Watching the reaction to Apple’s latest unveiling and seeing just how many people were disappointed by the release of the iPhone 4S (and the omission of the iPhone 5), you can’t help but realize how little credence we give to the idea of iteration. So often we look for massive change, for a single stroke that will change everything. We hope for the introduction of something that we’ve never seen before rather than a slightly, if not significantly better version of what we already know works. And the iPhone 4S, along with iOS 5 seems to be exactly that: a significantly improved, yet not drastically changed revision to one of the best (hell, I’ll say it… the best) smartphone on the market. What on earth is there to be disappointed by?
I know I’m about to cross some wires here, but one of the things I love about both Apple and self-improvement is that while a new invention, device, workflow or even an application can change everything, more often than not it’s the incremental changes along the way that lead to the biggest improvements. We tend to be somewhat impatient and want the uber-solution to all of our problems. Sadly, they doesn’t exist or if they do, they don’t come around all that often. Even from our beloved Apple. The bar is always high for any new offering from Apple, but even when we find ourselves let down at first, that tends to quickly disappear the minute we get a new device in our hands (and let’s face it, not one of those disappointed souls are going to avoid upgrading…)
Friction is one of the biggest challenges in tech and in personal productivity. It’s where we often get frustrated and give up. Removing friction is where Apple excels like no other company on the planet. They are vigorous in their attempt to make things simpler to use and more effective in our lives. They aren’t looking to be revolutionary, simply evolutionary. Even “game changing” devices like the iPad expand on what was already working for us, rather than really introducing something entirely new (I think we all remember those unflattering comparisons to it just being “a giant iPhone“). Most meaningful change happens slowly and painfully by having the courage to take little steps forward (and occasionally the wisdom to take a step backwards)… to make things better rather than different. Thankfully there are companies like Apple who have the conviction to not always give us what we want, but to deliver what we need… time and time again.
A new form factor wasn’t going to make you all that more productive, a NFC chip probably wasn’t going to let you leave your wallet at home and a slightly larger screen won’t change your life. On the other hand, an attempt at a seamless cloud solution, a better notifications system, a new personal assistant and the beginnings of speech-to-text entry in apps could make a pretty massive difference to the way you do things. Hell, the camera improvements alone are enough to make me upgrade. Take a moment to step back from your disappointment and I think you’ll quickly find there’s already more to be excited about than you’ll probably ever need and/or use. Besides, it gives us something to look forward to next year (and it gives Apple something to sell us). Stop worrying about the next best thing. I assure you, we aren’t using the things we already have to their full potential.
Bottom line: I’m looking forward to pre-ordering on Friday, to getting my phone on the 14th and to seeing what improvements the latest iteration holds. What about you? Are you disappointed or are you ready to order?