Posted by Matt Egan 10 September 2014
Just another opinion about Apple's new iPhone
I don't know whether the iPhone 6 is good, great or indifferent. But I do know it is Apple's most important iPhone.
So how was it for you? The day after the night before, everyone in the world has an opinion on Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Seven years after the original iPhone launched Apple still has a unique hold on the public's imagination. Samsung comes close, but I can't imagine respected national news outlets carrying stories about a Samsung live feed in the way that everyone has carried stories about the shonky Apple one. And when one of my colleagues wrote an amusing story about the Apple viewing experience, a reader was quick to point out that both PC Advisor and Macworld UK were dragged offline by sheer volume of iPhone traffic. Heck, Silicon Valley rivals such as Instagram and Tinder chose yesterday evening to bury bad news. Only an Apple launch has this kudos.
But I'd argue that since the early 2012 launch of the Galaxy S3 - at the very latest - successive iPhones have been behind the curve in terms of pure performance, versatility and value. Beautifully built, yes, but delicate. And until last night way behind the best flagships in terms of display performance. The original iPhone blew all rivals straight out of the water, and the allround package remains sufficiently excellent to keep most users from switching. But these days that loyalty is like your choice of bank: you don't move because you are comfortable with what you have, even though you know there is a better deal down the road.
That situation will be tested by the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. (See also: Apple iWatch release date, price and specs: Apple Watch unveiled.)
The most popular iPhone
Interesting fact: the iPhone 4S is still the most popular iPhone in terms of usage. Simply, it was a great product that came along at the peak of Apple's market dominance just as smartphones were becoming must haves.
There are nearly 20 million iPhone 4S users in the US alone, according to Comscore, and 40 percent of them indicated to pollsters that they are ready to upgrade. There's nothing sinister in this, but it does make this period a big opportunity and a threat for Apple. It is most unlikely that those iPhone 4S users will remain iPhone 4S users for a fourth year - so they should be prime candidates to upgrade to the iPhone 6. The trouble is that this makes for a natural break in user loyalty, and in order to keep those users faithful Apple needs to offer them something better than the opposition.
Nothing I have seen from the iPhone 6 (and the iPhone 6 Plus) has done anything to convince me that Apple has come up with that offer. There are ommissions such as an HD front-facing camera, there are less than impressive specs such as the display, and there remains that weird build quality that makes a device beautiful and fragile. I have no plans to use a phablet that requires a case. (More here: iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 comparison review and here: iPhone 6 UK release date, price, specs and new features: gets 4.7in screen, faster processor and NFC.)
But it may be that Apple doesn't need to be better than the rest. It just needs to be as good as it always has been, and match Android and Windows Phone rivals in terms of display size alone. And the simple mention of an iPhone-using smartwatch will be enough to keep some fans on side (that's why they announced it so prematurely).
Of course, I don't know whether Apple has done enough. This is after all just another opinion about Apple's new iPhones. If you pushed me I would say that Apple will continue to lose market share, but not at a problematic rate, and it will continue to generate massive amounts of revenue and cry all the way to the bank as Android phone makers struggle to make a profit.
What I do know is that this is a fantastically important smartphone launch for Apple. And it will be intriguing to see just how it all pans out. (See also: Apple Watch vs Motorola Moto 360 comparison review.)