Talking Tech

Incremental upgrades: Maybe Apple’s doing it right.


[Disclaimer]: This is purely subjective, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

Apple has gotten a lot of criticism over the years for offering very little innovation between each iteration of their devices. Maybe a slight design change here, an upgraded processor there, and a new feature that may or may not be all that innovative. Logic dictates that this philosophy just should not work, especially with an interface as uneventful as iOS. Most users feel that way, iOS users and non-iOS users alike, yet Apple sells a substantial amount of iDevices every year without fail. Undoubtedly, the name Apple has become synonymous with refinement and quality (along with some other terms) so it’s not too hard to guess why they sell so well, but the question is: why does Apple choose to operate this way? Could they have been doing it right all along? Maybe so.

There is a lot of hype behind each new iOS release, and this article is not about why that is, it’s more about the fact that Apple may have a great method of selling these devices; a method that’s been employed in just the right way. The key term is efficiency. An OEM may spend loads of money, time and resources to make the fourth iteration of their phone light years better than the third; they break barriers, push the envelope and bring a shiny new brain child into the world that shatters its predecessor in every aspect. And then there’s Apple, bringing virtually the same experience to their next phone as the last. The thing is that Apple makes just the right upgrades in just the right places, bringing more processing power, upgrades to the camera, slight but notable changes to the design, and a break through feature every now and then. That’s about par for the course for Apple, but it may be good thing. Limiting the amount of raw functionality and features packed into its new devices leaves room for less substantial, yet more NOTABLE innovations. Think of it this way: other companies take five steps with each new iteration of their devices, and Apple takes one. That becomes the norm. People expect Apple to take one step with its devices, so what do you think will happen when it decides to take two? People notice, thus sparking interest in the Apple brand.

Not only that, but it keeps Apple from over exerting itself to produce the next greatest thing. There’s a limit to how much technology can be pushed forward in a certain time frame. Companies that push the envelope too far run the risk of sacrificing stability. Keeping a slow going flow of technological advancements may be boring to most, but it retains high stability for the devices. Apple products have a high amount of stability as the software remain relatively similar with each generation, thus the marriage between hardware and software can mature.

Another reason as to why this method woks is because all of the energy could be put into software instead of hardware. Trickling tweaks and refinements to software is just a tad easier than with physical hardware. Whatever Apple thinks will heighten the core iOS experience can be released in an update. The money, time and resources put forth to produce new hardware can be spared for the most part and channeled into bringing innovation in a faster and more convenient fashion.

People who are Anti-Apple and people who are all for radical advancements with each new generation of a device may see this as a sour blow, but as I said, this is completely subjective and open to opposing views. In this day and age, we are starting to see the window for innovation slowly close, as technology is advancing fast. There may very well come a time when OEM’s simply can’t bring anything new to the table. Being conservative in this regard may do a company good, but only if it’s done right. Apple has been doing it right for some time. On the other side of the coin, however, Apple is running the risk of seeing its very first year of sales losses for the iPhone, so maybe Apple’s luck with this is running out. Bringing very little innovation with each iteration has its possible pit falls. Obviously, staying safe and uniform in the mobile market, a market saturated with color and activity, will eventually bore people and make them switch OS’s. Whatever the case, Apple proves time and time again to be a horse of a different color in the smartphone market, and its method of incremental upgrades shows us that even though the next iPhone may be similar to the one in your hand currently, a lot more thought went into it than you think.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any opposing views? Let me know in the comments below.

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Arthur Brown

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