The iPhone 5: Is It Boring or the “Next Big Thing”?


If you do not live under a rock, you know that the iPhone 5 has arrived and that it is thinner, lighter, larger and faster than its predecessor.

And if you, just like me, belong to the growing crowd of nerdy tech-blog followers, you have known this for quite a while. The fact that iOS 6’s new features had already been introduced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this summer, in combination with the wave of leaks, took a bit of the fun out of the announcement.

In addition, at first glance it seems that the innovation that the iPhone 5 brings is rather incremental.  Wired‘s Mat Honan argues that it is a boring device and Forbes thinks that the iPhone 5 is not “the next truly big thing“. There is, however, an interesting nuance that seems to go largely unnoticed and the number “Five” might mean more than one assumes. Here is what caught my attention:

The Incremental Improvements

  • The screen: The “biggest thing” about the iPhone 5 is obviously its larger display, using in-cell touch screen for better color accuracy and saturation, and a thinner form factor. While the new aspect ratio is very close to the 16:9 HD standard and thus better suited for the consumption of media, app developers are probably in frantic update mode as I am writing these lines…
  • From 30 to 8 pins: The original 30-pin dock connector had a great run of 10 years, but it was time for a change. In an industry where slimness is a key advantage, the size of the dock connector became an obstacle for slimmer products. Apple’s move to provide two types of adapters will salvage the millions of accessories already on the market, even though David Pogue expects some “grumpiness in iPhoneland” and wishes that these adapters came free with the purchase of an iPhone 5. The additional costs will certainly be a consideration for “upgraders” that own multiple accessories…
  • 4G: After most of its competition features LTE for quite a while already, the faster wireless standard finally arrived on the iPhone and it comes along with a smaller “nano-SIM” card. If you travel intercontinentally on a regular basis and want to get “the 5″, you’re up for a tricky purchase decision, though, as there are three region-specific devices available… I for one am holding off with my order until unlocked devices become available in the U.S.
  • Camera: Being the photography geek that I am, I was interested in seeing how Apple would improve what is the most popular camera on flickr. Except for the scratch-resistant sapphire glass, the hardware seemed unchanged and it looked like improvements were made only with the inclusion of a panorama mode and better low-light performance. DPReview has, however, found that Apple is also using an updated image sensor that is slightly larger and improves on the minimum light sensitivity. Altogether, this seems to offer an all-around better experience of the industry-leading feature.
  • 600 people to test and develop the EarPods: To me – and to many other users that gave the iconic white earphones a measly 2.5 star rating in the Apple Store – the redesigned EarPods are merely righting a wrong.  They never really did fit or sound too great and I hope that all that testing, did bear fruit – pun intended.

Five: What’s In The Name?

Apart from these “boring” improvements to the class leader, ASYMCO’s industry analyst Horace Dediu was quick to point out that the iPhone 5’s name holds an important clue as to how Apple views its halo-product. Prior to the event invitation that revealed the product’s name, there had been speculations on whether Apple would move away from a number-based naming for the iPhone.

After changing the iPad naming to the brand-subbrand scheme (iPad 2 vs. “the new” iPad) that the rest of Apple’s hardware follows (e.g. “MacBook Pro” and “MacBook Air”, “iPod Touch” and “iPod nano”), the iPhone is now the sole hardware product in Apple’s line-up that still bears a number in its name and this means two things:

  1. There will not be an iPhone “nano” or “mini,” and tiering the product line will continue to be achieved through several generations of the product being sold at the same time. Currently these are the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
  2. More interestingly, the nomenclature could indicate that Apple sees the iPhone more as a platform, much like its operating systems iOS6 or OS10.6. The platform could play host to an increasing portfolio of software and services, like Siri.

This could be a disruptive shift, creating new interesting opportunities for the iPhone and even more so for its users. Here are four hypotheses of what could lie ahead for the iPhone:

  • Apple Maps could see extensions with Apple-proprietary or third-party location-based services and augmented reality.
  • Apple’s Passbook service could develop closer ties with e-commerce websites and other forms of payment to become a true digital wallet.
  • With the addition of sensors and wearable technology, Apple could develop the iPhone platform into the leading hub for Digital Health & Wellness.
  • Along the same lines, the iPhone could become the gateway into that elusive Internet of Things, and connect not only to the personal computer and TV, but to pretty much everything one owns.

With these – and many more – potential additions to the platform, I do not think that the iPhone 5 is boring at all and while it may not be “the truly next big thing” itself, it might well be what the next big thing for Apple will be built upon.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… transforming the future of small businesses

Posted on May 8, 2012 in Industrial Design, Research, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… an Ultrabook for students


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

Googlerola

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research, Trends


Since Monday’s announcement of Google’s multi-billion-dollar acquisition of Motorola, the media has been buzzing on what is the largest deal in Google’s history. While Google continues to reiterate that it is a protective move that allows using Moto’s patents to protect its Android OS from anti-competitive threats, it is fascinating to speculate about the fate of all players involved. So what might be next for “Googlerola”, for its partners and competitors, for Android and – last but not least – for the consumer?

Reading the media reaction to Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it becomes clear that the move is not solely “defensive” as Google’s PR machine is trying to suggest. Sure, after losing the 6,000+ Nortel-patents to the Apple-Microsoft-led consortium just a little over a month ago, Motorola’s intellectual property of some 17,000 patents comes as a welcome infusion for Android, but more importantly Googlerola will now be able to build truly market-leading mobile devices that finally deliver a fully integrated Android hardware and software experience.

While it might be too early to sell your Google shares, not all is good in Mountain View: Google has just increased its workforce from 30,000 to 50,000 employees and has acquired 90+ low-margin hardware factories in an information-centric world that it dominates.

More importantly, beyond the mere numbers, it will be challenging for the search-giant to cope with the obvious looming cultural clash that might in the end tip the scales.

Android Partners and Competitors

Upon acquisition of Android, Google founded the Open Handset Alliance – “a consortium of 80 hardware, software, and telecommunication companies” (Wikipedia), the most important device manufacturers of which certainly have reason to feel threatened by Googlerola. The suspiciouslyuniform partner responses seem to spell trouble:

 “We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Googles deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”
JK Shin, President, Samsung Mobile

“We welcome the news of today’s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
Peter Chou, CEO, HTC

“I welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Bert Nordberg, CEO, Sony Ericsson

“We welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Jong-Seok Park, CEO, LG Mobile

Even before the news broke, Nokia’s stance against Android (and for Windows Phone), HP’s attempt at reviving Palm’s WebOS and Samsung’s move to create their own “Bada” OS late last year raised quite a few eyebrows.

While Nokia yet has to deliver a Windows Phone product, the Finnish market leader detailedaspects of their plans for the platform today. Samsung has shipped an estimated quarter of its 20 million smartphone shipments in Q2 powered by Bada (with a year-by-year growth rate of 355%!). Furthermore, two days after Google’s big shopping spree, Samsung’s chairman Lee Kun-hee demands from its company to “enhance its software prowess”. Wow!

So now that Samsung is showing that it can work and others are in the midst of trying, what keeps the LG’s and HTC’s and Sony Ericsson’s from attempting the same – especially now that Google has turned into a full-fledged competitor?

And what about Microsoft? As of today, they are the sole provider of a mobile operating system that does not come with integrated hardware and will have to figure out how to play in the mobile space once again. Maybe it’s time to produce some Redmond-designed phones?

The previously stale mobile phone market is suddenly fresh and exciting again and I expect the players to reevaluate their strategies and to react to the changed situation with enthusiastic new plans.

The Android Platform

I am wondering what the move means for Android as a market-leading platform that seems to dominate with “quantity” rather than “quality” (think: number of features, manufacturers, carriers, handsets).

Not even three years after the release of HTC’s “Dream”, Android feels more bloated and obese than Windows ever managed to become (“Longhorns” never were the most nimble of animals).

Android is extremely fragmented and doesn’t allow for much differentiation between Google’s partners (read: competitors), unless they inflate customize their flavor of the operating system even more.

There is certainly some word of caution in historic attempts to integrate hardware and software in this arena: Steve Jobs stopped the “Apple Clone” program after his return to Cupertino at the end of the 90′s, Microsoft never built their own laptops and Nokia’s acquisition of Symbian marked the beginning of the demise of that operating system. According to asymco’s Horace Dediu, “This is classic channel conflict and never ends well.”

Android will certainly not fade away, and it will probably not lose its market leading position either. However, the acquisition might however strengthen some competitors and will spark others to appear in the arena.

The Consumer

So what’s in it for us? Gizmodo is quick to point out “Samsung, HTC, et al, are going to need another avenue of attack, since Motorola branded products are going to theoretically have a major advantage”.

All these possible “avenues” are what will make Google’s acquisition of Motorola so interesting in the coming months and I strongly believe that the event will act as a catalyst in the development of a multitude of new and improved mobile products.

Paraphrasing JK Shin, Peter Chou, Bert Nordberg and Jong-Seok Park “I welcome the news” and hope that in the end the consumer will win.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… changing how students learn


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

Cameras Connect

Posted on Mar 14, 2011 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research, Trends


Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, GPS, compasses and other receivers are a given with mobile phones – these components not only help to interconnect different devices and untether the overall use experience, they also connect users to each other through the use of social media. Users will demand for this experience to transcend beyond the realm of their mobile phones. While the traditional camera model has been simply to capture images, post-processing, sharing, and other activities will find their way into digital cameras.

The full report shows you how mobile connected services centered on photos are growing, early designs for new camera connectivity that will soon be commonplace like WiFi, GPS, and battery charging, and new device relationships allowing remote control.

Cameras Connect

Rich with examples, all Artefact Reports also include conclusions about business opportunities and exercises you can use to understand how this trend may affect your products and services.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

Big “App-ortunities” for the Camera Industry

Posted on Feb 28, 2011 in Design Strategy, Opinion, Research, Trends


Camera makers still think of the embedded software on their devices as “firmware,” whereas the mobile phone industry has taken the next step and sees their offerings as “operating systems” or “software platforms.” While it is thus still somewhat of an afterthought within cameras, software enhances the imaging-related capabilities in smartphones and sometimes turns them into the better camera. This creates a demand for the same interactivity within the digital camera arena. We believe the embedded software that comes with cameras will be more integrated with the device and it will be expandable through apps. Digital Cameras will become “smart cams.”

The full report shows you how the rise of photo-related phone apps are making them camera competitors, how more interactive camera hardware sets the stage for more complete experiences, and what ‘open source cameras’ reveal about creating more capable devices.

Big App-ortunities for the Camera Industry

Rich with examples, all Artefact Reports also include conclusions about business opportunities and exercises you can use to understand how this trend may affect your products and services.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

What your digital camera will do… three years from now.

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research


In our previous post on the topic, we argued that for the future of digital photography we see big opportunities within the three areas of redefined product architecture, connectivity and the integration of hardware and software. We arrived at these assumptions by evaluating the current digital photography market as well as neighboring market segments, by taking a closer look at the history of photography and by observing common trends in digital technology.

In looking ahead at what this will mean for the development of digital photography, we must also take the photographer into account and deliberate how to best add value for the user. This quickly leads us to looking at the basic, foundational propositions of image capturing, and the essential question:

At the same time as we are looking at what lies ahead in terms of technology, we are deliberating on how to best add value for the user, which quickly leads us to looking at the basic, foundational propositions of image capturing, by asking

“What is photography all about?”

Mankind has always been fascinated by the topic, mainly due to three basic human interests that we all share:

1. Remembering
Said photographer Aaron Siskind: “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”

Capturing the moment to remember it has always been one of the main motivations and desires, be it in writing, drawing or through photographic images. No matter if the memories are staged or spontaneous, photography helps us to remember events, mood, atmosphere, location and – last but not least – the people involved.

2. Self-expression
Sometimes, just capturing the moment isn’t enough – and photographers turn into artists that creatively express themselves, generate a certain mood using photography or use the photos they have taken as a basis for post-processing.

In analog photography these goals were accomplished with ink, paint, airbrush or a simple “pointed scraping tool” as it was used in Polaroid Art, where the photographer dissects and then scratches the emulsion of their instant photos to create a desired effect.

Nowadays there is a slew of digital tools available, most importantly Photoshop on the desktop and mobile offerings such as iPhone-favorite Hipstamatic.

3. Sharing
No matter the purpose – memories or art – photography always wanted to be shared. This was first accomplished using prints. In today’s connected world, this desire is illustrated through the abundance of digital photo frames and such online services as Flickr and Picasa.

What would the ideal camera need to accomplish?

Traditionally, the mastery of technology helped us take great photos: Knowing how to focus with a rangefinder or how to apply the “Sunny 16 rule” were once essential to photography.

In today’s world of ubiquitous camera-equipped cell phones and affordable point-and-shoot devices however, one does not need to understand the basics. Instead, there is not much more to photography than pushing the shutter button. Or is there?

Professional systems still rely heavily on the vocabulary and techniques of old, since these undoubtedly deliver results.

But what about the rest of us? The ones that the camera industry sees as “prosumers”? The following two ads – both interestingly about Micro-Four-Thirds cameras – capture the spirit of these products rather concisely:
Kevin Spacey does not want to be “that camera guy“, instead this artist is taking great photos without being a great photographer.

Aspiring photographers are given tools that are in-between the point-and-shoot world and the professional product world. The products promise to unite what is best about the two categories – high quality glass and sensors and an unrivaled ease-of-use. Yet, the so-called prosumer cameras do not bridge the two worlds.
Painting a vision for the future, we believe that the ideal prosumer camera will be characterized by the following three attributes:

1. Precision
Professional cameras as well as photography have always been associated with accuracy: finding the moment when light and subject feel “just right”, framing the shot and then exposing the photographic medium for the right amount of time and with the right amount of light.
The ideal “prosumer” camera will maintain these characteristic traits by presenting the user with precise controls – both in terms of hardware and software – that will facilitate the taking of the “perfect picture”.

2. Ease of use
Kevin Spacey has a point: if an aspiring photographer does not want to be “that camera guy”, his device should comply, by offering simple point-and-shoot-like options. On top of that, when the user demands it, the prosumer camera of the future will offer complete control. This allows the user to grow, experiment and develop additional skill.
The camera will unlock new capabilities through modular extendable hardware and software that will provide additional tools for creative expression.

3. Empowerment
The camera of the future will be a platform for aspiring photographers, one that guides and assists in the pursuit of great photography and helps one to become better at it. This will be accomplished both through an adaptive and integrated user interface, as well as through a network of users that will enable photographers to learn from each other.

Stay tuned – in our upcoming post, we will describe how these ideas and opinions are translated into a product.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

Digital Photography, where will you go? (or why aren’t you there yet?)


As one would expect from any self-respecting creative consultancy, Artefact has a deep interest in photography. For some of us it is a hobby we are passionate about, for others it is a social or creative tool, some actually earn decent income on the side with it.

This leads to a lively conversation (and sometimes spirited debate) about the topic and we thought we’d let you in on our conversation. We will do this in the form of a series of blog posts: We aim to assess and analyze both the history and the status quo of photography, discuss areas of opportunity for the industry and – after having outlined our point of view on the topic, share our thoughts on what we consider could be a compelling product for the aspiring hobbyist in the year 2013.

Cycles of Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation

Invented nearly 200 years ago, the camera industry took it’s first series of experimental steps during the 19th century. After William Fox Talbot invented the positive/negative process in 1816, the first color photograph by James Clerk Maxwell was shown in 1861 and the Kodak Brownie made photography accessible to the masses at the end of the 1800′s.

The introduction of standards like the 35mm format and the 135 film cartridge after the turn of the century led to market growth and a commoditization of the technology started in the 1950’s with the release of cameras like the Agfa Optima and Kodak’s Instamatic. In most recent years, the industry changed from film to digital.

During this history one can clearly see alternating waves of disruptive and sustaining innovation: times where the introduction of new technology opened up photography to new users, followed by periods of more sustaining progress, where incremental improvements and price drops dominated the market.

The digital age has caused a major shift in the industry. It has fundamentally changed who the major players in the industry are by wiping out film. It has taken photofinishing out of the (specialty) store and brought it into our homes. Since the cost per picture has been reduced to zero, the volume of pictures we take has increased by an order of magnitude which gives rise to new tools. Where we used to share pictures only in person, we now share them online.

Yet for all these changes, digital photography has not sparked the transformational change it could have brought for the photographer. It has not yet changed how we take photographs.

Product Architecture and Technology: The Status Quo

Over the years, different form factors have been explored. The industry has now settled on two stable architectures: cameras with and cameras without interchangeable lenses.

The former segment is comprised of single lens reflex cameras and the – currently very “hot” – EVIL systems.

For the most part, cameras with non-interchangeable lenses could be categorized as point-and-shoot devices, even though that term does not do justice to cameras such as the Leica X1 or the Fujifilm FinePix X100.
Today’s digital cameras feature sufficiently high resolutions and the technical challenges of the past (such as low-light capabilities, vignetting, etc.) are constantly being improved.

Author and camera expert Erwin Puts sums it up nicely in his review of the recent Photokina 2010: “We have now the situation that every camera produces image quality that is better than what you need and even a small EOS 550 can create quality that is not that far removed from what you get with a 1Ds.”

All in all, the manufacturers work on incremental and predictable improvement of proven systems bringing these closer and closer to perfection, yet hesitate to truly innovate. We cannot but agree with Puts who provokingly states, that “A vision for photography would be nice too.”

Digital Technology’s Impact (and Lack Thereof)

Critically looking at the past two decades in which the photographic medium has gone through a tectonic shift from film to digital, it is somewhat surprising that the impact on photography as a whole is not as vigorous as it could be: While the post-processing has been altered with the advent of digital technology, the act of taking photos has remained the same for the past 100 years. The most significant change is that photographers are now looking at an LCD screen instead of through a viewfinder.

We find this rather disappointing and think that there are both technology potential as well as untapped user needs that could spark a disruptive change.

The Grass on the other Side of the Fence

Where do the camera industry’s prospects lie? On the search for a point of view, some might say it is too easy to point to other industries, but let’s go there just for clues: mobile consumer electronics have embraced new technologies and opportunities more enthusiastically than the static camera industry.

Mobile electronics leverage wireless connectivity and make extensive use of sensors (e.g. location, proximity). They take advantage of the integration of software and hardware, and blur the boundaries between still and video functionality.

For these reasons today’s smart phones are in many ways the better image capturing device. Traditional camera manufacturers will face greater pressure and threat of obsolescence from increasingly capable camera-enabled mobile devices. Not surprisingly, mobile phone giant Nokia has been the world’s largest producer of cameras for the past number of years.

Opportunities

To sum things up, based on our observations, we see missed opportunities in three main areas:

  • Product architecture: To date, the shift from film to digital has created merely incremental changes – what other opportunities still exist?
  • Connectivity: most of our electronic devices are connected, why not the camera? The digital camera of the future will be linked in multiple ways, allowing for photography devices to communicate with each other and with “the cloud”.
  • HW/SW integration: In most technology areas, hardware and software combine to produce better results and better experiences. Camera manufacturers cannot afford to continue to only use software as an “afterthought”. Going forward, hardware and software must be integrated into a tightly knitted system and great user experience.

“Now what does all this mean?” you might ask. The three areas highlighted above will enable exciting new possibilities and novel use scenarios for photographers. And we will get back to these after looking both at the user needs and wants, as well as guidelines for an ideal camera in the next part of this series.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… a product design language for a network provider

Posted on Jun 29, 2010 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Research, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…