As a tech journalist, you end up dealing with your fair share of smartphone launches. That’s because smartphones drive this market, and you can’t avoid them. You remember some, you forget most. One of the first smartphone launches I wrote about was the Apple iPhone 4S in 2011. It launched on October 4, 2011 with Tim Cook, the newly appointed Apple CEO on stage, showcasing the new iPhone.
The iPhone 4S was introduced with its 8MP camera, ability to record 1080p videos, and yes, Siri. There was a fair share of criticism too. But the iPhone 4S launch followed something bigger, the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011. Thus began the rigours of the news cycle, that inevitably follow such events.
Cut to 2017. Apple’s iPhone has turned 10, and this year is supposed to be the big one. The iPhone 8 or iPhone X as people keep calling it, is promising something new, something exciting. Also analysts are predicting this iPhone will boost Apple’s sales in 2017. But a lot has changed in the last ten years or so.
If 2011 was just the beginning of the smartphone obsession for some of us in India, 2017 is the time when smartphones are the go-to device for most of us. India is coming online via smartphones, and there’s no dearth of affordable options. But look whichever way, Apple’s iPhone spawned an entire industry around.
Sure in India, most people can’t afford an iPhone. However, it would be fair to say, that iPhone is the smartphone that most people aspire to own. It’s also the phone around which everyone has an opinion, irrespective of whether they’ve used it or not.
This probably explains why at every smartphone launch, whether from a Chinese smartphone company or even Indian companies, there’s this need to point out: “Look we are offering more value for money than the Apple iPhone”. Whether this turns out to be true or not is up for debate, but iPhone is the device that continues to set the standards.
Be it Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch, the latest OnePlus 5, Xiaomi’s Mi flagships, the iPhone comparisons are ever-present. As a journalist, you can’t miss out on these during the presentations. There’s the camera comparison, the talk of octa-core processors, better displays, sleeker designs, less bezel space, more megapixels. For a long time, companies would boast about how they have a 16MP, 20MP camera, while iPhone 6 remained at 8MP. All to convince users that these phones can outdo the iPhone.
The iPhone is also the reason why Google has its own Pixel smartphone. If you go by the media reports, Pixel is supposed to challenge the perception of the iPhone being the only premium smartphone in the market. Yes, Google Pixel does deliver on some fronts, like an exceptional camera. But it hasn’t quite seen the adoration as Apple’s iPhone continues to enjoy.
Of course, one thing you can blame the iPhone for is the standardised design of smartphones. The number of iPhone clones in the market ( OPPO, vivo, and now OnePlus 5 from the back) are hard to ignore. Rose gold, gold, and now matte black, glossy black have all flooded the market.
I still remember the debate, when Apple iPhone 6s in Rose Gold was launched. Too pink, some said. Now that colour is all over. Nokia (the original) might have tried with Yellow, Blue, Orange in the Lumia series, but they never quite inspired as many clones as Apple’s iPhone.
All of this isn’t to say Apple iPhone is the best smartphone in the world, and that everything else is terrible. The competition has caught up, and most users do want something which doesn’t cost quite as much, but delivers a smooth performance. But for the competition, the perception that the iPhone inspires is still something they’re trying to beat.