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Why the “iPhone 5C” is genius

I’ve owned a fairly substantial amount of phones. From my first Nokia 5110 to my current iPhone 5 I’ve owned and reviewed more phones than I can even count. However, if you ask me what my favourite phone of all time I’d have to say it was my iPhone 4. For a device to last me the usual two year cellular contract period is highly unusual. I loved that phone and even after two years it was still going relatively strong. In the end though, the contract cycle continues and I got an iPhone 5. Such is the vanity of the iPhone owner. Interestingly you can still buy the iPhone 4 and 4S, a testament to the longevity of these devices. No one is still buying a Samsung Galaxy S2, it’s a thing of the past.

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Why Tim Cook shouldn’t tie his bonus to share price

We’ve spoken about the Apple share price before on Loosechange and now it’s emerged that Apple boss, Tim Cook has moved his bonus structure to be linked with the price of the stock. This is an interesting move:

When Cook took over as CEO in 2011, he was awarded a bonus of one million shares of Apple stock, half of which were set to vest in 2016 and the other half in 2021 — with the only condition being that Cook stay with the company. However, Apple’s board revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has approved a request from Cook to tie his bonus payout to the performance of the company’s stock — a move that seems intended to prove to investors that Apple’s leadership takes the stock price seriously.

“Mr. Cook is leading this initiative by example and has the full support of the Board of Directors,” Bruce Sewell, Apple’s SVP and general counsel, said in the filing. “He asked the Committee to apply a performance metric to his outstanding 2011 CEO equity award as well as any potential future awards. After careful deliberation, the Committee has approved a modification to Mr. Cook’s 2011 award.”

It’s interesting that Cook himself picked this option in order to prove his commitment to the company.

The share price has plummeted close on $300 per share in the past year and no one is really sure when or how it will improve. Share prices are usually linked to the potential earnings and growth of a company, the higher the potential, the higher the share price.

Now if Cook’s bonus is linked to the share price and Apple’s potential earnings are linked to innovation there will be a desperate need to release a multitude of amazing hardware and software products. It’s not impossible for Apple to do this, they had an amazing run with the iPhone, iPad and machines such as the Macbook Air. To continue that run, they’ll need to continue to release products that amaze.

The problem with constant innovation is potential quality issues associated with pumping out such high levels of innovation. Already we’re seeing some pretty wild changes with iOS 7. It’s great software and a brilliant departure from iOS 6 but we’re still to see whether the layman Apple user can cope with such a radical change. The same can be said for the announced Mac Pro; a machine that looks beautiful but is aimed at a market of hardcore professionals. There is a very large chance that they will be turned off by the new design.

Cook putting his bonus on the line is a brave move by someone trying to emulate Steve Jobs for being ballsy. Steve was a genius visionary, Tim is a genius operator. Apple is and always will be a great company but we’ll never see the share price at the heady levels of 2012.

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The business of iOS 7

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October 2012, Apple reaches it’s highest price of over $700 a share. Today, it’s currently hovering around $430.

Two weeks ago we saw the announcement of iOS 7. Reactions are mixed, some people love the new look and others think it’s a candy coloured mix of chaos. My favourite commentary on iOS 7 has to be the Matt Gemmell post where he puts the iOS 6 and iOS 7 next to each other for this image:

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The two weeks I’ve had with the operating system have left me extremely confused. It’s pretty but ironically very cluttered and since it’s still a beta the OS is very buggy as is expected. iOS 7 feels like someone smashed iOS 6, Android and Windows Phone 8 together in a blender and the resultant flurry is iOS 7. I’m not mad over it and those who are comfortable with iOS 6 (read between the lines: old people) are going to hate it for being quite different visually.

For the Apple stock price, whether people love it or hate it is irrelevant.

Right now Apple is seen as being in a creative slump. Their products are languishing and their software, particularly mobile, is lagging behind market leader Android. Samsung is kicking them in the proverbial teeth for market share and even Apple die-hards are starting to consider their options.

Right now, all the stock price needs to improve is to be different.

iOS 7 is that, different. It’s irrelevant whether it’s similar to Android or Windows Phone. It’s irrelevant whether people love or loath the operating system, it just needs to be a departure both functionally and creatively. It is.

Currently iOS 7 isn’t that great. It fills a few gaps in iOS 6 but doesn’t do anything revolutionary and still needs some catching up to do to be in pole position as it has for the past 5 years.

Apple will be releasing iOS 7 in a few months and based on how different it is, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a fairly substantial stock price increase.

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The link between advertising and revenue

If you’re not reading Asymco for insight into the business behind mobile technology you’re missing out. Writer and analyst Horace Dediu put a great tweet out earlier today about the marketing spend of some of the worlds biggest retail companies:

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Interesting to see that Samsung spends the most although this does make sense in that they’re advertising everything from the latest Galaxy phone to a TV or laptop (for full info on what falls under Samsung Electronics click here). These are interesting numbers but nothing without context. Twitter user @Chiphanna went and ran these numbers in order to compare marketing spend vs revenue and came up with some interesting figures:

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Essentially for every dollar Apple spends on marketing, they make $156 in revenue. Compare that to Samsung that have to spend a dollar to only make a  relatively low $46 in revenue and you wonder if someone like Samsung is doing something wrong?

The fascinating insight is that of Coca-Cola, they spend over three billion dollars a year to and only make $14 for every dollar they spend. This brings us to wonder whether the advertising that Coca-Cola puts out is actually irrelevant or are they over advertising?

Another interesting question is what would happen if Dell spent $200 million more a year (bringing them into parity with HP spend) would their sales increase to the level of HP? I would assume this is unlikely as proportionally they need to spend more than the $200 million in order to get to a level of parity.

Coca-Cola continually have to spend billions for the reason that they need to be top of mind before anyone heads to the soda fridge to buy a drink. More expensive products from brands such as HP and Apple require more research, more information and aren’t impulse purchases. As such, they can advertise less.

The number one take out for me: You don’t to have great adverts or spend billions, you need to have a product people love. Apple makes so much revenue per ad dollar for the simple reason that their products are great. As a whole this can be seen for HP and even to some extent Microsoft.

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Samesung

The latest release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 really upsets me. The tablet is clearly using Samsung’s design language and looks like a blown up Galaxy S3, Samsungs current (for the next week or so) halo phone. What makes me feel as though this is a cold and callous attempt at product development is the obvious connection to the iPad Mini.

Samsung created the 7-inch tablet genre with its original generation Galaxy Tab; a piece of plastic I thought was quite poor due to it using Android 2.2. This version was made for a phone not a tablet and just never felt right to me. Fast-forward about three years and Samsung has released multiple 7, 8.9 and 10.1-inch tablets. There’s literally a tablet for every size need.

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Last year Apple launched the iPad Mini, a device that many see as Apple’s attempt to fight back against the likes of the Kindle Fire HD (an 8.9-inch tablet) as well as the Google Nexus 7 (7-inches and around half the price of a full size iPad) which has been selling in the bucket loads. In true Apple fashion they tried to make it slightly different and to not have any issues with aspect ratio or resolutions they kept the 1024X768 resolution of the original generation iPad as well as the generally squarer aspect ratio compared to the more widescreen ratio of all Android tabs. The iPad Mini is 7.9-inches; see a trend?

Samsung all but destroyed the Sony monopoly on big plasma screens (by releasing tons of models at lower prices) in the early two thousands and their market share in the mobile phone arena seems to show a similar trend.

What we have here is a company that doesn’t in any way wildly innovate but clones industries that are profitable. You’ll notice Apple hasn’t really released anything wildly exciting over the past few months and frankly do you blame them?

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It’s a battle of the ecosystem

I recently received a Nokia Lumia 820 for review (more on that soon) but what really interested me about the device is the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem. I’m a weird hybrid, I have a Windows 8 desktop (thus a Microsoft account) and a Macbook Pro (with an iPhone and iPad kept in sync via iCloud) and on top of that I use Gmail and Google Apps to manage all my mail. I have a foot in every major mobile providers ecosystem. I exclude RIM for obvious reasons. I put my Windows account details into the phone when I first turned it on and all the mail from my Gmail (which is associated with the account) synchronised. I had a fairly simple realisation:

The winner of the mobile operating system war isn’t going to be the company that necessarily provides the best hardware or even software (they are all fairly similar at the basics) but the company that provides the best cloud ecosystem features. Contacts, calendar and certain files have become the basics each company provides. Apple has iCloud, Google has Gmail and Microsoft has a Hotmail/Skydrive combination that can currently be a little confusing.

You see the important issue to consider here is that once you’ve hooked yourself into iCloud, Gmail or Hotmail it’s actually quite painful to get out of the system. You’re locked in with all your contacts in iCloud or a server somewhere at Google HQ.

This brings me back to my original point: Apple sells a hardware device currently. The same can be said for the likes of Samsung and Nokia who sell to their customers based on their hardware. They tout features such as multi-megapixel cameras, sixteen core chips and screens that only an Orangutang could comfortably hold.

If Apple, Microsoft or Google (and even RIM) were smart they’d all sell you on one feature: “We make it easy for you to port”. If I could go to a Microsoft website, plug in my iCloud address and have all my information essentially broken out of jail I’d be a happy customer. At the moment I stick with Apple for the simple reason that I know when I put it on I’ll have all my contacts and calendars on the phone the moment I put my password in. The same applies for Google and Microsoft. Currently I have a weird mess of contacts from Linkedin, Facebook, Google and more on the Lumia 820. This is an issue of ignorance on my part and not knowing how to use the syncing properly however it’s frustrating.

Break down the walls holding our data inside!

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People love the iPad Mini

Reviews of the new iPad Mini are flying in thick and fast with the major gadget sites giving it a thumbs up.

Harry McCracken of Time

Aesthetically, the 7-inchers are all nice considering their price. The mini is nice, period. It’s glass on the front and aluminum on the back, and at least as deluxe-feeling as any other iPad Apple has ever made. But the company didn’t quite stick an iPad in a photocopier and press the Reduce button.

…If your budget’s got more wiggle room, the iPad mini is the best compact-sized tablet on the market. Apple didn’t build yet another bargain-basement special; it squeezed all of the big iPad’s industrial-design panache, software polish and third-party apps, and most of its technology, into a smaller thinner, lighter, lower-priced model. The result may be a product in a category of one – but I have a hunch it’s going to be an awfully popular category.

MG Siegler of Techcrunch (major, major fanboy)

The iPad mini isn’t perfect – for one reason [the lack of a Retina screen] in particular – but it’s damn close to my ideal device. In my review of the Nexus 7 (which I really liked, to the shock of many), I kept coming back to one thing: the form-factor. Mix this with iOS and Apple’s app ecosystem and the intangibles I spoke about earlier and the iPad mini is an explosion of handheld joy

…But how will a $329 tablet fare in a world of $199 tablets? It’s hard to know for sure, but my guess would be in the range of “quite well” to “spectacular.”

Joshua Topolsky of The Verge

The biggest change in the software on the iPad mini that you need to be aware of is… everything is smaller. 99 out of 100 times while using it, this wasn’t an issue, but it did take some getting used to in places. For instance, because the screen real estate is so much larger than an iPhone but icons are now roughly iPhone size, apps with lots of navigational elements can be a little less intuitive to navigate. Furthermore, the keyboard size feels altered — most notably in portrait — and the keys don’t see tall enough for my fingers.

Tim Stevens of Engadget

In our standard battery run-down test, which entails looping a video with WiFi enabled and a fixed display brightness, the iPad mini managed an astounding 12 hours and 43 minutes. This gives it the longest battery life of any tablet we’ve ever tested, besting even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 by 42 minutes. Indeed during the course of our testing the battery on the iPad mini exceeded our expectations, expectations that were already high thanks to the consistently great battery life offered by the iPad family.

Yes the reviews think it’s great and despite the price it’s looking as though the iPad Mini will sell in the millions. However, with Apple generally refreshing the iPad line between April and May do you really want to have a device for seven months before they release an even thiner, lighter and higher resolution version? I think not.

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The new iMac sucks

The new iMac announced last night is beautiful. It’s thinner, lighter and much better looking than the old models but it’s a logical step backwards for a company supposedly moving forward. In the same way that the world is starting to embrace healthy fashion models and shun the super thin, so too should we shun this new super thin iMac.

The wool has been pulled over our eyes you see. The new iMac is technologically similar to its predecessor in that the old devices use Intel Core processors, has the same resolution and size screens and doesn’t have an SSD drive by default. While Apple is improving its mobile devices by going thinner and lighter with higher resolution screens it seems its now flagship desktop (the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated in years) is lagging behind.

The 2012 model comes without an optical drive and only the higher end models come with the SSD/HDD combo called the Fusion Drive (which theoretically could be provided in any current device) and the resolution is the same as the old models. Essentially you’re getting less for your money than last year not to mention I can’t see these things surviving very long due to heat issues.

That said, I want one and am lusting heavily over something as thin and light on my desk. I’m not the only one, The Verge had the following to say:

Apple’s using a ridiculously aggressive rounded back to make the sides appear almost impossibly thin until you come around fully to the back, at which point the true depth of the machine is apparent. It’s a trick, but it works incredibly well… the laminated front glass and anti-glare treatments make images look like they’re lying right on top of the screen… Overall it looks stunning – the first real reason to replace an iMac in years.

The new iMac is the sportscar of desktop computers: horribly impractical but oh so enjoyable.

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Dear Apple: Please buy Nokia

Ever since Stephen Elop went from running the Microsoft Office division to head up Nokia there have been rumours of Microsoft circling the rotting carcass that is the Nokia business. I still think Nokia makes the best looking phones, arguably better than the latest Apple designs, so Microsoft makes logical sense for Nokia, especially since they use the Microsoft mobile operating system. However, what if Apple were to buy Nokia with their patents, mapping services and great hardware design skills? It’s not as crazy as it sounds:

Patents:

This past July, Envision IP took a look at that portfolio and found that, in the US alone, Nokia had almost 16,000 patents around telecommunication in the US alone (and another 20,000 patents outside of the US). With an average 13 years left on those patents, they include some of the building blocks for the next generation of mobile telecommunication services: building blocks technologies like GSM (which was mostly developed by Nokia), 3G, and now LTE are all part of Nokia’s patent portfolio. A 2011 survey showed that Nokia was the largest patent holder for essential technologies relating to LTE.

Maps:

Maps? Yes, maps. Over the last few years, Nokia has made a number of bets on location and mapping, with the 2007 U$8 billion acquisition of Navteq. This acquisition made Nokia the largest provider of mapping services in the world. In fact, the company provides mapping services to Google, UPS, Fedex, and many of the largest players in the automotive industry. When looked at in contrast to the recent release of Apple maps, it seems that this investment is one that would greatly benefit Apple and allow it to quickly catch up and surpass Google.

Competitive Advantage:

Of course, an acquisition of Nokia would have quite an impact on Microsoft as it tries to make its way back into the mobile space. With Nokia as its most important partner, Microsoft’s hope to become a likely contender for consumers’ hearts might be dealt something pretty close to a deathblow. The company would remain a strong players in the areas it has power in but its attempt at getting a strong footing in the mobile space would be the setback that kills its ambitions there.

Meanwhile, the increase in the size of the patent portfolio Apple would control would probably have a large impact on the company’s lawsuits against Android manufacturers.

If you consider that Nokia is only worth $10 Billion and Apple has $100 Billion in the bank they could buy Nokia without skipping a beat. You destroy Windows Phone, kick Android in the patent cajones and solve the mapping issue in one convenient payment.

Source (Business Insider)