Earlier this week Apple posted the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company – an eye-popping $18bn (£11.8bn).
While there is no refuting the technology giant’s unprecedented financial success, Apple’s ability to innovate in the sector has oft been the subject of criticism. The small tweaks that saw the iPhone 4s become the iPhone 5 along with the dimensionally different iPad Mini led frustrated consumers and industry experts to question whether Apple, in the words of its old tagline, was really thinking differently.
After all, Samsung and Sony have both already leapt in to the wearable fray, pipping Apple to the post with launch of their respective smartwatches. So the question is, does Apple need to think different once more?
Libby Robinson, EMEA managing director at M&C Saatchi Mobile said that Apple does not “innovate for innovation’s sake”, rather it lies in wait for other manufacturers to help shape a market and test consumer appetite; something that she said appears to happening in its wearable product range.
“At surface level it would seem to be the case with wearables, with Apple taking time to bring its iWatch to market when some competitors are on their third or fourth product. I think they are simply waiting until they have the best product possible to launch, a wearable that people actually wear – something that other brands haven't been able to achieve.”
In a marketplace that is yet to explode, the approach from Apple to keep consumers waiting for its wearables could certainly be a wise decision.
Seymourpowell founder Dick Powell agreed and anticipated that the tech company is interested in “game-changing” meta-devices (combinations of hardware, software and service) not just for fitness measurement, but to enable a shift in the way people interact with doctors and their health.
“Apple’s Q4 results are one in the eye for the ill-informed analysts who constantly carp on about a lack of innovation, and who simply don’t understand the potency of the Apple brand and its role as a purveyor of meta-products,” he said.
For these products to be a success, predicted Powell, Apple is most likely already working on new sensors for heart rate, blood oxygen, blood pressure and blood sugar level to accompany its iWatch.
“This future transforms their watch into a new product paradigm, a meta-product comparable with iPod or iPhone and fathering a completely new ecosystem. After which, that unused iWatch name starts to resonate... to watch over our health.”
Other areas of innovation for Apple lie in its Pay and App Store, as well as the rumoured revolutionary home entertainment technology. According to Ross Sleight, chief strategy officer at Somo, it is in these areas that Apple has been an incredibly strong developer, managing to leap ahead of competitors such as Android.
“Apple understands that the value lies in the components and the software rather than the actual product itself,” he said. “We haven't see the Apple Watch in the wild so we don't know if it will be massively successful or not. More importantly, I expect Apple to do more in the home and with TV. We see this happening with HomeKit and rumours around a new, refreshed Apple TV.
“I personally think anyone who is sniping about Apple not being innovative is caught up in some kind of techgasm of idiocy. I, for one, still love them.”
Scott Byrne-Fraser, head of user experience at Adaptive Lab, said Apple will need to do more than its competitors if it is to remain relevant, adding that the biggest opportunities may lie beyond the products themselves.
“The opportunity may not be the physical products themselves, but the data those products can generate, and the services Apple can build on top of it – in the same way that the App Store was the differentiator in the mobile market."
So what other areas does Apple have the capacity to make waves in? “If there is an area Apple is surely to focus on, it is augmented and virtual reality,” added Robinson. “We’re already seeing this with the likes of Facebook, Samsung and Sony as well as Google and Microsoft, who are all investing in virtual and augmented reality technologies.
“This is a category where Apple could really step up and stamp out the criticism surrounding its perceived lack of innovation and shape the future”.