Apple Needs to Stop Litigating And Start Innovating (Again)

The Apple legal battles against Android device manufacturers HTC and Samsung have been the top headlines in technology news for as long as I can remember now.  I can’t think of another tech story that has been talked about by the major tech media sites for as long as this Apple vs. Samsung legal battle has been.

For anyone that’s been living under a rock – the basis of the lawsuit is that Apple is suing Android device manufacturers HTC and Samsung (Samsung has been attacked a lot more than HTC) for creating phones and tablets that they say are too similar to Apple’s flagship products. The similarities Apple is claiming are in both hardware and software.  In fact, Apple was able to get HTC’s new “One” line of phones delayed going on sale because of legal issues. As I type this, the Apple vs. Samsung legal fight is already underway, and things are just going to get uglier from here.

I’ve talked to a lot of people – both tech enthusiasts like myself (and I imagine almost everyone who reads this) – and people who hardly know how to use their DVD player or set a microwave clock.  None of them would confuse a Samsung or a HTC product for an Apple product, which is the basis of Apple’s lawsuit.

As much as I am not an Apple fan, I have to give them credit where credit is due. In the early days of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple was creating consumer devices that were changing the face of the technology world, and arguably the world as we know it.  Putting aside the argument of if these devices were “iterative vs. innovative” at the time, the terms iPod, iPhone and iPad have entered our lexicon as everyday words – and these are devices that people from all walks of life know and use.

In the early days of each of Apple’s flag-ship mobile devices, I remember sitting at my desk and watching the Apple product announcements, and by the end of each keynote I was thinking that Apple had just pulled way ahead of their competition. And it always ended up being true.  No matter what new device Apple would release, it would take months for their competitors to scramble trying to come with competitive devices. That’s not the case anymore though.

The latest releases of Apple’s products – the iPhone 4S and the new iPad have had the usual hype and excitement that come with an Apple product but arguably haven’t delivered on the same innovative, game changing “wow factor” that their earlier products have. These products seem like the next logical incremental steps for the devices and not like a new, groundbreaking version. I watch Apple keynotes now and many of the new features of iOS that are announced are features that Android has, and it feels like iOS is trying to play “catch up” to Android in some ways.

When the cat is away, the mice will play…

While Apple’s innovation seems to have slowed down, it has given their biggest competitor – Android – a chance to rev up their product.  With Android 3 (Honeycomb) and more importantly Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Android has really improved by leaps and bounds, and device manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, LG, Asus, and Sony have finally had a chance to play catch-up with Apple. Devices like Samsung’s hit new Galaxy S III phone are gaining media attention as being better than the iPhone and are luring Apple fans away. Asus and Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet is having the same effect on the market.

Innovation drives the market

Did Apple take their eyes off the ball? Are they banking on their brand recognition and huge fan base to sell new versions of their devices that might not be as impressive as they used to be? I’ve talked to a lot of people who, like me, are asking these and other questions about Apple.

The reality is that Apple is in a place where their competitors are finally catching up to them, and in some respects even surpassing Apple in the mobile device market. Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note phones have been very successful, and many iOS fans are taking notice of their larger screen sizes and some of the cool new features they have.  Google’s new flagship tablet – the Nexus 7 has been getting acclaim from many iPad fans in tech media would never praise an Android device in the past.

With Android devices finally starting to make waves, Apple needs to come up with some new ideas quickly to take the wind out of Android’s sails, and draw attention back to them.

September is make or break for Apple

The strong rumors going around the web are that Apple is about to launch an iPad Mini (a 7″ tablet), as well as the new iPhone 5 on September 12, 2012. This will be Apple’s chance to show the world that they still have some revolutionary ideas, and can once again change the mobile industry. Apple needs to do something to shake things up and once again overtake Android, and this is their chance.

Here’s to hoping Apple can shake things up and make the mobile technology industry fun again…and to take our focus away from silly lawsuits.