Apple appears to be on the defensive, and BlackBerry is the latest company to play offense.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, in Australia to defend the brand’s position there, told the Australian Financial Review that the iPhone’s interface isn’t very fresh anymore.
“Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market. … They did a fantastic job with the user interface—they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful,” Heins said, according to a March 18 article.
However, he added, “The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about, is now 5 years old.”
Heins added that the iPhone 5 can’t run simultaneous applications at once, like users are accustomed to on desktops, and like the new BlackBerry 10-running Z10 smartphone can.
“The point is that you can never stand still,” Heins said. “It is true for us as well. Launching BB10 just put us on the starting grid of the wider mobile computing grand prix, and now we need to win it.”
Samsung, now the world’s top-selling phone maker, has been giving Apple a run for its money.
During the third quarter of 2012, the Galaxy S III displaced the iPhone as the world’s best-selling smartphone. The position was short-lived, as during the fourth quarter—following the debut of the iPhone 5—Apple was back on top, outselling the nearly year-old Galaxy S III with both the iPhone 5 and 4S.
But on March 14, Samsung unveiled the S III’s follow-up, the S 4—a device with a 5-inch 1080p high-definition display and even more new-to-the-industry features than its predecessor boasted.
The day before, Bloomberg and the The Wall Street Journal each ran interviews with Apple’s normally tight-lipped senior vice president, Phil Schiller, who in an uncharacteristic interview talked up the success of Apple and the flaws of Android.
In Samsung, Apple finally has a competitor to really worry about it, and the decisions by Apple—and rumors of upcoming products—suggest those worries are very real to Apple. With the iPhone 5—after Samsung helped to make consumers accustomed to 4-plus-inch displays—Apple for the first time grew the size of its smartphone’s display. After originally bashing the 7-inch tablet form factor, Apple last year introduced a 7-inch tablet (albeit one with dimensions not quite like Samsung’s or anyone else’s). In addition, Apple is said to be preparing a less-expensive model that will enable it to compete at price points where Samsung plays but Apple hasn’t been able to, generations-old technology aside.
If via his interviews Schiller intended to convey that Apple wasn’t afraid, he accomplished quite the opposite.
Schiller called fragmentation in the Android world “plain and simple,” and pointed out the benefits Apple offers by controlling both its hardware and software.
“Our products are innovative and customers are buying them,” Schiller said, according to Bloomberg. He added that Apple attracts four times as many Android smartphone owners to iPhones as it loses to rivals, and that Android phones are often given away free, as a “replacement” for a feature phone.
On March 16, Apple also sent out an email to tell people that “Loving [iPhone 5] is easy. That’s why so many people do.” The next day, the iPhone 5 turned 6 months old—a milestone that many consumers might consider past the freshness date.
While Samsung is immediately in Apple’s rear view, the reminder from a reinvented BlackBerry that Apple needs to do some reinventing of its own likely wasn’t so welcome in Cupertino.
“History repeats itself,” said Heins. “The rate of innovation is so high in our industry, that if you don’t innovate at that speed, you can be replaced pretty quickly.”