Skip to main content

Apple becoming a follower, not a leader

By Andrew Mayer, Special to CNN
updated 2:16 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
iPhone 5
iPhone 5
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Apple's quarterly earnings show profits have fallen but sales have beaten expectations
  • Andrew Mayer: Apple seems to be in danger of becoming a follower
  • He says Apple is testing larger screens for its mobile devices in competition with Samsung
  • Mayer: What the company needs are bold new ideas, not bigger iPhones or iPads

Editor's note: Andrew Mayer is an interactive design consultant who works with entertainment start-ups and game companies.

(CNN) -- While we'll never know for sure what he would have done differently, the hallmark of Steve Jobs' genius was that he reacted to changes in the marketplace by forging entirely new territory through powerful design and radical innovation.

Apple spent a decade far out in front of the competition through Jobs' almost uncanny combination of vision and showmanship. During that time, buying a new Apple device was always exciting and surprising (even if it was occasionally frustrating).

And now, Apple seems to be in danger of becoming a wallflower. Instead of leading, will the company increasingly become a follower?

Andrew Mayer
Andrew Mayer

Apple is reportedly testing larger screens for its phones and tablets, partly in reaction to the success of the devices released by its main rival, Samsung.

Sure, competition is tough in the mobile devices market. Samsung's Galaxy S4, with its 5-inch screen, has become the fastest selling Android phone in history.

Apple's iPhone 5 has a 4-inch screen and its iPad has a 9.7-inch screen. Devices that run the Android operating system come in a range of sizes, most of which tend to be bigger.

One can argue that most apps don't need a big-screen experience. In fact, a big part of the mobile revolution was about creating simple experiences that are vastly superior because they were designed to work on a small screen (Google maps and Instagram are two good examples). To put it another way, people may want an SUV because it's bigger, but a sports car would probably give them a smoother ride.

Although it's hard to argue that playing games and viewing videos can benefit from a big screen, it's perfectly fine to kill off all the pigs in Angry Birds or finish an episode of "The Walking Dead" in the confines of a 4-inch screen. If it's any indication, more than 50 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple app store in just five years.

So if thing are great then why should Apple be thinking about bigger screens?

One reason is that Apple's stock has fallen in the past 10 months, with Wall Street feeling nervous about the company's future and its ability to come up with innovative products. On Tuesday, Apple released its quarterly earnings. While sales beat expectations, profits were down.

Apple has already put out a smaller iPad, the iPad mini. But every new screen size brings the company one step closer to the riot of sizes and resolutions that have made developing apps for Android devices far more difficult than for iOS devices.

We tend to tout changes in technology as a good thing. And like all companies, Apple is looking to make smart changes. Although Apple has modified its stance, it's clear that the iPad mini is not quite the device we would have seen if Jobs was around today.

In the hyper-competitive mobile market, two years is a lifetime. Since Jobs passed away in 2011, the current version of iOS already seems dated and stale. Android may not be better in many ways, but it's pulling ahead in innovation, including better meshing of apps, smarter and more interactive icons, and reinventing basic interface elements like the keyboard.

In response, Apple is releasing a new version of its operating system in the fall. Despite showing off some bold (and controversial) design choices, it seems more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Apple is well aware that innovation is still a key part of its appeal. But without its creative genius at the helm, the company is going head to head with Samsung in the marketplace. That still leaves us waiting for the next big thing. What Apple needs most are bold new ideas, not bigger iPhones or iPads.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andrew Mayer.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT