Apple's iPhone Lagging Farther Behind Latest Smartphone Models

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-03-28

Apple's iPhone Lagging Farther Behind Latest Smartphone Models

During the time that I was testing the BlackBerry Z10, one thing struck me as I was putting it through its paces. This device was better in many ways compared to the Apple iPhone 5 I’d used a couple of months ago.

The photos I use for checking screen resolution were at least as clear if not clearer than Apple’s highly touted retina display. The browser was as fast as or faster than Safari, and on the BlackBerry I could use Flash when I needed it and turn it off when I didn’t. But mostly it was just easier to use, and it worked better.

But it’s not just the BlackBerry Z10 that’s coming out on top. Nokia’s Lumia 920 has a display that’s at least as good as what’s on the iPhone, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is nearly the same. Now there are reports that when Galaxy S4 reaches the market that its display will be far better than Apple’s. A quick look at the specifications of the phones that are hitting shelves now shows clearly that the iPhone is falling behind. Each of the iPhone’s major competitors has a faster processor, more memory for the dollar and features that the iPhone can’t touch.

Last year in a series of television commercials making fun of Apple, Samsung pointed out that the support for NFC (near field communication) in the Galaxy S3 makes moving data between devices quick and easy. But Samsung isn’t the only company with NFC. The Nokia Lumia series of phones has had it available since last year. BlackBerry has had NFC available for even longer. But where’s NFC at Apple? Maybe the 5S will have it when and if it’s announced this year.

I could go on, but I won’t. There’s a lot more to making a better smartphone than just specifications. After all, you need good design, you need a manufacturer that’s committed to supporting their product, and you need a good supply of apps to make the phone truly useful. There’s no question that the iPhone has a lot of apps, and that’s one reason this device has kept its strong position in the market.

The Galaxy also has a lot of apps and the sales figures indicate that Samsung’s Android phone is outselling the iPhone. BlackBerry doesn’t have the app support that Android and iOS devices enjoy.

Apple's iPhone Lagging Farther Behind Latest Smartphone Models

However, the company has just announced that it has more than 100,000 apps in the BlackBerry World store. Microsoft’s Windows Phone Market claims it has more than 150,000 apps. Both devices have continued to attract developers and both app stores continue to grow.

The iPhone challengers are doing more things that Apple can’t do and doesn’t appear to be likely to do soon. Android now supports multitasking, Windows Phone has supported multitasking since version 7 and BlackBerry has a rock-solid, real-time multitasking OS. Only Apple restricts you to a single task at a time where something as simple as opening a link in an email requires you to open the browser, and then go back and restart the email client.

Again, I could go on, but won’t. What should really concern the Apple faithful, not to mention Apple stockholders as they watch their share prices drop, is that Apple is showing no signs of changing this situation any time soon. While there are rumors of an iPhone 5S, those rumors suggest that it will just be a warmed over iPhone 5 with a few more features.

What about the iPhone 6? There’s no question that Apple will launch a bigger, better iPhone eventually, but when? Will the iPhone 6 see the light of day in 2013? Maybe, but if it does, it likely won’t be before the Christmas shopping season starts this fall. Meanwhile, Samsung will have shipped its Galaxy S 4, BlackBerry will have shipped new BB10 devices and Nokia will be shipping new Lumias, each of them chipping away at Apple’s market share.

The problem for Apple is that it’s stuck between needing to keep the Apple faithful happy, which means that it needs to stay close to its base (as they say here in Washington). But it also needs to do some serious innovation if it’s going to start gaining market share again. The problem with innovation is that it also means change, and it seems like the Apple faithful are happy not to see too much change.

In a sense, Apple is sort of the smartphone version of Mitt Romney. The company can’t stray too far from its base without losing support. But it has to stray far enough to win new support that it doesn’t have now. This didn’t work for Romney in his failed presidential election campaign. Will it work for Apple? It’s a tough juggling act where it’s easy to drop the ball. Apple needs to figure out quickly how to avoid dropping that ball if the company is to stay relevant.

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