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Apple's Slow March to 5G

By Jeff Kagan
Oct 10, 2018 10:53 AM PT
apple is not in any rush to be among the first to support 5g technology

Why is Apple taking such a slow approach moving toward 5G with its iPhone models and tablets? Just look around at all the buzz on the rapid rollout of 5G products and services. It seems every wireless carrier, every other handset and tablet maker, and every wireless gear maker is in a mad dash to be first in the 5G race. Everyone is in it except Apple.

While this strategy goes against the industry grain, it is not unusual for Apple. In fact, Apple has a history of being one of the last players to adopt a new technology. It started with the first iPhone a dozen years ago. Although the world was rapidly moving into a 3G world back then, the first Apple iPhone was a 2G device.

So, why does Apple take such a slow approach to adopting new technology? Well there are two different paths companies can take.

One, they can be an early adopter to attract the attention of users who live on the cutting edge. They are among the first, but they have to deal with the quirks and problems that come with new technology.

Two, they can be a late adopter. This keeps new technology away from their user base longer than the competition does, but then the user experience they offer is better, since most bugs have been worked out.

Google Is Early, Apple Is Late

With Android, Google is an early adopter. It brings out new technologies earlier than others, giving its users the ability to be first. However, being first also means those users must wrestle with assorted problems and issues, especially early in the new wave.

Apple has been a late adopter, a tendency that seems to go against what people think. People think Apple is at the cutting edge of new technology developments. While it is true that Apple and Google created the new smartphone world, the companies took completely different approaches.

OK, so Apple is not first to the party with regard to network upgrades. The price of that strategy must be that it takes a hit with market share and customer satisfaction, right? Well, the truth is, Apple has been and remains a dominant a player.

How can that be? The answer is simple. The user pie has many different slices. One slice is full of early adopters, who want to be first, even if they have to deal with issues. Those are Google Android users.

Another slice is full of late adopters. They want new technology, but they want it to work. They don't want to wrestle with it. They are Apple iPhone users.

There is room for both types in the marketplace.

Siri: The iPhone's Weak Link

When Apple's artificial intelligence assistant Siri first came to market, it was a hit. Apple was the first to market smartphones with this feature. It started in 2011 on the iPhone 4s in beta version.

However, in recent years the competition has been coming on strong, leaving Siri in the dust. Today AI is an advanced technology with leaders like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa powering Home and Echo speakers, respectively, as well as other devices. Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby and other AI assistants also have entered the fray.

Siri has been losing ground to the competition. While it works well, helping users operate features of the iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices, it falls short when it comes to getting information from the Web.

I think Apple needs to get up to speed with its Siri AI service as quickly as possible. While it does some things, there is still to much that it does not do well, especially compared to the competition.

Going forward, as we hear more and more about the first stages of our 5G future, and as every other company in the space moves rapidly ahead, realize that taking it slowly into the next generation of wireless network services is Apple's choice.

That is a choice that doesn't seem to make sense from a marketing perspective, but it is one that always has worked very well for Apple. It has never hurt them, and it ensures that their users get exactly what they want -- dependability.

As for Siri, let's hope that Apple is on the case and that we will see a more advanced service sooner rather than later. I would hate to see Siri fall too far behind the growth curve.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.


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