Why I believe 2013 is going to be crucial for Apple, and HTC One talk
Skip reading the introduction if you want to go straight to the "2013 is going to be crucial for Apple"-part.
Before I start, I'd like to say that I'm currently an iPhone 5 owner and an iPad (3rd generation) owner. I got my first iPhone in 2009: an iPhone 3GS. At the time, the iPhone was still relatively new. The original iPhone was never available here (Western-Europe) so when the iPhone 3GS came out, the iPhone was basically one year old.
At the time, I absolutely loved the iPhone and I felt as if I had the future in my hands. I remember people asking why I needed/wanted a smartphone. They saw it as an expensive toy (and perhaps it was, and is) and felt like it was of no added value, but I absolutely loved it. Fast-forward to 2013 and every single one of them has a smartphone (be that an iPhone, be that a smartphone of another brand)
So, it's 2009 and I got my first iOS device: the iPhone 3GS. It felt futuristic and, in my opinion, it was better than any other phone on the market.
2010. iPad was first announced. I had some doubts, but I was absolutely amazed that Apple was able to create one big device with one big 9.7" touchscreen for a price that was lower than that of an iPhone. I had some doubts about iPad, but at the same time I was thinking: I want to try this thing out. I had enough time to figure it out: the launch of iPad here was only slated for Q2 or Q3 of 2010.
iOS 4. In my opinion, iOS 4 is still the best iOS update ever. Sure, iOS 2 brought the App Store and iOS 3 brought crucial functionality like Copy & Paste, but iOS 4 was more intriguing: it was the first iOS version that felt like what iOS was supposed to be. All the big functionality, like multitasking and folders, in one single update while at the same time improving lots of existing features plus adding features that allowed for better customization.
iPhone 4. This has by far been my favorite new iPhone ever announced. The iPhone 4 had so many new features compared to the previous-generation iPhone, while improving lots of existing features. It was, dare I say, innovative.
Not long after getting an iPhone 4, I also got an iPad: I still wanted to try it out. I got the iPad and it was an amazing, futuristic experience: for the first time, we were able to really have the internet in our hands - even more than with iPhone.
2011. iPad 2. iOS 5. iPhone 4S. iPad 2 was still a good upgrade over iPad, but iOS 5 felt quite a bit smaller. No problem, though. You can't amaze every year, right? iPhone 4S was a decent upgrade over iPhone 4, but nothing innovative in my opinion. Oh, I almost forgot to mention it: iCloud. It is a really nice service, but it is not something I get really excited about - it's more like a service that you would only miss when it is gone.
2012. iPad 3. iOS 6. iPhone 5. (And iPad mini). iPad 3 was a decent upgrade, but nothing surprising really. iOS 6 - for me - was disappointing and felt more like iOS 5.2. iPhone 5, while improved in every way compared to iPhone 4S, was not as exciting as iPhone 4. No huge, new features that we hadn't seen before. It didn't have a killer feature, like the iPhone 4's Retina display back in 2010.
2012 was a year with lots of nice Apple products, but software-wise it was very disappointing and hardware-wise there was no "wow, didn't see that coming"-factor.
2013 is going to be crucial for Apple
Apple is no longer the underdog, like they were until 2010 (perhaps until 2011). This year is going to be crucial for Apple. While Apple is in no trouble, and they will not go from a multi-billion dollar company in 2013, to a bankrupt company in 2014, I believe there are some things Apple needs to do to stay popular; to be the best.
The public is more diverse than ever and they somehow need to attract new customers (what they can still do with iOS 6), while at the same keep old customers (what they can't really do anymore with iOS 6).
Software is going to be crucial. iOS 7 is going to be crucial. Is iOS 7 going to be more like iOS 6, or is it something fresh and new that will satisfy a lot of existing customers? Is it going to be innovative?
They also need to do some new stuff on the hardware front. A few years ago, Apple would be among the first to try out new technologies and add exciting new features. Nowadays, they are more like "we'll see what the competition does and how stuff pans out".
Take HTC for example. They aren't the biggest, currently, but they are definitely trying something. Let's take a looka the recently announced smartphone, the HTC One. Or 'the One'. It's a device customers are already praising.
This new Android smartphone has a 4.65" 1080p display and has a unibody aluminium design. It is heavily focused on delivering the best-possible experience for customers. They are trying to do that with new, custom-made software (skin) and they are trying to do that with innovative new hardware.
Whether or not you like HTC's new software and whether or not you believe a 1080p display is useful, you must admit: they are trying hard to create something really great and perhaps unique for customers.
I want to talk about some of the things HTC did.
4.7" 1080p display
We knew 1080p displays were coming, but this is quite special. With over 468 pixels per inch, it's really, really sharp. It's much sharper than the iPhone 5's Retina display. While most here would probably argue that 468 pixels per inch is over-kill, I actually believe it's a great step forward: it means displays can become even more realistic, and that we are getting closer to a future where we can't distinguish displays from real-life.
Reviewers are also praising the viewing angles, colour accuracy and contrast. You might not believe it, but the average display in any high-end phone (such as the iPhone 5) is probably already better than the television you have at home. The television. The machine you bought for watching content. I think it is great HTC is pushing for even better display technologies, better colours, higher contrast and higher pixel densities. It means things are only getting better.
Finally, there is something here that makes HTC unique: they aren't going for the standard 5" 1080p displays manufacturers like Sony are currently pumping out. They went for a size they felt was right: 4.65". It's a big display, but not too big: it's not a five-inch display.
So in short: HTC went for a unique size, while pushing colour accuracy, pixel density, contrast, viewing angles and more.
It is something that Apple isn't willing to do. They are playing it safe: the increased the screen size, but not too much so they wouldn't alienate existing customers - oh, and with the iPhone 5 they threw in some better colour accuracy (using the same technology as in the iPad 3). HTC actually tried to improve the display in every way possible.
Design: aluminium unibody
The HTC One has an unibody aluminium design. This means we've got a metal - which makes it feel like a high-end phone. The aluminium also is curved, which makes it more comfortable in the hands. Oh, and sure, it's 9.3 mm thick - but for that we get amazing hardware and a battery that's more than 1.5x as powerful as the one in the iPhone 5.
The "Ultrapixel" Camera
HTC did something unique here. The HTC One has a four megapixel camera which - compared to last year's model - has less but bigger pixels. They are trying to improve pictures in general, and while 4 MP is still quite a bit low, this push for better pictures means that - ultimately - we will get 5 MP, 8 MP and 13 MP smartphone cameras that are just as light sensitive as this 'first-generation ultrapixel' camera.
It is something Apple did when they went from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 3GS, but I think it's not a move Apple would be willing to repeat again. 2013's iPhone will probably get a 13 MP camera. That's too bad, because a few years ago Apple said they weren't willing to fight the megapixel war (this was before the iPhone 4). Right now, as it appears, they are fighting the megapixel war; not the best smartphone camera war.
And oh, did you know the HTC One does HDR video? Astonishing.
I can't tell too much about the software, as I don't have first-hand experience, but from what I have read HTC is taking some risks here. They are trying to innovative. I can only applaud this.
Speakers and battery
HTC is using brand new speakers that are actually at the front of the device, so the sound is coming straight at you. Not partially at you (iPhone 5), or away from you (iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4). Also, they have put in a really powerful battery. While The Verge was generally negative about the HTC One's battery life (for some reason, The Verge is always negative about HTC), other reviewers were astonished and extremely happy with the One's battery life.
HTC is doing what Apple would have done a few years ago. And I love it.
As I mentioned, I'm an iPhone (and iPad) user, but for my feeling, the competition is doing more on both the hard- and software front than Apple is.
As I also said: Apple won't fall one day on another. All I'm saying: if Apple continues like this, Apple will slowly - gradually - become less popular.
I can't wait until Apple's iPhone and iPad sales are going to decrease. Why? It will probably mean that Apple is going to be more competitive, and will take more risks on both the soft- and hardware front.
At the same time, I also hope that Tim Cook & his team already realized this in 2011. Maybe, just maybe, that's why Johnathan Ive is now in charge of all design, and is Bob Mansfield running a special "technologies' department. If that's the case, iPhone and iPad sales don't have to decrease at all.
Apple isn't doomed, but I just wish they were going to do more exciting things: more exciting software with new and innovative features, plus exciting hardware like the Retina display was in 2010.