If iOS disappoints, Apple will still rake in sales

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: March 22, 2013

Trying to beat expectation is hard. Some might say impossible. For the mobile industry, especially when we’re talking about flagship devices from the most popular manufacturers, beating expectations is just something that isn’t even thought about. Just keeping up with rumors, “unknown sources” or rampant speculation means that it’s a race impossible to win. In more cases than not, it’s all about matching expectation, or you risk the chance of not meeting them at all, and seeing a collapse of public support.

There’s more to it than that, though. Simply put, even if you see a lot of people around you saying they’re not excited about a particular device, there are probably 10 other folks saying they’re ridiculously amped to put their hands on it, and make the new handset their own. Or, it could be the other way around. It’s anyone’s guess how a phone might be accepted into the public, but guesses are usually put in place long before its release.

Sometimes, the expectations are put in place long before a phone is even announced.

Did BlackBerry match expectations? I think BlackBerry actually tapered expectations pretty well, even if they did manage to squash any and all excitement for their main unveiling event for the BlackBerry Z10 (and Q10), and BlackBerry 10 proper. They did that by providing all sorts of “sneak peeks” of certain features, like the keyboard, before they officially unveiled anything. It was a good way to make sure people knew what they were going to see in the future, without allowing for rumors or speculation to get out of control.

I think BlackBerry understood that if they couldn’t handle the expectations, they ran the risk of the rumors crushing them. In truth, BlackBerry 10 is a bold step forward for the company, and I’m personally excited to see how it works out for them. They deserve a lot of credit for trying something new, a feat that some companies just don’t seem ready to do.

HTC, I think, matched expectations for anyone who has been a fan of HTC hardware, or who has paid any attention to the manufacturer’s handsets over the years. The HTC One is a truly remarkable handset, an Android-based device that gives Apple’s iPhone a run for its money in pure aesthetic design appeal, and construction. That’s something that has been a long time coming, and I think it isn’t surprising that HTC was the company to build that phone. However, I think people’s expectations for the software side of things, especially when it came to Sense, let the changes that HTC did make get washed under the bridge. Sure, BlinkFeed is cool, and from people I’ve spoken to about the new Sense 5, it’s remarkably more lightweight than previous versions. Unfortunately, HTC just let that slip out of the news, and we all expected it to be something worth writing home about.

Samsung didn’t do anything to ward off high expectations, rumors, or speculation. They just ignored it all, and let it all build up. Then, with about as much fanfare as you can do at a smartphone unveiling, they announced their next big thing. The Galaxy S 4 is a true successor to the Galaxy S III, in that it shares the same design, with plenty of the same software running under the hood (thanks to TouchWiz UI), but Samsung made sure to highlight why the Galaxy S 4 is different. It does have new features. The display is bigger, and sharper. More storage options, and different color variants.

In the end, though, I don’t think it much mattered. Samsung’s popularity in the Android market is unmatched, and I think as long as Samsung didn’t release a phone that had a dual-core processor, a standard AMOLED display and a 1,300mAh battery, they could have announced just about anything and garnered plenty of positive attention. (I’m not saying there wasn’t negative press out there about Samsung’s newest flagship device. Just, overall, it’s all rainbows and butterflies in Samsung’s neck-of-the-woods. Phone wise.)

I’m beginning to wonder if Apple’s in the same situation. I’m actually starting to understand that Apple’s only chance at real “failure” is if they stop providing yearly iPhone refreshes. And, by that, I mean that they stop manufacturing any kind of smartphone at all. The iPhone, undoubtedly, is one of those phones that just doesn’t seem to match expectation at all, at any given launch. And we’re talking both hardware and software. No matter which iPhone launch we’re talking about, the rumor mill and speculation regarding Apple’s smartphone is legendary. We hear all sorts of things, and the trouble comes when some of those rumors start sounding legitimately accurate. You start thinking, “Hey, that could work!” and you begin to wonder how cool that particular feature, or piece of hardware would be in your everyday life.

Then it doesn’t happen like that, and you’re left being disappointed.

But you know what? People still buy the iPhone. In fact, a lot of people buy the iPhone. When the iPhone 4S was launched, I remember hearing all sorts of negative things about the device. No larger display? Fail. No this, no that, and no thing-a-ma-jig? Fail. But Apple still sold a lot of iPhones. And, despite the fact that we’re beginning to hear whispers that iOS may see some kind of change in this new version, I don’t think it will matter.

Even if the new iOS, iOS 7 or whatever Apple decides to call it, doesn’t have any changes, and the iPhone 5S is just barely an upgrade from the 5 proper, Apple will add just enough to make sure that people will buy it. A better camera. More memory (or just the removal of the 16GB option altogether). Whatever the case, it’s just at a point where the iPhone will sell, no matter what Apple does or doesn’t do.

Is that a good thing? Yes it is. Why? Because Samsung needs a legitimate competitor. And it’s just as simple as that.

But I’m still curious. Do you think if Apple does change iOS, to be more “simple and flat” that it will negatively affect sales on a truly broad scale? Or will it be just like any other iOS unveiling, iPhone launch, that a loud minority cries out against Apple, while the masses go out to buy the next version of Apple’s popular smartphone? Let me know what you think.