When Apple released the first iPhone back in June of 2007, the world was taken by storm, consumers were amazed and competitors were caught off guard. Somehow this computer company from Cupertino, California changed the game. For Apple, it meant breathing room, competitors where going to have to go back to the drawing board and revise their future plans in order to counter Apple’s latest breakthrough—unless your RIM, who decided to stick to their guns, but we all know how that panned out.
Apple’s “breathing room” started to diminish with the release of Android 2.1, Eclair, which was sort of the catalyst for Android devices and its growing marketshare. Eclair was followed by Android 2.2 aka Froyo, which gained massive traction and for the first time, really propelled Android ahead of Apple, in terms of marketshare. Since Froyo, we’ve seen Gingerbread, Honeycomb (tablet only), Ice Cream Sandwich and now Jelly Bean or Android 4.1. All of which have helped Android gain over 50% of the smartphone marketshare and helped OEM’s like Samsung gain the title of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer. Jelly Bean, for the first time, has really brought Android to the same level as Apple’s iOS when it comes to the OS’s overall smoothness and performance. Something that should make Apple turn around and pay attention.
For whatever reason, Apple has never really seemed bothered by Android’s success—other than the fact they are suing Android OEM’s for patents violations—they’ve simply continued to travel down their own path and continue to do what works best for them. Despite Android’s growing marketshare, Apple still managed to have a massive 4th quarter in 2011 selling 38 million iPhones, followed by 35 million in the first quarter of 2012 and 26 million in the second quarter. The drop-off in sales from the first to second quarter of 2012 has some industry analysts puzzled. Is the decline because people are growing tired of Apple’s iPhone or is it because the rumors of a new iPhone with a much larger display and a new design have spread beyond the tech blogs and into the newspapers and local news, causing average consumers to sit it out and wait for the new device, which is schedule for release in the next two to three months? Whatever the case may be, the next iPhone will surely be a hit, but how long will it last? Samsung is most certainly hard at work on the Galaxy S IV and if they plan it accordingly, they could release it right at the lull in iPhone sales, between May to June 2013, the same time frame as the Galaxy S III. But the Galaxy S III or IV isn’t the only device Samsung is working on, we know there is a Galaxy Note 2 in the works and there is sure to be plenty of mid-range devices as well, to suit all consumer’s budgets. Samsung is only one OEM that is competing with Apple, there’s also HTC, who released the gorgeous and well received One X as well as the One S, One V and EVO 4G LTE all this year and we can only assume that they are preparing another high-end device to thwart off both Apple and Samsung. Then of course we have Motorola, Sony, LG, Huawei and others who are also preparing new phones which will be released throughout the year.
With so much competition, especially compared to 2007, is it time for Apple to change things up and release more than one device per year? Currently, Apple releases a new iPhone, which becomes the company’s flagship device, the previous year’s device then becomes the new “mid-range” device dropping down to about $99, but what if this time around Apple releases the new iPhone in September and then discounts the iPhone 4S, but in February or March kills off the 4S and releases a new, slightly redesigned iPhone 4S, simply called the iPhone S—assuming Apple drops the numbering system with the new iPhone—which features a cheaper processor and components so that it can retain the same $99 price tag? Once this precedent has been set, Apple will now have a new iPhone rotation, with the high-end model releasing in September or October and a mid-range device following every February or March, the iPad can then be moved to June, so Apple can return to unveiling new hardware at their WWDC event. With two phones a year, each with a different target audience, Apple may be able to fend off Android attacks for a little while longer.
There’s only one problem with that plan… Apple’s culture. Apple has never been a company that does things due to their competitors, they only do things if it makes sense and they know they can profit heavily from it. But as the market has changed, perhaps so should Apple. If they want to remain in the second place spot or reclaim the throne, they’re going to have to change and releasing more than one iPhone may be a start.