10 things we wish Apple would reinvent
Apple’s genius isn’t in invention – it didn’t invent the smartphone, or the tablet PC, or the digital music player – but in reinvention: it saw what other firms were doing and found better ways to do the same thing.
That’s resulted in some truly terrific bits of kit, but what would happen if Apple’s talents got the chance to work on a bigger canvas?
Here are ten industries and items we’d love to let Apple loose on. Let us know your nominations in the comments.
1. Mobile phones, again
Of course Apple will make the iPhone 5 thinner, cleverer and more useful, but we’d much rather have better data plans than a slightly thinner iPhone. Apple clearly sees the networks as an irritation – it tried and failed to introduce a non-removable, flash-able SIM that would have effectively cut the operators out of iPhone retail – but while that climbdown shows that Apple can’t boss the networks around too much, it still has enough muscle to demand more customer-friendly options. Top of our list? Shared data plans that work across multiple bits of Apple kit without unnecessary extra fees, such as charging for tethering. That’s the equivalent of ISPs charging you to connect anything to your router.
2. Home automation
We’ve been promised home automation since the 1930s, and we’d love Apple to give it a go; however, we suspect that the future of home automation is third-party apps on Apple (and Android) devices rather than anything Apple-branded.
Meeting somebody doesn’t mean you’ll go into business with them, but Steve Jobs’ meeting with Lytro means that Apple has at least considered using the firm’s extraordinary shoot-first-focus-later technology in the iPhone.
4. Mobile payments
2011 wasn’t quite the year of mobile payments but momentum is building, and Apple’s only taken tentative steps into this fast-growing market. US shoppers have the EasyPay option in the Apple Store app for easy mobile purchasing of Apple kit; imagine if EasyPay added NFC technology and worked in other shops too.
The weak point in mobile devices remains power: if you open up an iPad you’ll find that it’s largely made of battery. Future Apple kit may dispense with batteries in favour of long-lasting fuel cells – patents show that Apple’s certainly experimenting with the idea – but in the meantime the challenge is to make mobile devices slimmer, lighter and longer-lasting, and Apple’s working on that too.
Apple could also reinvent the humble charger: while wireless charging has been around for years, adoption by Apple could finally make it the default option for gadgets.
We’d love a single TV to replace our various set-top boxes and media devices, and Apple is apparently working on it: The rumours are becoming more numerous and more frequent. Can Apple really deliver TV with what Steve Jobs called “the simplest user interface you could imagine”?
7. Business computing
Steve Jobs famously hated the enterprise market, but unhappy white-collar workers really want Apple kit in their offices. The hot trend in IT these days is “consumerisation”, where tech-savvy employees bring their iPads and iPhones to work; a recent study of IT professionals found that 87% of employees were using personal devices for work purposes, with iPhones particularly popular.
8. In-car infotainment
It doesn’t matter whether you drive a Ford or a Ferrari: in-car infotainment systems are mostly rubbish and crying out for a bit of Apple attention (although BMW’s iDrive, Mini Connected and Ford Sync deserve a bit of praise). On Kickstarter the Devium Dash has the right idea: instead of a stereo and sat-nav, there’s a bit to stick your iPhone in and some car-friendly apps.
9. Public Transport
What’s public transport like in your area? If it’s anything like ours it’s grim, polluting, sits you next to madmen and smells faintly of kebabs and farts. Now imagine something like Heathrow Airport’s ULTra Personal Rapid Transit System with an added dose of Apple smarts: futuristic, elegant and hopefully both madman- and whiff-free.
[Image Credit: Ultra Global PRT]
Is anyone else uncomfortable with Apple’s choice of suppliers? We know everybody’s outsourcing and Apple’s better than many, but Apple has the smarts – and the cash – to do something different. As Kevin Meyer, author of Evolving Excellence, puts it: “How about… sinking a billion or two into developing truly innovative manufacturing methods and systems. Imagine what could happen if the same level of design prowess that was applied to product design was applied to manufacturing design.” He adds: “Apple has the unique opportunity to change a global dynamic.”