In The Apple's Eye
Apple may well believe that its iPhone is perfectly designed, and there are certainly millions of users who are happy with it. But, by the necessity of Apple's initial domination of the smartphone high-end, everyone else has had to broaden their appeal and range.
No one has been more successful than Samsung, which is celebrating the 100 million units shipped mark, across the Galaxy range, including the recent mini model, representing Apple's major competition in the high and mid-markets. While Nokia is coming back into play with increased sales of the Lumia range, it is still way behind thanks to years of mis-steps and others continue to struggle.
This after a week of will it, won't it, gossip about a possible cheaper, smaller iPhone model, with the consensus now against such a move. But, while the gossip will die down for a while, it still leaves Apple with a big decision to make, will it stick happily focused on the high-end? Or, will the company look to broaden its offering beyond cheaper, older models, as it has done with the iPod range and more recently with the iPad mini?
Just How Broad Can You Go?
While Apple won't want to sacrifice the design purity of the iPhone range, it is seeing Samsung rack up tens of millions of sales with quirky sized devices like the Note, Galaxy S3 mini and others. Now well-known for its range, Samsung can afford to throw more experimental devices into the mix, pushing the market boundaries further, while a predictable Samsung Galaxy S4 is on the way to lead the charge.
Oddly enough, its latest edition of the Samsung Galaxy SIII is a Titanium model that riffs on the metallic look of the current iPhone 5, but you wouldn't put it past Samsung to produce a pastel color range. And, when flexible screens and bendy phones become practical, there could be all kinds of design fun from Samsung, that you can't really imagine Apple trying.
Perhaps in the Steve Jobs era, Apple would have radically focused on a second type of iPhone, but in the Tim Cook way, attention seem to be focused on a careful road of evolution, even as the rest of the market, pivots and tries new ideas to catch up.
While Apple's order reduction is likely just down to seasonality, it might also be looking ahead, with a new model of iPhone expected within the next few months. Is Apple going to be brave and try something different, or is it so ingrained in the iPhone way (and the tight supply chain Jiu-jitsu) that it can't look beyond the current form and function?