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The Pressure is on Apple to update the iPhone's Aging Interface

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On Monday BlackBerry's CEO Thorsten Heins stated that Apple was risking being left behind in the smartphone business because its flagship iPhone hadn't been significantly redesigned in five years. In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday he was blunter by stating that "a lack of innovation at Apple has left the iPhone's user interface outdated." Thorsten's comments about Apple's iPhone have come at time when BlackBerry is promoting their all-new smartphone lineup with their revised OS and sexier interface. Thorsten had earlier stated that "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." That wasn't said from simple blind sarcasm but rather from experience as Apple's iPhone eventually overtook the Blackberry back in 2008, though at times BlackBerry jostled with the iPhone for second position in the race for Mobile Device leadership. But no one has suffered more in the mobile space recently than Nokia who was once the king of mobile phones. As the chart illustrates below, Nokia has fallen from grace to the fourth spot in 2012 mobile phone sales. So it's no wonder why Nokia's CEO has decided to now throw his hat into the ring and take a big swipe at Apple's iPhone. 

2. 2012 Smartphone sales stats

News out of Finland this morning captured Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop taking a swipe at Apple. The report states that during an interview on Finnish television, "Elop was asked questions about Nokia's rumoured device Lumia 928. The interviewer told him that he owns an iPhone 5, to which the former Nokia CEO responded, "How embarrassing!"


As the interviewer said that he wanted to replace his iPhone 5 with a Lumia 928, Elop took the Apple smartphone and threw it on the ground and then promised to exchange it for a new Lumia phone."


While the print version of this news-bite sounded very dramatic, the video version of it presented below actually shows that the incident was just PR shtick that every CEO engages in, including Apple's CEO Tim Cook.




Although it was typical rivalry banter that we could expect from time to time, it's the trend that's making the headlines because it's focused on Apple's rivals framing iOS as stale, outdated and now embarrassing.


Apple has certainly been feeling the heat lately, especially in light of Samsung's Galaxy 4S smartphone that debuted last week. Yet before the event went live, Phil Schiller decided to take a swipe at Samsung. Last Wednesday, Schiller made comment to the Wall Street Journal that Android phones aren't as good because they cobble together a variety of different products.


"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," Schiller said. "They don't work seamlessly together."


In context, Schiller was simply returning the favor. Samsung had aired a TV ad laughing at the iPhone 5 two days prior to the officially release of the smartphone on September 21, 2012. In hindsight Apple should have aired a humorous TV ad themselves along the lines of their famous "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" line of ads that were so effective at getting under the skin of Windows Fans. Humor is always better at spreading a message than a grumpy interview. Hopefully Apple will reinvent that TV ad series but refocused on their smartphone rivals.


Yet with that being said, Apple is in fact feeling the heat as a leak to the Wall Street Journal let it be known that Jony Ive is working on a revised look for iOS that may take a flatter design. One example of "flatter design" is the one found on Microsoft's Metro-Styled user interface. The timing of this information was by no means a coincidence.


With the firing of Scott Forstall, some have said that it may take Apple until 2014 to get their new iOS refresh out to market and that's an eternity in this race which will allow their rivals to hammer that message home every quarter until it arrives. Though for the time being, one must never forget that Apple's iPhone is still king.


But you don't have to be a critic to know that Apple's iOS is aging. Weeks before the headlines ever hit the wire, Patently Apple posted a report asking the question, "Is it Time for an iOS Facelift?" In that report I stated that According to Apple's intellectual property, they've been experimenting with a 3D version of iOS and toying with spiral concepts for iDevices or wearable computers such as an iWatch. And yet the simple idea of customizing my iDevice's Home Screen appeals to me more." Yes, a flatter design is what I was pointing to.


Yet in the end, the trend of Apple's competitors stepping up their attack on the iPhones' aging user interface was somewhat expected and BlackBerry's CEO simply took advantage of the timing of their new Z10 smartphone to hammer that home. These attacks are bound to continue until Apple finally updates their user interface which I think the vast majority of Apple fans will appreciate.


Who can forget that it was Apple who reinvented the smartphone with their disruptive iPhone in 2007? Only fools. And when Apple finally updates the iPhone's user interface we can expect it to rock the mobile world once again. But let's not kid ourselves, that kind of pressure is only going to raise expectations to a fever pitch and the end result could be explosive, one way or another.


For now, I can hear Apple fans around the world saying "Come on Jony, it's time for Apple's Crazy Ones to step up to the plate and hit another home run out of the park." And I couldn't agree more.


If you have a comment on this, I'd love to hear it.


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I've used both Android phones and iphones. They both have their have ups and downs. I've always favored Google products for their ease of use and customization.

Everyone is moving in the right direction in terms of software and i hope Apple can keep up with the rest of the world.


Agree 100%

Hopefully Apple (or Ive) will do all those things, especially the widgets. After all, they had the widget dashboard in the Mac since 2005, it's time to let iOS have widgets too. Apple is very conservative when it comes to give more features to iOS. Often new features can slow down the system if the hardware was not designed for them: I remember it took them a long time to let iOS's home screen have pictures as background, instead of plain black - not because it was too hard to implement, but because the iPhone 1 would lag a little when having a background and they believed this would disrupt the user experience too much (which was true, a tiny little lag can make a big difference in feeling).

Anyway, I bet that most of the things you said will be done with iOS 7, it's time to have those features and the hardware is ready for them (except for the LED, but who knows maybe it will be in the 5S).

Mark M

And what you see is the law?

That's a definitely a "personal" observation as the ones who are checking out the larger screen phones at Best Buy are usually men. Who doesn't want a larger screen so that it's easier to read material on? Kids or people with petite hands, like females. I see the opposite of what you're seeing.


I don't know whether you've noticed that the larger screen is a very feminine thing. I have seen more women carrying the large samsung than men.


I agree with most of your take.

When we didn't have a choice, having your iPhone with apps was interesting on a very small screen. But once the screen gets larger in the 4.5 to 5.5 inch range, icons alone don't cut it for my home page.

Apple has so many great features on their istuff like retina, panorama, iTunes and more that i don't want to pick on them, just saying that the homescreen could be so much more.


I hear what you're saying and agree to a point. But when Apple introduced the Macintosh, the UI wasn't a line item UI it was different. Change and trends happen and more so today. Apple's UI worked for the iPod touch and to a certain extent the iPhone. But the minute you go to the tablet, it's not interesting at all for my homepage. I do prefer a metro style UI for a homepage and have the current style homepage as an "Apps" box that I click on. I like apps but I'd rather have photos on my home page and only see a few apps that I prioritize.

You seem to be overly offended by competitors pointing out that Apple's UI is stale. Sometimes it's good for competitors to kick the tires and point out another companies short comings. I love shopping for tech and can't help agree on two points.

1 - The 5" displays are more in tune to what I want from a smartphone and,
2 - I wouldn't mind having the option of easily customizing my iphone or ipad home screen.


I can't wait to see Apple revitalize the iOS UI. But at the same time, I think its somewhat curious to say that iOS is stale. How long did we have the original Mac Classic user interface style? It really took until Mac OSX, and then eventually Windows Vista, to really change the style of the common graphical user interface style to have richer graphics. That was DECADES. iOS is only 5 years old....starting with a strong foundation that didn't need much change, means its stale?

I understand the world is moving faster than ever, but its silly to call innovation dead at Apple or "stale." Apple started with a STRONG foundation on day one, that took the competitors 5 years to come up against. And now they all wanna start tooting their magical innovation horns, and call Apple "stale." Was Palm OS stale for essentially not changing practically at all until WebOS? I didn't hear the media badgering Palm for "user interface" back in 2005.

Yes, Apple shouldn't sit on their asses, and yes iOS should definitely revitalize itself. But the noise in the media and from competitors to me is almost laughable. 5 years later they can call iOS stale. Thats hilarious. Lets see them back up the talk with something truly radically revolutionary like the iPhone, then maybe they'll have some clout.

David Lau

I think current iPhone's home/lock screen design is brilliant. It works for people from age 1 to 90. When compare it to Android's complex (but flexible) home screen, some people think iPhone is outdated.

I think Apple should keep the current Home screen design by default but allow pro-users customize it by integrating functions from built-in apps (or widgets). Later, let a few special third-party apps to do that (kind of like Siri's current functions) and after a year open it to all developers.

App functions (e.g. email, calendar, weather) integrated to Home screen, lock screen and notification panel is very useful to pro-users. Apple could tailor made what type of functions that could be allowed (just like background tasks API).

It is even more useful for iPad with a screen real-estate much bigger than phone. I wish I could minimize the email screen to one fourth of screen while putting a video window on another one fourth of screen and the rest is a web browser. Since most apps are universal, it is easier to do that in iPad by letting apps running in minimize mode to have non-retina mode while others in retina mode.

Ive could even come up with some new software ideas that need hardware to complete it since he is in charge of both department design. For example, a blinking light on the phone to let users know that they got notifications (email, sms, calendar events, etc) without a need to press Home button to find it out. IMHO, this is an excellent example showing that just software (notification) is not enough to get the full great user experience if no hardware support for it.

What do you think?

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