Apologies to anyone who follows my Twitter feed yesterday. I had a bit of a moment, inspired by a talk I saw Jon Burkhart give at Silicon Beach on the subject of newsjacking. Jon talked about how there is an opportunity to use popular news events to change the story through social channels, and there isn’t a bigger popular news story these days it seems than the launch of a new Apple product. Well, possibly some sort of personality sex scandal, but it would be a foolhardy marketer who tried to newsjack one of those.
The point I was trying to make in a somewhat hamfisted way was that Apple product launches these days aren’t what they used to be, and in the case of yesterday the content was so well leaked as to mean that there was little actual new announced at the event itself.
My short analysis of what did get launched yesterday was two new variants: a new expensive phone ( the 5S) and a new cheaper phone particularly aimed at expanding market share in new markets (emerging economies like China, and the lower end of established markets where people are making first steps to smart phones- both areas dominated today by Android devices).
What can we learn from such announcements? Well, most importantly, that the mould for smartphone design is now pretty set. These incremental changes aren’t any great revolution. My hunch is that the next great change won’t be in a device called a smartphone.
The second is more interesting: that Apple appear to be reverting to type as a technology company. The big new thing in the 5S appears to be fingerprint recognition. That’s nothing new: many of you will have had such functionality (probably unused) in laptops in the past. Apple are expert in taking established yet unpopular tech and making it fort the masses, but with Jony Ive claiming it’s not merely tech for tech’s sake. I smell a rat: it’s a bit like when a car dealer uses the phrase “To be honest, guv.”
The fingerprint technology is described like this in today’s Mail Online:
“Touch ID works by encrypting the fingerprint, which is secured inside a ‘secure enclave’ or port.”
Now that might be a bad journalist interpretation, but it’s the sort of techno babble that appears to be lifted straight from a press release.
Making biometric security a big party in product evolution for their products I’d say is a big gamble for Apple. First of all, they’ve over recent years made it a non-issue for consumers by claiming security is just inherent in their products. But I also can see the following news narratives in the coming months:
“Users locked out of their iPhones” with photos of mournful mothers who couldn’t unlock their phones when they needed to make an emergency call.
“My son unlocked my iPhone” with picture of mournful father holding an outrageous phone bill.
“Hackers target iPhone fingerprint security” just because they will now.
And finally “iPhone gave me finger cancer” just because the world is blessed with the Daily Mail.
I’m not saying that any of those things will actually happen, but the stories may well run nonetheless.
The various versions of the iPhone will continue to sell like the proverbial. It feels like there’s little news out of any of this, though… Except possibly in the future.