A little more than a week into being acquainted with it, I have started adjusting my eyes to the gaudy, almost too pretty appearance of iOS 7. Well, I still think the whole thing makes my iPhone look like a children’s interactive book on acid, but I’m not stunned by the flashy colors, flat rotundities and revised swiping gestures of it anymore. I’ve also been spending some time with the newly introduced photographic tools and I definitely agree with those stating this was not a life-changing (as far as my way of using the iPhone is concerned) implement at all. Some of the said tools, like photo filters and Moments, are kind of cute but perhaps a little anachronistic given the quantity of apps that have been created to do more or less the same over the years. In general, it looks like the ideal audience for the iOS 7 is that of the iNewbies, and honestly this doesn’t upset or fill me with resentment. I can live with these trinkets as I was living without them before the release. And I don’t plan to upgrade and buy a new iPhone in the near future just because it’s more up-to-date and I can have the built-in flash do most of the thinking for me. I just don’t feel a need for it and if this turns me into a bad customer, so be it. I do have some complaints of my own, for instance the fact that running iOS 7 seems to drain battery faster and that I regret having to get rid of apps I heavily relied on for image editing because they’re not compatible anymore. With a few exceptions, apps in general feel a bit sloppier than before. However, I hope most developers will be able to catch up sooner or later.
All in all, it’s been hard to find many positive reactions about Apple’s latest hardware and software releases. From the company’s stock suffering from sudden defaillance to children driven to tears at the sight of the newly installed iOS 7, we have seen all kind of negativity thrown at Apple recently and some of it quite amusing, actually. Changes will always, quite naturally, bring criticism with them; however, to borrow someone else’s words, some criticisms are “a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” Just a minority of commentators sat down to voice in reasonable terms their dissatisfaction, while most of what we have seen and read in the last ten days was mainly the hysterical backlash to being given something different but not really groundbreaking. That is to say, something incompatible with expectation.
This is Apple’s own fault: the company has taught its followers over the years to be exigent by constantly pampering their expectations with visual and verbal sophistications unknown to the competition. But leaving aside artifice and astute advertising strategies, the first and foremost factor setting apart Apple from the rest of the bunch was its consistent intelligence in anticipating consumers’ wishes and needs before people were even aware of them, and to package these material desires so that they appeared not only like a logical development, but also the only necessary evolution from the past. Today we take for granted certain qualities and features of devices we use daily, but before touchscreens and all that jazz came along, mobile devices were completely different. Do you remember your first cell phone? I do: it looked like a spare part out of a washing machine and even back in the days I totally hated it (I hated it so much that I gladly traded it for a working Internet connection, but that’s another story). Apple, like other pioneering ventures, was able to give name and shape to what people were looking forward to in their abstract and vague anticipations. In this ability rested the company extraordinary intuition and, with it, its long-lasting authority as the inexhaustible innovative powerhouse it was regarded to be in its field.
Most will argue that Apple’s success was essentially coincident with Steve Jobs’ vision; now that he is gone, Job’s successors are unable of keeping up with the company’s own prerogatives. Blaming it all on a handful of people for their lack of insight, imagination or business nerve (or whatever detractors want to call it) is however not only evidence of a biased perspective, but also of a simplistic vision of today’s situation. The market and the competition have changed; they’re not what they were when Steve Jobs left. No wonder Apple too has changed.
It’s true that great innovators recognize their opportunities before they become manifest, but even the most revolutionary invention is destined to blend with mainstream experience through use and wear and only thanks to small adjustments it becomes an essential factor to sustain our daily practices. To an extent, it’s in its steady use that technology starts to make sense in people’s actual living and to be successfully assimilated. The beauty of technology is in its collective efforts: the power of imagination and the ambitions of a resourceful minority can bring development forward, but it’s the persistence of the collectivity that makes it successful on the long run.
Harmonizing business’ frenzied exigency for growth with technology’s need to proceed at slower pace often results in conflict. Perpetual growth seems the crucial factor in business, especially in highly standardized and globalized capitalistic system; but even in business at some point a plateau must be reached to preserve the system from collapse. It seems the plateau has been reached: how comes nobody wants to acknowledge it? Simply because acceptance would mean slowing down the current productive urges and business’ unrestrained thirst for growth. It’s easier to produce more than to improve and evolve: the former takes less effort and time and it keeps the boat afloat. But that’s not what the expectant audience wants in the case of Apple and the blame falls on this or that individual for not being able to innovate any longer. So what’s a company like Apple expected to do? Fishing the Ouija board out to see if Jobs has a better plan or a compass to find the plateau’s exit sign? This looks like one of these absurd and impossible situations, and indeed it is both, absurd and impossible.
If I were a market analyst, I would throw in my educated cabala to justify theories about Apple losing its shine and sinking fast, or about Apple being as peppy ever and plotting in the dark. But I have no taste for cabala and business, especially when combined together. So all I can say is just: folks, take it easy. Who really cares if the iOS 7 is too girly and if the latest iPhone isn’t a self-contained prescient entity? As a buyer, you’re not entitled to cutting-edge new products every six months or so; as a manufacturer, you’re not entitled to undying loyalty if you cannot please a customer base that you trained yourself to expect strokes of genius from you all year round. As an investor I don’t really know and I don’t care, but I’m sure enough you’re not entitled to what you’re thinking about either.