iPhone 5: another winner?

Apple’s new iPhone 5, announced yesterday, doesn’t look like a breakthrough. That should help rivals Samsung and Nokia. Yet the changes Apple made to the phone that changed everything in 2007 may still prove significant.

Giving the iPhone a bigger screen is a smart move: after using a tablet – or a Samsung Galaxy S2 or S3 – the iPhone 4 seems too small for photos and video especially. Improving the camera is important, given that the current phone lags behind its main Android rivals.

Some were surprised that iPhone 5 didn’t include NFC (near field communication) functionality. Many in the payment and tech industries mistakenly assume that mobile payments equal NFC, and were hoping Apple would add NFC to the new iPhone. But Apple remains a sceptic about NFC. There’s no consumer cry for it. True, Apple has a record of giving consumers what they didn’t know they needed – the iPad especially. (Innovators don’t wait for demand – they create it.) But NFC remains a solution in search of a problem. As I blogged in May:

… this belief in the potential of NFC is almost certainly misplaced. It’s a classic case in focusing on the technology, rather than what it does, and what consumers and businesses want. Or, putting it another way, the classic mistake of assuming that if you ‘build it, they will use it’.

That said, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the iPhone is losing its position as the poster-child of the mobile phone market. Fans will buy it – I expect to upgrade later this year. But my decision will mainly reflect the fact the iPhone complements my other Apple products: Mac and iPad. In the jargon, I’ve too much invested in the Apple ‘ecosystem’. In plain English, I love the way Photostream shares my photos on all my devices. And in my view, Apple’s iOS operating system is more elegant and easy to use than Android, although I was otherwise impressed by the Samsung S2 that I tried earlier this year. Apple shouldn’t assume that this will be enough to stay ahead of the game.

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