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9/4/2013
03:09 PM
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Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows

"This should brighten everyone's day," says coy Apple event invitation -- but probably not for Microsoft and other Apple competitors.

Apple has invited members of the media to attend a Sept. 10 event, promising to "brighten everyone's day" as competitors scramble to avoid being overshadowed.

Though the rainbow-hued bubbles on the invitation echo the previously disclosed design theme of Apple's forthcoming mobile operating system, iOS 7, the primary focus of the event is expected to be the successor to Apple's iPhone 5, and a lower-priced iPhone model intended to appeal to customers in developing markets.

iOS 7 also is likely to receive attention because it has received a major design overhaul.

Faced with vigorous competition from Android handset makers like Samsung -- already being sued by Apple for copying the iPhone -- Apple's recent ads have focused on its product design as a primary point of differentiation.

[ Google isn't sitting idly by. Read about its new mobile OS: Google's Next Android Called 'KitKat'. ]

Whether design matters as much to phone buyers as it does to Apple remains to be seen. But the Android camp has wasted no time in trying to undercut Apple's pitch: Google's pre-emptive Android 4.4 "KitKat" marketing partnership with Hershey's has arrived with a parody of Apple's celebration of its design prowess.

Samsung, too, is attempting to get out in front of what's likely to be wall-to-wall iPhone coverage next week by announcing its $299 Galaxy Gear smartwatch and its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Apple is believed to be working on a smartwatch of its own for release in 2014.

Market research firm Panjiva predicts that Apple's event also will feature a new version of Apple TV, the company's streaming media peripheral. Google earlier this summer launched a streaming media peripheral of its own, Chromecast, to challenge Apple's growing presence in consumers' living rooms.

Although Apple also is working on an update to its desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, and a completely redesigned Mac Pro, the company is likely to introduce those products this fall separately from the iPhone event.

Apple's event will be held at 10 a.m. Pacific Time in Cupertino, Calif., at Apple's corporate headquarters, with follow-up events planned for Beijing, Berlin and Tokyo.

The Beijing event suggests Apple might have finally struck an iPhone deal with China Mobile, China's largest mobile carrier. If that's the case, Apple will gain access to some 700 million new potential customers, and CEO Tim Cook, under pressure to return Apple's stock to the stratospheric valuation it reached a year ago, will be golden once again.

Even if Apple hasn't come to an agreement with China Mobile, the company's ongoing good fortune is magnified by the woes facing Microsoft. In a gambit to save Windows Phone from irrelevance and to revitalize its new strategic vision, Microsoft last week announced CEO Steve Ballmer's impending departure and this week said it plans to spend $7.2 billion to buy Nokia's Devices & Services business and to license Nokia's patents and mapping services.

Even if Apple stumbled -- if its new iPhone failed to amaze and iOS 7 was received with the same coolness as Windows 8 -- it would have time to correct its course. But given Apple's track record, it's far more likely the company will darken the day for competitors.

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 8:07:37 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Uh oh, the dreaded toilet drop.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/9/2013 | 8:02:39 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
I think it's more about loyalty - or perhaps more accurately, sticking with something that you know and love, and something that's cool. If something new comes along that trumps that user experience and cool-factor, I'm sure many "devoted fans" will be moving on.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 8:00:13 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Can't speak for other broken iPhones, but mine was pretty durable, and its demise was tragically my fault. It survived a number of drops without damage... until one of the drops ended up with the phone at the bottom of a toilet bowl. Despite going through the typical steps (rice, etc.), the phone is now very dead.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 7:55:50 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Interesting your phone broke - the aforementioned friend dropped her iPhone and killed it. Daughter's college roommate likewise - dropped it ON A SHAG RUG and the screen cracked. I've dropped my HTC on the garage floor and it didn't miss a beat. iPhones seem more fragile than other devices.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 7:50:21 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Haha, I almost mentioned the HTC One in my reply. It's the only Android phone I've ever handled that felt as well-constructed as an iPhone. Well played.

For the apps, I think there's a broad overlap in terms of functionality. That is, if an app lets an iPhone do something, then there's probably a way to do that same thing on an Android or Windows phone (though that's not always true in reverse--i.e. Android can do things the others can't).

Mileage probably varies in terms of quality. My iPhone recently died but I'm under contract with AT&T for an eternity, and in no rush to shell out hundreds of dollars for a replacement. So I activated an old Windows phone, and though the ergonomics stink (it's an early HTC model), the OS is fine. I can find equivalents for most of my old iOS apps-- but a lot of the ones that were free on iOS cost money on Windows, and when I can't find an app I want, the Windows-flavored alternatives are only occasionally better. But I'm not really a smartphone power-user, at least by San Francisco standards, where people spend more time looking at their phones than not. So again, I figure mileage varies, but that iOS wins more than it loses.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 7:36:06 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Hey, my HTC One is not at all plastic! Re apps, whenever someone points to how much better Apple's app store is, I ask them how many apps they actually use. I think that for 95% of smartphone users, everything they want is available in both iOS and Android -- and for 90%, Windows. That always strikes me as a red herring. Yes, Google Play has your flashlight and QR scanner apps.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 7:15:23 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
I think we run in different circles ;) I know a few people who buy iPhones because of hardware quality. They look perplexed when I show them plastic-laden Android and Windows phones.

But I think your observation might be right overall; a lot of iPhone upgraders are gonna go for the cheaper 5C instead of the 5S, which shows that for a lot of people, hardware isn't the main motivating factor. If anything is all-important, it's UI and apps, and the 5C and 5S should be on pretty equal footing in those regards.

I think you're also right about iTunes too-- and Apple certainly seems to agree. For months, Apple's been pointing out to anyone with a TV that more people listen to music on the iPhone than any other phone. Microsoft is expanding Xbox Music to Android and iOS, which is one attempt to break up parts of the iTunes borg, but I'm not that confident it'll work.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2013 | 7:08:33 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
I guess we'll see indeed. What it comes down to is whose borg you've bought into. I just was out with a friend who had finally been freed from the mandate to carry a BlackBerry for work. She could choose between an iPhone and a Galaxy. She likes the Samsung better by every metric -- however, she has a significant music library in iTunes, having been a long-term iPod user. So she got the iPhone. I suspect that as people start using their phones as music players, iTunes is a factor. No one is buying an iPhone now because of hardware quality.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/7/2013 | 12:01:12 AM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
You raise a number of insightful points, not the least of which is Apple's increasingly acrimonious relationship with Asian tech companies.

However, I feel the "how badly the company has been ripping them off" bit is hyperbole, especially if the conversation includes not only mobile devices but also computers. Anecdotal evidence only counts for so much, but I've used a lot of OS X machines and a lot of Windows machines, and almost invariably, the OS X machines have provided a better experience, especially over the long run. My household currently includes a one-year-old Windows 7 laptop that's well-specced with a third-generation Core i7 processor, lots of RAM, etc. My household is also home to, among other devices, a five-year-old iMac and a four-year-old MacBook Pro. Both the Apple machines wipe the floor with the Windows 7 machine, despite their greater age and less modern components. This dynamic is pretty reflective of my overall experience with the two platforms (though its bears mentioning that I've found the performance on my Surface Pro to be quite satisfactory-- better, in many ways, than any of the Windows machines I used before it, but also worse in a few key ones).

If one is motivated, one can certainly build a powerful PC on one's own for much less money than Apple charges. One can even run OS X on self-built hardware, if willing to jump through a few hoops. But given the value I've derived from my Apple machines vs. the value I've derived from my Windows machines, I've never once felt "ripped off." And I use all my computers for "real work," not just play. There are many reasons to need/prefer Windows over Mac-- but I don't think that "being ripped off" is an objective one.

All the above said, I share your concern that Apple believes its own hype. I'm hoping they have more in store for their new iPhones and iPads than the hardware leaks we've seen. I'm also hoping that iOS 7, which I haven't experimented with, ends up being more than an aesthetic overhaul. While my previous paragraph defended OS X, I think Apple's mobile devices are starting to look pricey relative to the competition-- particularly the iPad Mini. I'd be hesitant to sound any "ripped off" alarms until we see what the new devices actually offer-- but if they offer only what's been rumored, that could be trouble.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 11:09:41 PM
re: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows
Maybe, but in the U.S. at least, Samsung loses more customers to Apple than vice versa-- and that data comes from the last year, when Apple was was failing to innovate, and Samsung was aggressively advertising how many innovative software features it had stuck into the new Galaxy phone. That speaks to Apple's brand power in the biggest developed market, and iOS also gained on Android recently in Western Europe.

I think Apple will eventually be pressured into releasing a bigger phone, just as it was eventually pressured into releasing the iPad Mini. But I don't think they need to do it right now. Samsung sells more phones, but Apple still sells a ton, and it makes more money on a per-device basis. In contrast to most of the Android OEMs eating up market share in emerging markets, Apple should also be in position, with the iPhone 5C, to improve its profit margins, all while gaining market share in Android-dominated countries such as China. The new iPhones and iOS 7 could still fall flat, but I suspect that with this release, Apple is going to make up, rather than cede, ground. But we'll see!
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