Photo: Associated Press
Apple just unveiled the next version of its iPhone operating system, iPhone OS 4. It’ll be available this summer, and we expect Apple to unveil new iPhones at its WWDC conference in a few months.The new software answers many developers’ and consumers’ requests, especially with features like some multi-tasking support, a unified e-mail inbox, better VoIP calling, and a social gaming network. It’s cool that you’ll be able to listen to Pandora radio and make Skype calls while reading email and surfing the Web.
And it represents Apple’s entry into the advertising market, in which it’ll be selling, hosting, and delivering “iAd” units to help developers make money off free apps.
These are fine features, but nothing revolutionary. Nothing Apple announced today was unexpected or surprising. Nothing couldn’t be copied in a good-enough-for-most-users fashion by Google or Microsoft. (And Google Android has a few of these features already.)
So what does it mean for Apple?
It still has, in our opinion, the best mobile software on the planet. Its new hardware this summer will likely help Apple keep its lead there. So with the improvements, the iPhone should remain the single most desirable smartphone on the planet for yet another year.
But Apple’s iPhone OS 4 release — without any huge additions — is certainly an opportunity for competitors, particularly Android, to continue catching up. It’s now been two years since Apple’s last huge, revolutionary mobile product — the iPhone App Store — was announced. And while we have enjoyed the iPad so far, it’s going to be a while before it’s a big product for Apple.
So to keep growing the iPhone’s market share, and to fend off Android, Apple’s going to have to focus a big portion of its efforts this year on distribution. It’s crucial for Apple to sell the iPhone at more carriers, especially at Verizon in the U.S., where Android is accelerating. That is an easy way to sell more phones and to prevent would-be Android buyers from settling for Droids and Nexus Ones.
And Apple may have to explore more pricing options, such as potentially a free (after subsidy) iPhone. Research In Motion has been signing up a lot of subscribers with buy-one, get-one free deals. Android phones are starting to catch up to Apple’s pricing. So to keep growing Apple’s market share — important, because this is a land grab — Apple and its carrier partners may need to continue to lower the phone’s pricing.
Don’t miss: 10 things we love and hate about the iPad →
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