Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak doesn’t call the shots in Cupertino these days. But Steve Jobs’ right-hand man is always worth a listen, especially because unlike senior Apple staff he doesn’t toe the party line.
That’s why his comments to Germany’s Businessweek are so telling. In a revealing interview, which touched on his history at the company, ‘Woz’ wasn’t shy about detailing what he perceives are the iPhone’s shortcomings.
“Currently [Apple is] in my opinion somewhat behind with features in the smartphone business. Others have caught up. Samsung is a big competitor,” the Woz said.
It should be noted that these comments were made in the wider context about Apple still making great products.
But it’s interesting that someone so closely associated with the Apple brand, albeit a person who doesn’t sit on the board and make key decisions, should be so candid about where the iPhone is right now.
Let’s be clear – Wozniak is saying what many people in the smartphone industry already think.
The iPhone 5 is an excellent device and one which has obviously sold by the bucketload. However, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it all feels somewhat dated.
iOS might have new features each year, but it still has a look and feel that’s inescapably the same as it was in 2007.
The failure of Apple Maps and the damp squib that is Passbook have only helped reinforce this feeling among the Apple faithful and the wider tech community.
That’s not to say all Android phones, BlackBerry devices and Windows Phone handsets are besting the iPhone at every turn. But certain key models are.
The Nexus 4 might lack 4G, but it has a stunning screen and access to some sensational Google native apps, like Google Now and Google Wallet, the latter thanks to NFC tech which the iPhone still lacks.
The iPhone’s screen feels bizarrely cramped next to a growing generation of devices, the Xperia Z and Galaxy S3 among them, with bigger panels, ripe for watching movies and playing games.
The design too, feels as if it’s hardly moved on since the iPhone 4. With the advent of BlackBerry 10 and its BlackBerry Hub feature, Apple also has plenty to worry about.
Similarly, Windows Live Tiles are a leap on from the basic app icons found on iOS.
Apple is going to have to go big to try and develop its tech along these lines or offer something even sharper, to convince investors at least, that the iPhone is still capable of being the biggest handset for years to come. Hopefully we’ll be seeing new iPhones that push the boundaries soon.
But as Woz’s comments suggest, it really has become a case of the tail wagging the dog. Apple’s days as leader of smartphone innovation are over, at least for now.