The iPhone Of The Future

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How many articles can one person read about another newer version of the Apple iPhone?

Apple head honcho Steve Jobs launched the iPhone 4G this week in San Francisco at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. This is the fourth generation of the smartphone that changed (and continues to change) the world. And, while no one knows how cool, fast and impressive this next generation smartphone will be, there are some key lessons all businesspeople can take away from the presentation and promises of what this device is and what it can do.

Let’s start with the raw features: Jobs did not invent video conferencing and the fact you can now multi-task (have multiple apps open at once, instead of one at a time) is not that big of a breakthrough (the Palm Pre -which was an industry flop -offered this years ago as does BlackBerry and other smartphones). Having a battery that now lasts up to seven hours also is tablestakes when you look at the average person’s work schedule and how long other mobiles can go without a charge.

In the end, the new iPhone is not about the new features, but it’s about where we are going with both computing and connectivity.

Remember when nobody paid for a cellphone? The culture of "free phones" permeated the mobile carrier business for years and what Apple did with their first generation iPhone is shift the mass mind-set from free to paying close to $600 for a mobile device. That mindshift opened the floodgates and, suddenly, the everyday person was comfortable (no, happy) to shell out their hard-earned dollars for a mobile device that was not only feature-rich, but would offer them a level of social status among their peers. The iPhone became a product of envy for those who didn’t have one and an object of pride for those that did.

Design is everything.

One of the best business books of the past decade is Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age by Tom Peters (DK, 2006). Beyond the beauty of the book design and page layout, Peters continually highlights – in words -the importance of brilliant, jaw-dropping design in relation to the brands that have truly created businesses that are built to last. If Apple does one thing magically great, it is their industrial design. Apple products are beautiful. They fit with the times and they give us a glimpse into the future. This new iPhone also is an object of beauty. Every micro-inch of space was optimized and rethought and – by the looks of it – nothing was spared (not the weight, overall size or even how it feels in someone’s hand). Creating a product that people will marvel at is no small feat in a world like ours. It’s not the inside, it’s not the outside and it’s not what goes into it … it’s how those pieces all come together that make it so special to consumers.

It also is not about the phone.

When you pull together all of the features of the iPhone 4G, what becomes abundantly clear is that this is no longer about telecommunications. The phone (or calling) part is now shadowed by everything else. The new iPhone offers us some preliminary glimpses of what our world of connectivity, communications and computers will be. It’s less of a phone and more of a remote control for your life. A fully featured computer that has all of the necessary moving parts for what a mobile device should be. When everything from the quality of pictures and videos become comparable with devices that only serve those individual purposes, we begin to really see how – in the not-too-distant future – we won’t be trudging around laptops, iPads and mobile devices. There will be one device to rule them all -great text, images, audio and video in one hand-held/portable device.

It’s all about the resolution.

Apple calls it Retina Display, and it boasts four times the pixel count of previous generation iPhones. Apparently, the pixels are so dense that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels. Jobs made a comment during the launch that the iPhone displays content so clearly that it is virtually indistinguishable from text on paper (everyone from Amazon and Sony to every book, newspaper and magazine publisher’s ears must have perked up). Funny enough, everybody thought the existing resolution of the iPhone was already pretty impressive. You have to respect a company that iterates and innovates when what was presently in-market seemed more than above average.

Finally, it’s all about the media and apps.

Music, movies, books, television, newspapers, magazines, games and more. Apple is as much of an entertainment company as they are a design and hardware company. They not only provide the hardware and connectivity, but also get a fair chunk of change by charging for the content and applications that run on devices like the iPhone. And, as if that were not enough, their new iAd advertising platform also is going to go gangbusters for the launch of the iPhone 4G. Apple will get money for the apps and they will get money from the ads. And while many are highly critical of the fact Apple is not more of an open environment, that didn’t seem to stop 2 million iPads from flying off the shelves in under 60 days, and by the looks of things, the iPhone 4G will experience a similar effect.

The iPhone 4G is newsworthy beyond the innovation of the hardware, software and connectivity.

Apple turns people from consumers into loyal evangelists and they also are perfectly fine with those who can’t stand them. What great bands aren’t polarizing? The lessons of innovation, pushing technology and providing a product, brand or service that consumers don’t even realize they may need are the real lessons that every business can learn from Apple -time and time again.

Have your say below…

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


  1. I do have to hand it to Apple for the continuous innovation, but I am underwhelmed by the new iPhone. I guess its hard to make another step change within the same decade.
    What they do well, as you point out is bring all those tiny little upgrades together into a total package. And no other technology firm has been able to do it as well (Google is good but not as good yet).

  2. I can’t remember who said it, but it was during one of your more recent Media Hacks: Apple is, first and foremost, a design company. I wholeheartedly agree. They design the hardware, they design the software, they design the delivery system and they design the experience. A lot of other companies do one, or maybe two, of these things. But only Apple goes so far which is why (I think, at least) their products are so nice to use. Of course, many people don’t agree.
    And if you think iPhone 4 doesn’t offer enough new innovation (or is crippleware), check out MG Siegler’s article on TechCrunch ( It’s an interesting point of view.

  3. A good take on the new iPhone. I’ve owned an iPod touch since 2008, and have finally considered buying a smart-phone. I’d prefer Android (from a ‘religious’ point of view) but can’t find an interesting enough handset in Canada on Bell, so I’m considering the iPhone 4, warts and all.
    One thing I will disagree with, though, is your comment “Funny enough, everybody thought the existing resolution of the iPhone was already pretty impressive.” The relatively low-res by 2010 standards of the screen and camera were the one reason I didn’t consider locking myself in for a 3 year contract with an iPhone 3Gs.

  4. Forget the hype of the Steve Jobs the presenter and evangelical iPhone followers. What you have in your hand is a pivot device for your digital life. Next generation iPhone analysis needs to include historical game changing recognition.

  5. Parth, what could of Apple have done with the new iPhone to “overwhelm” you? What is it missing? Many are saying it’s not that great of an upgrade but nobody is listing what feature it’s missing? It’s like you want this device to be magical or something πŸ˜‰

  6. You refer to it as iPhone 4G, but it’s not actually a 4G phone (like, say, the HTC EVO 4G).

  7. Missing on iPhone: Flash player, micro SD slot on the outside, exclusive carrier’s 4G network not ready, new users don’t have unlimited data option, no official hotspot option. (These are huge negatives for impatient early adopters and smartphone fans)
    Missing on EVO: tighter integration, polished UI, iPhone app store, battery life, micro SD slot on the outside, Froyo, is too large for some people (I don’t mind though.)
    I only considered EVO for the hotspot and the network, I can take or leave Android. Therefore I went with Sprint Overdrive and will upgrade iPhone to my existing unlimited contract when it is renewal time.

  8. According to Apple, there’s no distinction between Form and Function.
    Form is Function, and Function is Form.
    And this enables them to design sexy products that fill a need.

  9. Calling this thing a “phone” is like calling a car a “wheel.” The phone part is but one of thousands of features. And not even the best one.
    That said, I am most excited in how this new phone (and Apple’s relentless focus on assassinating all norms) will affect ideas and ideation. The more people can DO on the phone, the more in line it is with Apple’s “creativity” vibe, and the more ideas will not only happen but will get pinged about and improved. Apple is helping usher in the “Ideation Age.”

  10. Well, the issue is that Jobs tells us, specifically, that it IS magical. It’s not. It’s a nice piece of technology, they’ve done some good things with it, but it’s not a revolution. It’s not going to change the world. It’s a well-made, shiny, new phone with a closed development environment. If that’s your thing, then you’ve got something to be excited about. The rest of us, though, just don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  11. You state:
    “The phone (or calling) part is now shadowed by everything else.”
    Ah..No it isn’t or all the iPhone people would be carrying a phone and an iPod or iPad…
    I want one device to do everything, and we can have that today. I don’t care about Steve’s philosophical differences with Adobe or Google, and I bet most users would appreciate flash on their devices… Steve references Adobe promised it for 2 years but didn’t deliver…does that mean Steve wanted it too? What changed?
    I’ve stated this before… Steve’s genius was marketing and perfecting the iTunes store. People who invest in a platform are not want to change and lose their investment. Now that all these iPod and iPhone users have spent good money on apps that only work on iDevices, they have an incentive in continuing to use iDevices even though they don’t provide all of the features people want.
    Please don’t tell me you like going to Flash intensive sites on the internet with the iPad or iPhone and seeing all those blank spaces… That is not a full-web experience.
    Open? H.264 is protected IP–go look it up! H.264 is as open as .gif is open… Does Apple give away any open source software besides their contribution to Darwin?
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Apple–I have used their hardware since the //e (I have one of the first). However, I don’t care about Steve’s obsession with Flash, porn, Google, Android, or anything else. I care about my devices allowing me to use them for the experience I want.
    Great if most people don’t care about flash. However, I want Flash. I want to be able to install my programs on the device without me having to send them to Apple for Apple’s release on the iTunes store. What if I don’t want to share or what if I use it for my purposes? πŸ™‚
    I buy a Ford, Chevy, Via, or other car, and I don’t expect the manufacturer to tell me I can’t put on Goodyear tires or use it for racing…
    I buy a new refrigerator and don’t expect the manufacturer to tell me what I can put in it…
    I don’t expect to buy a new Computer with Windows (whatever flavor) and expect MS to tell me I have to use their browser…… (get it yet?)
    Why should I let Stevie tell me that I don’t need flash? I don’t need that Bass Ale in my refrigerator either, but I will drink one hoping the Xiliv X10 android slate is released soon–I will be buying it.
    Go look at the text of the speech given by the “establishment” in the 1984 advertisement for the macintosh-yes, the famous one… The text sounds like Apple today…. Don’t think so? Go look it up.
    Choice. I don’t want the government telling me what I want, and I don’t want to have to give up things I enjoy doing–those time-wasting flash games–just because Stevie has some issue with Adobe…
    If you think it is about being “open,” you have bought the red herring…

  12. Thank you for the great post on the iPhone 4. A lot of articles I stumbled upon were empty. I also appreciate the reference to tom peters book. I am so aligned with that believe on design that I must hear his viewpoint in full.

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