Will 2012 be the year that Apple can afford to think outside the box?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 31, 2011

2012 is shaping up to be an amazing year for the mobile industry. There’s no doubt in my mind that next year, which starts tomorrow, is going to be one of the best years to date. 2007 was big with the launch of the iPhone. 2008 saw the first coming of Android for the consumer. And 2010 saw the birth of Microsoft’s Windows Phone. That’s not to say that 2011 wasn’t a huge year in and of itself as well. After all, we saw HP kill webOS, and then put it up for grabs in the open source arena. There were plenty of other notable moments, but I’m still looking at 2012 as being even better.

And that has me thinking about one of the most powerful players in the mobile market, and wondering if 2012 will be the year that they really make a leap into a new direction. I’m wondering that, now that their phone has become the phone that all other manufacturers try to kill, can they afford to think outside of the box and surprise the world all over again? I’m really, really hoping that they can.

Back in 2007 when Apple unveiled the iPhone, the whole mobile industry blew up. Sure, if you followed the news sites then you probably already had a good idea what Apple was planning to show off, and you may have even seen what it looked like, in a more rudimentary –minus the Steve Jobs flare—version. But, the rest of the world was surprised, and that was obviously the goal. And since then, Apple has released plenty of new iPhones, but none of them have really captured that “wow factor” since the first one. They’ve all been smash hits, yes, but none of them have garnered the same kind of “Oh my gosh, have you seen the new iPhone?” feel.

Maybe the iPhone 4S did, but not in the same way. People were expecting something else, and when the iPhone 4S was shown off, well, people were shocked in a whole different kind of way. Which is why I think, that despite the fact that the iPhone 5 (or whatever they call it) may or may not be unveiled in the Fall of next year, this is time that they need to knock the socks off the whole world again. More than that, I think the iPhone and iOS need to knock the socks off the whole world.

I know a lot of iPhone fans out there that won’t see it the same way as I do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to sit here and say that there’s something inherently wrong with iOS, or the way that it’s looked the same since its inception. Why? Because there is nothing wrong with iOS, or that it looks the same since its inception. It’s fine the way it is, and millions of owners out there will agree with that. But, well, it looks the same. When the iPhone 5 gets unveiled, that will be five years since the first one hit the scene, and that means that iOS, for the most part, has looked the same for five years. That’s a long time. That’s a long time for anything to look the same.

“Don’t fix what’s not broken.” That’s an old saying that probably applies here, but that’s insinuating that if Apple were to dramatically change the way the iPhone and iOS look, that something would inherently break after the fact. I don’t think that would happen at all. I’m not saying that Apple needs to change, or add, or take away, features within iOS 5 to make iOS 6 great. Not at all. I just think it needs to look different. I think it’s time that iOS gets a face lift, like Android recently received with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Can it be done? Of course. Apple has the people deep within their headquarters to make this stuff happen. It doesn’t just need to be squared icons and folders. They can branch out and keep the functionality that iOS fans love. It’s perfectly possible. So, is 2012 the year that Apple does that? Let’s certainly hope so.