One facet of Apple’s meteoric rise over the past 15 or so years that has been misunderstood is what to attribute their success to. Most trumpet the Steve Jobs-led company’s innovation, producing several market-reinventing products: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the iTunes music store, and (to a slightly lesser extent) the iMac. While each has been a resounding success that has fueled other products in Apple’s ecosystem, the word innovation doesn’t completely fit the scenario. As the guys on a recent Macworld podcast pointed out, innovation connotes creating something new, something completely different from anything that’s been introduced or imagined. While there is some innovation involved in the aforementioned products, none of them are completely new ideas. The iPod was a late comer to the portable MP3 player; I had owned two (a Rio Karma and an S10) before I picked up my first iPod Nano. The iPhone was hardly the first smartphone; Blackberry ruled that market long beforehand. iTunes wasn’t the first online digital music store, the iPad was predated by about a decade by other (failed) tablets, and the iMac was just a reimagined PC (even if it was one of the first to combine the monitor and tower). What Apple did was perfect a concept that had already beed advanced. The market for that perfected product may have been generated by the product, but in each case it was a process of refinement more than invention.
It can be hard to predict what market or product will be the next to be reimagined and remade in the manner that Apple has with so many products. Pundits have pointed to televisions and wearables (specifically the smart watch) as the next in line, but both have had multiple attempts with little real success. Plenty of manufacturers are including ‘smart tv’ features in their sets; few new TVs don’t come with streaming media options and a host of other computer-esque features. There are quite a few smart watches on the market now, but none have been widely embraced by the consumers.
I’d argue that the next product reimagining is quietly happening now. With the ascension of the iPhone (and smartphones in general) there has been a consolidation of previously widespread items: the first was the wristwatch. While hardly in danger of extinction, wearing a watch has been made more of a fashion statement than necessity thanks to the ever-present smartphone. Then there’s the wallet- I’ve discussed my attempts to find the perfect iPhone case to replace a wallet out of both need and necessity. There are a host of different cases that can act as varying degrees of wallet replacement, from slim cases that can hold a card or two to ones that look more like a fashion clutch than a phone case.
So rather that just replace a thing, the real way to reinvent a market seems to be to improve the concept. The smartphone offers more than any wristwatch even in timekeeping due to it’s power and flexibility; while an iPhone can’t compete with a Rolex’s looks, it can offer a great deal more utility. Card cases haven’t been universally used because they don’t improve on an idea, just offer utility be allowing the user to carry one less item.
The Coin card could be showing the next big reinvention- personal finance. I and many others have excitedly written about the possibilities of the Coin. It’s got the right elements- it allows you to reduce what you carry, one card instead of multiple reward/credit/debit cards, and it offers functionality and security that a traditional card can’t (like proximity alerts should the card be left behind).
Adding to the mix of possibilities are all of the personal finance apps and device features that have popped up over the past couple of years. There are many card replacing apps, from Apple’s own Passbook, to card consolidating apps like Lemon Wallet, GoWallet, KeyRing, and Google Wallet. There are some apps that offer similar functionality like 1Password- while its best known as a secure password repository, the app has the ability to securely store credit card information. Then there are old standbys that have their sights on expanding, like PayPal. While its still my preferred means of online financial transactions, the company has been positioning itself to be a method of physical retail payment as well.
I already rely on my iPhone for many daily tasks outside of the obvious communication and entertainment uses. It simply makes sense to capitalize on a multipurpose device you already carry to help declutter your life, be it through simplifying what you carry or providing additional functionality. While I am a self professed sucker for new gadgetry, I’m excited about the possibilities of what products like Coin and apps like Lemon Wallet and stalwarts like PayPal can offer.
- Apple ‘bet the company’ on iPhone says Phil Schiller (trustedreviews.com)
- First Look: CM4 Slite Card Case for iPhone 5c (ilounge.com)
- How Jony Ive saved Apple from bankruptcy (standard.co.uk)
- Here’s Why 2014 Will Be the Year of the Smartwatch (dailyfinance.com)