Umm, Is Your iPhone Losing Its Edge?

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Iphone_Uncool_IntroDesigned by Austin Watts.
Let's face it, the world has been infatuated with the iPhone since its launch in 2007 — and we can’t deny that we, too, fully and blissfully, got high on the supply. From day one, the iPhone experience was like nothing we had ever seen. Those who were hearty (or crazy!) enough to stand in pre-launch lines for hours or days beforehand were treated with coffees, pastries, and all manner of freebies. We made friends with fellow line-sitters, bonding over the sleek, intuitive design, game-changing features, and the "magic" of the touchscreen. You didn’t have to be a tech genius to own an iPhone; there was beauty in its simplicity...and extreme satisfaction in the fact that you were partaking in a digital seismic shift. And, when time finally came to make the first purchase of the day, there was music! Cheers! Paparazzi! High-fiving Apple employees to welcome you through those seamless, sparkling glass doors. There were balloons, for God's sake!

As with any long-term relationship though, the road we’ve strolled with the iPhone has not always been rosy. The highs were really high — over-the-air updates, the 8MP camera, Siri’s wry humor. But the lows have been pretty darn low, too — Ping, Apple Maps, the dreaded Lightning connector. Our love affair began to cool, and we've been wondering if we should stick around for the makeup sex.

Yes, what was once steamy has gotten a little stale. Let's face it, that happens. But, unlike the slim pickins of a bar at 4 a.m., there's a whole slew of new suitors who have come a callin'. Samsung, HTC, and Nexus 4 have all arrived at the smart-phone party with plenty of flirting and favors to go around. And, sticking it out with your old boo doesn't necessarily have to be the only game in town. So, let's take a look at the options out there, shall we? Read on for the three reasons you might want to reconsider that iPhone in your hand.


Iphone_Uncool_PAGE_2Designed by Austin Watts.
It's Got Your Love On Lockdown
There’s no arguing that forgetting — or worse, losing — your iPhone can cause an epic panic attack, no joke. It’s become an extension of ourselves; our whole lives are in there. And we’ve become accustomed to connecting with the whole world —fast! — with just a few swipes and taps. But, are we blinded by convenience? While the iPhone allows us to do so many things, the truth of the matter is, we’re operating within a beautifully designed garden oasis that just so happens to be surrounded by looming concrete walls. Apple’s got our love on total lockdown.

And, people are starting to realize it — and react to it. Marissa Vosper, a senior strategist at the brand consultancy Wolff Olins in New York City, recently traded her iPhone for a Samsung Galaxy S4. "I think it really happened with Apple Maps," she says. "And I was too slow to understand that I shouldn’t update my phone, and so I had Apple Maps and I got really upset with it – it felt like a clear sign that Apple doesn’t have my back. It felt like they were forcing you into something, and I had never felt that way about the iPhone before. It kind of ruined my trust."

Beyond that feeling of betrayal, there are numerous easy, functional reasons to question the iPhone, like the battery — both its longevity, and the fact that you can’t switch it out on your own, like with other smartphones. Once your battery goes, there’s no recourse except to send it in for replacement (inconvenient) or upgrade (costly). Most iPhone owners have a story or two about the phone's power supply, but few go so far to stay juiced as Dave Morin, founder and CEO of Path (and an early member of the Facebook team), who actually carries two iPhones — one for the morning and one for night use — so he doesn’t “have to worry” about ever running out of battery life. It’s a bit extreme, but for a busy CEO, a necessary evil. Or is it? Couldn’t Mr. Morin simply switch to another device that has a better battery, or one that allows you to pop in a new one when needed?

A recent study performed by U.K. consumer research group, Which?, shows there are a number of phones that beat the iPhone in battery tests, including Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia Z, both of which allow the owner to replace the battery him or herself. Yet we continue to buy up external battery packs, portable chargers, and expensive (and bulky) specialized battery cases to extend the life of our iPhone. Devotees might say it’s a personal style choice to carry around a well-designed, unibody iPhone, but others would counter that it’s simply impractical.

The same complaint could be made about storage. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nokia Lumia 1020 come with expandable memory options, allowing you to load up your device with all the music, movies, and photos you can handle, while Apple forces you to choose your storage size on day one, and stick with it. To be fair, the iPhone offers up to 64GB of onboard storage (which is more than enough in our opinion). But, you’ll have to throw down $399 (plus taxes, fees, and a two-year contract) to get there. That’s one expensive memory boost.

Those are just a few of the ways that Apple keeps its iPhone owners tied down from a hardware perspective. They’ve also attempted to get us locked down in its software ecosystem over the years, but ultimately came out the other side with a handful of epic failures. Apple Maps comes to mind as a recent example, an iPhone app that The New York Times’ David Pogue called “an appalling first release,” due to its lack of accuracy. Fancy 3-D Flyover features and turn-by-turn navigation don’t mean a thing if you can’t rely on the app to actually get you where you need to go. And remember Ping, the music-focused “social network” that Apple stubbornly incorporated into iTunes 10 back in 2010? Instead of simply integrating popular and widely accepted platforms like Facebook and Twitter as sharing options, Apple tried to keep people confined to its ecosystem by promoting Ping as its own social network. A misstep from the start that lasted a mere two years.

Steve Jobs once famously told BusinessWeek that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That may have been the case when the iPhone had few worthy competitors, but now that there are so many more fantastic, futuristic, and feature-packed smartphone options out there, is it time for Apple to start loosening the leash?
Iphone_Uncool_PAGE_4Designed by Austin Watts.
The Mystery Is Gone
Some might conclude that it’s how an iPhone makes you feel that keeps us coming back for model after model. But, do all our sentimental reasons for loving the iPhone still hold true, or are we just living in the past?

The iPhone itself has become predictable over the past few release cycles. We know what to expect with each new launch (including the timidly upgraded “S” named iPhones). It’s a pattern that Apple has perfected since the iPhone 3G. In fact, we already know what to look out for in the next few releases (as well as their timeframes): The iPhone 5S and/or iPhone 5C is slated to be announced this fall (5S coming stocked with a higher-res display and a better camera, the 5C being the “cheap” or “colorful” plastic iPhone targeted at emerging and budget markets), and the iPhone 6 sometime in spring or summer 2014.

And, how would we know to expect these features and release dates? Leaks. In the early iPhone days, we needed them because we didn't know what to expect. Apple didn’t need to hold press conferences months in advance of a launch to try to drum up interest like their competitors did, and it was for this reason that the “Jesus Phone” was the only thing on your mind every summer. They would literally ship the day the announcement was made. But now? You have a good idea of what’s coming months beforehand due to leaked product images, phones sloppily left in bars and sold to online publishers, and third-party accessory manufacturers posting their wares weeks before the next-gen iPhone is announced. Honestly, it kinda takes the sparkle out of the relationship. And, while it’s not strictly Apple’s fault that these leaks happen, they sure do happen a lot more than they used to. Almost makes you feel like a few of them are intentional. And maybe, just maybe, cracking down on these leaks would help bring the excitement back to our love affair with the iPhone — y'know bring a little mystery back to the bedroom. Of course, so would mixing things up with those release cycles.

Continual iPhone leaks coupled with predictability make you wonder if Apple has lost its mojo, overall. Consumer sentiment toward the brand may not be down, but its latest round of ads dubbed “Designed by Apple in California” are a stinker with viewers. Boston University advertising professor, Edward Boches, recently told Bloomberg that the ads make it hard for Apple not to come across as “self-indulgent,” since the spots are more about them than their products. Could Apple be trying to compensate for its low stock prices and “uncool” turn by reminding people why they love — or should still love — the company? We’re just not sure that level of adoration exists in new buyers anymore. The iPhone is still the device all other devices are compared to. Of course, so was Blackberry at one point in time, and it seems that Apple may be heading down the same path: failing to innovate, becoming predictable — and let’s face it — kinda boring.

That's all well and good, but there's one real curiosity killer Apple can't do anything about — owning one no longer means you’re a part of an exclusive club that caters to those willing to wait, spend, and sacrifice to get their hands on one. Backorders are a thing of the past, the price is the lowest it’s ever been, and you can get one through any carrier. Hell, you can even get one on a prepaid plan. When anyone can have something, it just isn't as sexy. Remember when the iPhone was a pricey investment that you could only get after waiting in line or waking early to “Add to Cart” at 6:00 a.m. EST? Sure, people bitched about it being scarce and only on one network, but they still wanted it. Nay, they needed it. Now? It’s an everyday commodity.
Iphone_Uncool_PAGE_5-1Designed by Austin Watts.
There Are Plenty Of Other Smartphones In The Sea
We’ll admit that we’ve been happy living in Apple’s walled garden for a long time, but competition is stiff these days. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S III outsold the iPhone in Q3 2012, which has never happened before, like, ever. Is this a telltale sign that the iPhone is on its way down? We asked around to see why iPhone users might be dropping their iPhones in favor of a new device and we received a garden variety of responses. Everything from battery life to screen size, dropped calls to call volume was covered. Richard Bird, a busy VP at JP Morgan Chase, made the jump from the iPhone 4 to a Samsung Galaxy Note II and says that the combination of better battery life, bigger screen, and onboard storage capabilities is the “closest thing to complete personal and work convergence that I have ever been able to achieve with a device.” He won’t be switching back anytime soon.

Sam Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Agency, runs a Mac-only, Google product-friendly marketing shop and began using a Nexus 4 to develop an Android app for a client. The seamless integration of Google App products like Drive, Gmail and others, converted him from iOS to Android over time. He’s even ditched his iPad for a Nexus 7.

Eric Younan, a director at Chaldean Community Foundation, switched way back in the summer of 2011 because Verizon was launching its 4G network and the iPhone was only capable of 3G speeds. He hasn’t turned back since.

Twitter experience designer Paul Stamatiou went so far as to write an entire manifesto about his newfound love affair with Android — and his disillusionment with the iPhone. His main points? He loves the larger screen, he mostly relies on Google services (GMail and Google search — in addition to Android-only perks like Google Now), and user-friendly, easy-to-organize notifications.

Similarly, Vosper isn't blind to the fact that the app offerings just aren't as robust outside of Apple's App Store, and more importantly to her, that "the Instagram experience is kind of crappy. I love Instagram, but uploading photos is just a weird, different experience compared to iPhone." But still, she's "not jumping to switch back" thanks to some nifty new offerings that she can't get on the iPhone, like "the swipe to text functionality is really cool and so is the iTracker technology – which sometimes works sometimes doesn’t. Basically, when you're reading an article, it senses that your eyes are reading it and when you look down it scrolls for you. Essentially, this phone is a little more crazy-tech, whereas iPhone is more straightforward."

Stories like these come by the handful, but the one thing they have in common is that the iPhone just wasn’t living up to their needs and expectations. No one really seemed to care if the iPhone was “cool” or not — it was all about performance. And isn’t that why we buy a smartphone to begin with? Apps that help make our lives easier, the ability to stay connected to friends and family wherever we might be, an entertainment device when we need it and a place to store information. In our experience with the iPhone, we’ve had to sacrifice at least one of those important features for the “cool” factor. And now? That just isn’t as cool.