Analyst says software will feel ‘like new phone’
“I think people aren’t anticipating how big of a deal the new iOS 7 will be. The software is very different than where they’ve been. And the thing that is going to blow people’s mind is that it’s going to make it feel like they’re getting a new phone.” CARL HOWE, Yankee Group analyst
SAN FRANCISCO — While Apple’s new iPhones have hogged the spotlight in recent days, a seemingly more mundane software update may be far more crucial to the tech giant.
In advance of the two new iPhones’ release Friday, Apple Inc. had launched a radically redesigned iOS 7 mobile operating system Wednesday that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook described as the biggest change to the iPhone since the device’s introduction in 2007.
Indeed, some analysts say the iOS 7 represents a bigger departure for users and developers in terms of the experience than the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C that went on sale Friday.
It was the first time Apple released not just one, but two iPhones, giving fans double the choice and Wall Street double the heartburn.
Apple’s dual phone launch closed out a tumultuous couple of weeks for the tech giant, which took a hit on the stock market after announcing its newest smartphones, rebuffed a backlash over the not-so-low-cost of its low-cost iPhone 5C option and discovered a security glitch in its new operating system. The pressure was on for Apple to post big sales of new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, and assure consumers and investors that the Cupertino, Calif., company still had something revolutionary up its sleeve.
“Demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and we are currently sold out or have limited supply of certain iPhone 5S models in some stores,” Apple spokesman Bill Evans said Friday.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a note to investors he expected Apple would sell 5 million to 6 million iPhones, including pre-sale orders that started Sept. 13. GI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was more optimistic, estimating weekend sales would hit 6 million to 8 million.
But investors, like fan boys and girls, may have to brace for disappointment. Tech news site AllThingsD.com reported that one U.S. network said it had a “grotesquely unavailable inventory” ahead of launch day, and things weren’t looking much better in the U.K., where networks told the BBC there was a severe shortage of the iPhone 5S. The 5S is listed on Apple’s U.K. website as being unavailable for 7 to 10 business days. Some customers in Asia and Australia have been told they’ll have to wait at least a week and as far out as October.
Some analysts speculated that Apple was trying to foster demand for the cheaper 5C by slowing the supply of the 5S to stores.
Apple fell $4.89, or 1 percent, to close at $467.40 as its newest iPhones debuted at stores.
Both phones have Apple’s newest operating system preinstalled. IOS 7 was made available for download Wednesday and has been widely praised for its multitasking interface and software additions such as GarageBand. But Apple is now working to fix a security glitch that was discovered, and some critics say the system shortens the iPhone’s already too-short battery life.
The question now is whether iOS 7 will reinvigorate the gadget that launched the smartphone revolution — but has seen growth slow this year — or will frustrate users and developers as they try to learn the software’s interface.
“I think people aren’t anticipating how big of a deal the new iOS 7 will be,” said Carl Howe, a Yankee Group analyst. “The software is very different than where they’ve been. And the thing that is going to blow people’s mind is that it’s going to make it feel like they’re getting a new phone.”
For that reason, some analysts have even speculated that iOS 7 could damp new iPhone sales this weekend as people apply the new software to their existing iPhones. Will people put off an iPhone purchase because the software makes it feel like they just got a new phone for free?
Analysts will be watching closely for reactions. IOS 7 will be available as a free download for most Apple mobile devices: the iPhone 4 or later; the iPad 2 or later; the iPad Mini; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch.
The iOS 7 software arrives almost a year after Cook announced a management overhaul that saw Scott Forstall, who had been in charge of iOS for years, pushed out.
The development of iOS 7 was overseen by his replacement, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. The interface of the new software was created by a team led by Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, who saw his role expand last year to include software as well as hardware designs.
“We’re going to witness an event almost unprecedented in our history when overnight virtually hundreds of millions of people download iOS 7 and begin a fantastic new experience with their new devices,” Federighi said last week during Apple’s iPhone media event.
The new iOS ditches some familiar elements, such as designs meant to mimic real-world equivalents, like bookshelves with wood grain. These types of tricks were intended to create a feeling of familiarity when Apple was introducing a revolutionary new device.
But now that smartphones are commonplace, Apple is introducing a new interface with what is being called a more modern look and feel.
On iOS 7, the home screen has a more three-dimensional look, with the applications appearing to float far above the background wallpaper image. The apps have what is described as a “flatter look,” losing some of the fake lighting effects that made them appear to be rounded.
Apple has also added new swipe gestures to allow quicker access to control settings. There is a translucent look that lets a user see through different apps that might be running simultaneously. Apps will automatically update as new versions become available. And iOS 7 also includes iTunes Radio, Apple’s new streaming music service.
If all goes well, Apple projects that iOS 7 will be used by more people than any single version of the rival Google Android operating system.
“Since we make updates easy, and make them available to as many customers as possible, iOS 7 will quickly become the world’s most popular mobile operating system,” Cook said at the unveiling of the new iPhones last week.
Still, this has created a big challenge for developers who have been scrambling in recent months to rework their apps for iOS 7.
Apple is taking a big chance with iOS 7. In addition to learning the new interface, users may also have to re-learn how to use some of their favorite apps if they have been redesigned.
But Matt Johnston, chief marketing and strategy officer for Boston-based UTest, worries even more about apps that haven’t been rebuilt.
His company tests apps for developers. Johnston said despite Apple’s efforts to educate developers about the changes, he’s seen a lot of developers decide to delay any overhaul. In some of their testing, Johnston said he’s seen these older apps display text poorly or crash.
If that happens, not only will users be annoyed, but developers could see their App Store ratings and reputations take a hit.
“There are a lot people who are waiting to see if it’s going to be that big of a change,” he said. “Those are the ones I worry about.”
Heather Somerville of the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.