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 3:30 AM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT