A couple of weeks ago now the latest iterations of the cultural phenomenon that is the iPhone were released. Critics oohed and aahed at the new colours (Gold! Shiny!) and used the virtual equivalent of gallons of newsprint arguing over whether the new iPhone 5c was cheap enough to make a dent in the Chinese pay as you go market (no seems to be the verdict).
Price and adaptability are obviously important for a great number of people and in the week that the once mighty BlackBerry was sold for less than $5bn (equivalent to less than a week’s iPhone sales revenue), it seems clear that having a keyboard really isn’t important.
Last Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a Nexus 7 tablet as a gift*. Apart from the size, weight and general design of it, all of which I love, the thing that has impressed me most has been the typing functionality because the later versions of Android have a ‘keyboard’ which allows you to drag your fingers across the ‘keys’, in a manner that is more akin to joined up writing than the one-fingered typewriting that the iPhone experience is more like.
As soon as you’ve done it more than once it makes doing anything involving typing on an Apple device seem like a very laborious task. And whilst Apple were able to show that the smartphone does enough things other than typing emails to enable them to displace Blackberry with the business community, I can’t help but wonder whether the fact that their new developments seem to be almost entirely about form rather than function mean that they’re ripe for a little disruption of their own.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting Apple is about to lose its ability to churn out golden goose after golden goose (people much cleverer than me have already been proved wrong trying to do that), though it’s not entirely out of the question; but, equally, as someone who now switches regularly between iOS (phone) and Android (tablet) devices, Apple’s ‘good-enough’ just isn’t good enough for me any more.
Update: Bizarrely, as https://mobile.twitter.com/danbarker/status/383112724462305280?screen_name=danbarker points out Apple appear to have known this since http://m.techcrunch.com/2013/09/24/apple-keyboard-swipe-patent/. When the iPhone first launched. Maybe it’s time they did something about it.
*Disclosure: it was a gift from Google