What it means to own an Apple device in 2013

When Apple announced their fourth iPad just mere months after the iPad 3 was pushed to stores, the Internet was flooded with polarizing sentiments towards this rather bizarre move. An iPad replacement in less than a year? Why would Apple do that?

Fanboys had every right to complain.

You have to remember that while he was still walking the halls of the Cupertino campus, the late Steve Jobs stressed that there would always be one new iPhone every year. Sheer admiration and anticipation for what the next iPhone would be like turned the release of a single phone into a media spectacle.

Unlike a Samsung or a Nokia that released a stable of new phones every quarter or so, Apple stuck to the route of their one-phone-per-year strategy because they knew that the iPhone was way ahead of its time. In the memorable 2007 announcement, Steve Jobs revealed iPhone to be “five years ahead of any other mobile phone” and he was correct. It has now been five years since the launch of the first iPhone and a lot has changed. Was the 5-year head start enough?

There are two ways of looking into Apple’s foray into the mobile phone market. For one, they have become the world’s most valued company currently holding over USD $120 billion dollars in the bank. CASH. They could pay off the entire debt of the Philippines if they wanted to and have more than enough money left over to buy the all the major publishers in the computer gaming industry. Apple’s stock is worth more than the combined value of both Microsoft and Google . The iPhone is the best selling technology product by far only surpassed by the rubix cube. On the other side of the spectrum, it may look like Google’s open mobile platform, Android is about to steamroll the competition. Just last month, the Android marketplace hit over 700,000 apps and is now at par with Apple in terms of app ecosystem. Samsung, at the forefront of the Android vs iOS war has churned out award-winning phones with their Galaxy and Note series. Samsung is flooding the market with amazing high-end devices and analysts will argue that they’re somewhat killing their own products: I mean, just ask your friends — I’ve been in a number of conversations where people argue over which device to get — the Note II or the Galaxy S3. Net of discussion: doesn’t matter because Samsung wins.

It isn’t just happening with the big Korean manufactuer. Even companies like ZTE have released their own high end smartphones. I recently got to play around with the ZTE Grand X V970M, a high end and stylish Android 4.0 device that, willingly, can be justified to be just as good as your more recognizable smartphone brands (such as HTC, LG and Samsung). Despite the HTC One X and Samsung’s S3 and Note II having darling features like better cameras and S-pen support (for the latter), ZTE’s high end devices offer similar hardware specs plus a more pragmatic feature at a fraction of the cost: dual SIM for less than PHP 10,000.00. No brainer right? It’s the combined force of very affordable yet competent phones and a plethora of choices for high end devices that make Android so compelling. And they know the cloud so much better than Apple.

Five years in the technology industry is short. It gave Android hardware manufacturers the time to compete with one another and release a better phone every quarter.

And this is why, this 2013 we’re going to see a very different kind of Apple. Rumors of the “iPhone 5s” or whatever they want to call it is set for a June launch. The “iPad 5″ is on the way in the first half of next year. Why are they doing this? Simply put, people can’t afford to wait too long for the next iPhone. Or the next iPad. For every one phone that Apple launches in a year, Samsung launches four or five amazing ones. But also, technology on phones have reached a saturation point and there’s a huge diminishing returns to being faster or lighter that it doesn’t seem to matter much these days. It’s about apps, what your friends are using, what companies get to apply new technologies first (Android already has NFC enabled phones while Apple doesn’t).

The net effect is actually quite obvious: although Apple will continue to bring in the profits, owning an Apple product won’t feel as special anymore because you’ll be seeing two or even three newer iterations of the same device in one fiscal year and every single device will be dubbed as “the best iPhone yet.” In fact, they’ve already done this — lately with the new iPad release and for the longest time with their MacBook line, releasing uneventful incremental updates to the hardware without fanfare.

But really, don’t feel bad for Apple. They have a hundred twenty billion dollars in the bank.

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