Steve Jobs’s ghost has lingered at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) for nearly two years, as the legacy of his products has been passed from one version of the iPhone version to the next, from iPad to iPad. The bumbling introduction of the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, each a product barely better than its predecessor, shows that whatever product plans Jobs left behind have been exhausted. Even if he imagined the not-yet-launched iWatch, his passion for getting brand new products to the market first has perished, too.
Nearly everyone who saw or read about the release of the new products felt the same. Nothing was nifty about the latest versions of Apple’s once truly revolutionary smartphone, itself close to seven years old. The question has been asked repeatedly whether Jobs might have improved the product more, or changed it entirely. No matter how that question gets answered, a smartphone with a little bit better camera, a little bit better processor and the kind of fingerprint security from a Batman movie did not impress.
Analysts ask what Apple might have done with the new phone. There are a few answers, based on features that were not improved.
One of the last things Jobs spent much time on, according to people who claim to know, was Siri. He considered it a first, a least for a smartphone that priced at $500 or so. It has not been improved much. It has not become a voice recognition device that can answer really complex questions. It cannot take a voice version of a Ph.D. thesis, type it, correct grammar and spelling of any word in the world in any language, and check and add sources of facts. Such technology is in middle stages elsewhere, but not at Apple.
The new iPhone does not have a much stronger case or screen. Either can be broken almost as easily as a glass, when dropped from an even modest height. The fumbled fingered can find their fumbling expensive. Again, accessory makers have built products to protect the delicate iPhone. Apple has not even tried to make its flagship product physically invincible.
Of course, there is the battery. The iPhone’s does not last as long without a charge as others in the market. Apple could have invented a battery that had a life several times as long as any other. The new iPhone’s battery life is no better than the one in its predecessor.
The guesswork about what the iPhone might have been can go on and on. So can the game of whether another product should have been invented to begin to supplant it. Jobs liked to disintermediate his own creations. There is no evidence of that in the iPhone 5S or 5C. One was created because Apple needed to keep a product cycle to sell new smartphones. The other was built to help Apple in China.
Apple finally and permanently has been turned over to Jobs’s lieutenants. His pictures can be taken off the walls at Apple headquarters. There is nothing of him left.
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