Apple: From ‘Insanely Great’ to Greatly Insane

When Apple puts on one of its press extravaganzas, as it did this week on Tuesday, the entire world expects “insanely great” product introductions, every time. Fact is, Apple needs another of its occasional “boosts” as the phone biz is getting saturated, the iPad is getting some good competition, computer sales are tanking, and Apple seems to be flailing around a bit. So what did the world get from the Cupertino brain trust on Tuesday?

We will continue to monitor the reactions, but it is doubtful that the “insanely great” level was achieved (one pundit called it “half-awesome at best”). This was especially so at Wednesday’s Beijing follow-up non-event, where it was thought Apple would announce a big phone deal with China’s #1 carrier. Instead, Apple just rebroadcast its Tuesday presentations.

The day before, in Cupertino, Apple had killed the iPhone 5 in favor of the new, multicolored iPhone 5C low-end model and the metallic-hued, twice-as-potent iPhone 5S; announced the release date for iOS 7; promised free iWork apps to new iOS device buyers; and introduced the Touch ID sensor, a fingerprint reader built into the Home button. Some good stuff, sure—but is it enough?

Let’s Break It Down

iPhone 5C — With phones half of Apple’s profits it’s no longer the iconic iMac that represents Apple to the world. The iPhone 5C is now Apple’s entry-level phone dressed up in bright hues: blue, white, green, yellow, and pink. With two-year contracts, a 16GB model is $100 and a 32GB model is $200. The specs are mid-range today, or consider it a high-end model from 2012. It carries over the iPhone 5’s 8-megapixel rear camera and A6 processor, and has a 4-inch version of the incredible Retina Display. Pre-orders for the iPhone 5C begin September 13, and in-store sales on September 20.

iPhone 5S — The iPhone 5S is nearly identical to its predecessor in size, shape, look, and heft. Visual changes are few, with important upgrades inside: the new 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion co-processor. The M7 offloads work from the A7—continuously monitoring the device’s compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer—for greater power efficiency, even as it invites new fitness and health apps to leverage the technology. Camera, flash, and battery life are all somewhat improved, too. On a two-year contract, the 16GB iPhone 5S is $200, the 32GB model $300, and 64GB will be $400. The phone goes on sale September 20.

Touch ID sensor — Apple built a touch-capacitive fingerprint scanner into the Home button, so forget poking in passwords. Simply run your finger over the button, and it will positively read your fingerprint in any direction. Apple says all fingerprints will be encrypted and secure, and won’t be uploaded to Apple servers or backed up to iCloud. You can use it to unlock the phone or okay iTunes purchases.

iOS 7 — Apple announced the next iteration of its mobile operating system at this past summer’s WWDC event. Its completely new look features more color, flatter graphics, simpler fonts—and something like 200 new features, from Control Center and improved multitasking to a refreshed Notification Center and AirDrop (near-field file sharing). Apple announced a release date of Sept. 18 for iOS 7, which will run on iPhone 4 and up, iPad 2 and up, iPad mini, and the 5th generation iPod touch.

WWST? (What Would Steve Think?)

So, what kind of reaction did the event receive? Yawns, for the most part, as Apple has continued to eschew excitement and creative disruption for the safer play of incrementalism. That approach will not work for a company built on insanely great ideas. In fact, it’s greatly insane to think it will.

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