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 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT