price.

And it's not like Apple's smartwatch competitors have also done celebrity marketing, riiiiiiiight?

Wrooooooong.

At that point, I realized the innovation era was over. The Apple device had become more about style and much less about the substance.

Is the Watch Series 3 being advertised based on style and celebrities? Yes, Apple makes Apple Watch bands that are supposed to look good. News flash: it's a watch. But beyond that, the Apple Watch is still an advanced, well-designed product. If you have to ignore that to make your point, you shouldn't be covering technology.

While this approach will boost sales for a certain group of customers, it won’t work favorably for the Cupertino giant in the long term. Investors shouldn’t be surprised by reports of poor iPhone X sales — and in fact could get confirmation when the company reports earnings on Thursday.

Is the iPhone X "failing" because it's marketed with "bling" or because Apple is still keeping less-expensive alternatives on sale? Uluroo suspects it's the latter. iPhone production cuts are not a new thing. They happened with the iPhone 7. And the iPhone 6s. And the iPhone 6.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that Apple may “kill off” the iPhone X this summer due to the poor sales.

Uluroo thinks it's probably because the iPhone X, presumably at a lower price later this year, would cannibalize the sales of newer iPhones.

That goes hand in hand with the survey made by CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Report Partners), which states that both iPhone X and iPhone 8 accounted for only 61% of U.S. iPhone sales in the December 2017 fiscal quarter. By comparison, iPhone 7 models alone accounted for 71% of U.S. iPhone sales a year earlier.

Do you think it's because Apple has four other generations of iPhones available as well? Of course not. Why would that be the case?

Although the analyst feels the end of iPhone X is due to the display “notch” failing to win over the Chinese customers, I think this is just the beginning of a trend (remember, the “notchless” iPhone 8 didn’t boost the sales either).

The iPhone 8 wouldn't have boosted sales because it was too similar to the iPhone 7. Not every notchless iPhone should be expected to boost sales.

So there you have it.

[looks at front paws] Uluroo has nothing but carpal tunnel syndrome from all this typing. What have you given him?

In an age where innovation is the key and where technology improves daily in leaps and bounds...

The hyperbole! It is literally like a freight train hitting you as an asteroid smashes into the Moon, which then crashes into the Earth! Why do we assume that innovation is key when the supposedly non-innovative Apple is the most valuable company on the planet?

... it’s naive to assume company’s growth can be sustained by rapidly changing the market focus to a smaller segment of buyers that appreciates the “bling” more than functionality.

You know what's really naive? Ignoring the true innovation of the iPhone in order to make your point.

If the company wants to get back on track, it needs to start noticing the competition, working on its feature set and reclaiming the title of the innovation leader it once had.

When was the last time Apple marketed a product based on a feature list?

Never. What Apple does is not try to get their hands on a technology first. They package the existing technologies into a better product. This happened with the Mac. This happened with the iPhone. This happened with the iPad. This happened with the Apple Watch. Are you seeing a trend? It's not "bling," it's quality. If you think Apple needs to check off a checklist in order to qualify as innovative, give Uluroo a call with your Galaxy Note 7.