Apple’s iPhone 5 is launching Sept. 21, ringing in what could be the biggest technology launch of the year. Moreover, according to some analysts, Apple could sell as many as 10 million iPhone 5 units during its first weekend of availability, making it the biggest smartphone launch this year.
Competitors, meanwhile, will be sitting on the sidelines watching consumers flock to stores worldwide to get Apple’s device. In the meantime, other manufacturers’ devices will remain on store shelves, bypassed by the legion of consumers eyeing only Apple’s products. Indeed, it’ll be a sobering weekend for Apple’s challengers.
But perhaps the introduction of Apple’s own iPhone 5 can be an educational opportunity for smartphone makers. From the iPhone’s design to its launch schedule, there are many ways for competing manufacturers to learn how to create and sustain a successful smartphone brand.
Here are some lessons vendors can learn from the iPhone 5.
1. 4G LTE is a necessity
When it was only the iPhone 4S on store shelves, it was just fine for competing vendors to leave 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology out of their products. But now that the iPhone 5 has delivered it, customers will think less of any products that don’t offer the ultra-high-speed option.
2. Reviewers drool over design
Positive reviews matter immensely in the technology space. If a product gets a glowing review from several sources, it’ll likely be successful. If it gets negative reviews, it could fail. The iPhone 5 earned high marks nearly universally. One of the chief reasons for that was its design: Reviewers adore the way the iPhone 5 looks. Although competing vendors can’t copy the iPhone 5’s look, they can certainly come up with something of their own that’s impressive. Doing so might just help their products get noticed by more folks.
3. Build a consistent experience
Over the last five years, Apple has done a fine job building a brand behind its iPhone. Consumers know what they’re getting from an Apple product because the company has built a familiar experience around its smartphone. Other handset makers, however, have largely failed to do that. To them, pumping out as many smartphones as possible sits at the center of that strategy. That needs to change. Now, more than ever, Apple’s competitors need to create a true “brand” around their products and deliver something interesting and appealing that folks won’t find elsewhere.
4. Say so long to 3-inch displays
The iPhone 5 comes with a 4-inch display, trumping the 3.5-inch flavor found in the iPhone 4S. What does that mean for other vendors? The 3-inch display is all but dead. While Apple wasn’t first to go to larger screens, its move to a 4-inch screen in the iPhone 5 validates the move for all others in the mobile space who must now match or top that in their products.
Retina Display Competitors Are Essential
5. A Retina competitor is a must
The Retina display could be one of the most appealing features found in Apple’s iPhone 5. When using that screen, going back to one with fewer pixels per inch and a lower resolution is unfathomable. So, competing vendors need to match the Retina display. Samsung was able to do it with its 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S III screen. Now, the rest of the market needs to follow suit.
6. Bring on the beefed-up cameras
Companies like Nokia and Samsung have rightfully realized that delivering a better camera than what can be found in the iPhone is a great way to win over customers. Now, though, the companies’ competitors must do the same. Apple’s iPhone 5 has a slightly improved rear camera, compared with the iPhone 4S, making it a bit more difficult to beat. But if Nokia can do it with its PureView, every other vendor should be able to do the same.
7. Major updates are an opportunity
As nice as the iPhone 5 might be, the new model can’t really be called a major update. The handset is only taller, thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and the internal components are next-generation improvements over those found in the iPhone 4S. In some ways, the update is a bore. To attract customers, therefore, maybe competitors can deliver major updates. Such upgrades typically attract attention, which in turn, creates stronger sales.
8. Timing is everything
If Apple has taught its competitors anything, it’s that timing is extremely important. The company didn’t get caught up in the summer smartphone craze, like Samsung, but it also didn’t want to launch its smartphone too close to the holiday to hurt its other products. September seems to be the smartphone sweet spot. Now, how long will it take smartphone vendors to realize that?
9. Follow Apple’s price lead
Apple’s iPhone has held steady at its starting price of $199 with a two-year agreement. With that in mind, competitors shouldn’t even consider pricing their products any higher. Consumers are still very price-conscious. And if they see a device with a price that’s higher than the iPhone 5’s, they’ll buy Apple’s product.
10. Ditch exclusivity
Although most Android vendors sell several devices available on multiple carriers, many of them offer a single device exclusively on one carrier. AT&T was initially the only carrier that sold iPhones, but Apple gradually expanded the list of carriers that sell the iPhone. At this time, it’s a mistake for a competing smartphone carrier to restrict sales to a single mobile service carrier. If vendors offer up a flagship device, it should be offered to every carrier. Apple, for example, sells its iPhone on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon networks in the U.S. The company also offers its devices on regional networks. More vendors should do the same.