Revolutions can be exciting, but sometimes evolution can be even more powerful. With the curtain drawn back today on what exactly the new iPhone will do (and will be called), Apple is entering a period of consolidating its lead. Its next trick is to outflank smartphone competitors as deftly as it has in the tablet wars.
The news on iPhone 5 Day began with some some telling iPad statistics: The tablet’s market share has grown from 62% to 68% year-over-year through June, despite strong (relatively speaking) competition from Amazon’s Kindle Fire. And the iPad accounts for a borderline inconceivable 91% of all web surfing with tablets.
Why did CEO Tim Cook drop these little tidbits before the main event? To force the audience, as only the great magicians can, to look “over there” at the shiny stats instead of “over here,” where the devices generating those stats aren’t much changed. And to telegraph his master plan.
All told the newest things about the iPhone 5 aren’t really new. It will sport a four-inch screen, catching up to the standard of most other top-end smartphones. It will access the world’s fastest 4G LTE data networks. The camera gets an upgrade. There will be three mics, the better to allow Siri to give you questionable advice. As I tweeted during the presentation: “Tall, thin, dark and handsome. What’s not to like?”
All fine and dandy, but not worth champagne sabering and a balloon drop.
But there’s the rub. Since Apple disrupted the smartphone business with the original iPhone five years ago, it has maintained a significant market share advantage. But it has also seen the competition mushroom and … flatter the company with imitation (sometimes illegally). Most smartphones look astonishingly like the iPhone, and nothing did before the iPhone.