Apple’s Turning of the Tide: The End of an Era?

It was 2007, Apple introduced a device that would change the mobile phone scene like nothing else had before. The original iPhone was a delve into uncharted territory for both Apple and the smartphone market. After some price tweaking, the addition of 3G connectivity, and a simple redesign, Apple was on their way to an era of making mobile device history. Year after year, blockbuster after blockbuster, they pushed out one of the best- if not the best-selling handset every year.

Fast-forward to 2011; the iPhone is now on every US carrier except T-Mobile. The real competition has begun. Now there’s a level playing field, Android is on the rise, Palm continues to wane and Microsoft is rebuilding their mobile structure. Apple is still producing some of the best sales numbers of any of the smartphone makers, and on top of that, they’re a year into manufacturing their next weapon of mass destruction, the iPad. While Google and it’s partners are attempting to refine the Android brand, Apple continues to succeed in the phone space and is the only real player in this new modern tablet market.

Then, in my opinion, the beginning of the end of this record-breaking era for Apple has begins to take shape. It’s the beginning of 2012. Apple has readjusted their smartphone life cycle, and their coming out with an iPad around the first or second quarter of the calendar year. Consumers far and wide are on pins and needles waiting for the iPhone 5 in the fourth quarter. In Apple’s March 2012 keynote Tim Cook promises that they’ll be coming back to back with the punches in innovation this year. And to their credit, Apple has been fairly aggressive this year. The third generation iPad graced us with its March release. Apple showed off the third-generation Apple TV the same day, showed off iOS 6 in the summer, unleashed OSX Mountain Lion in July, alongside retina display MacBook Pros.

Now, just over a month and a half ago, Apple delivered us the long-awaited iPhone 5, albeit the sixth iPhone released to date. As of this writing, I have yet to writeup a review of the newest iPhone, but I can tell you it’s great. And ironically, only an iPhone faithful like me can say that this iPhone was perhaps more of a letdown than a success…but more on that later. Apple has released this iPhone and right on schedule, there’s some scandalous facet of the phone that’s made every headline in America, and has even forced Apple to take action to shield their all-star reputation in the tech sector.

WIth 4 it was Antennagate and the bumpers, 4S it was battery problems and the quick bug fix release, and with iPhone 5 it’s Maps and Tim Cook’s public apology. Indeed, the heavily-touted Maps app confirmed for us more tech-aware consumers what Apple didn’t think anyone else would notice: Apple hasn’t a clue how to do maps as well as Google. Don’t get me wrong, the Maps app is gorgeous, and its navigational features work and are presented exactly like I’d want them to. But after the release of iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, it’s clear that Apple has a fierce mountain to climb if they’d like their new mapping solution to be a viable contender to the likes of Google’s Android app, MotionX, Waze and others. It starts with minor-league routing errors, to 3D mapping snafu’s, and a little bit of “that’s not a gas station”. In one of my personal experiences with the new Maps app, it managed to navigate me eight miles east of the actual destination, and once I made it to this incorrect address, it continued to re-route me in circles. Not to mention over a dozen of the locations labeled in my area are titled incorrectly, and/or categorized wrong. Imagine being in a suburb you’re not from, looking for gas stations via this app, and being directed to a mechanic. At least three mechanics in and around my area (a St. Louis suburb) are incorrectly labeled as gas stations. I can’t even fathom the multitude of errors like that in this app around the country.

What I’m leading to is the notion that Apple may be headed down a road that doesn’t include them being number one anymore. As an avid Apple fan and consumer, I’m not mad at Apple, I just think it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Apple will continue to dominate the mobile market for a while, but the numbers it’s thrown up in recent years past are on the way out. Apple has already recorded lackluster number for last quarter, iPhone user loyalty is most-likely on the decline as well, and as someone who’s had every iPhone since the 3GS, it’s quite obvious that the excitement isn”t there anymore. I like to feel excited about the technology  use day in and day out. I use Macs, and to me there’s nothing else out there that comes close, not in quality, durability, or style. And while the iPhone has almost always been the best designed handset on the market every year — and continues to be — the innovation by Apple here is dwindling.

Scott Forstall, a name that those who follow Apple’s two or three yearly keynotes will recognize, was gently ousted from the company just a couple of weeks ago. This is the man who played a big part in Apple’s developing of its own Maps system, and has also played a large role in the user interface design and feel in iOS over the years. The vice president of iOS software, Forstall, who was apparently very close to the late Steve Jobs in past years has been removed from his position for reasons I can only imagine. Looking at Android, there’s a lot that Google and its partners are innovating with. Apple seems to be lagging heavily in contrast. The Nexus 4, which is the latest in the line of ‘Gphones’ or Google-inspired Android handsets, if you will, showcases some of the newest stuff Android has to offer in Jelly Bean 4.2 — especially regarding it’s camera app, notifications, and content aggregation in Google Now. We’ve gotten to a point where the infamous data-poor home screen of iOS can’t compete with the rich home screen of Android 4.1 and later.

I’m kind of proud to say, that yes I am an iPhone 5 owner (since release day, as always), but no, I won’t be keeping it for long. I plan to sell my 5, and order a Nexus 4 from Google as soon as they’re in stock. Like clockwork, I’ve been an iPhone owner of the latest version year after year, every year since 2009. I’ve had a white 3GS, a black 4, white 4S, and now a black 5. Every year I sell them in order to purchase the newest iPhone, regardless of how little of an upgrade it is. Now, after less than two months, I’ve decided to make the switch. I also plan on finally purchasing an iPad (fourth-gen), so I’m not leaving the iOS ecosystem completely, and I’m always going to be a Mac user. I’m fairly invested in the iOS ecosystem, but as far as my phone goes, I’m willing to give Google a chance.

Hopefully the stir-up at Apple with Forstall and Maps proves to be enough for them to get it together and get back to innovating. And in other good news, Jonathan Ive is apparently going to be playing a very large role in iOS’s design soon. However, pushing the same phone out year after year has begun costing Apple. I’m sure there aren’t a lot of consumers like me, who are in my exact situation, but with the excitement building elsewhere with Android and Windows Phone, others might begin making the move as well. At the end of the day, I bought my iPhone 5 out of contract, and the Nexus 4 is a contract-less upgrade for me as well. My contract ends in June of 2013, so maybe Apple will have an iPhone 5S or 6 with an outstanding revamped version of iOS 7. And if that’s the case, I’ll be back on the iPhone bandwagon, but for now I’m taking a vacation.

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