As RIM continues its ongoing struggle to hold onto relevancy in a smartphone market that has largely passed them by, company CEO Thorsten Heins recently expressed some bold statements regarding Apple's iPhone. Specifically, Heins opined that the iPhone UI has gotten a bit stale.
In an interview with the Australian based Financial Review, Heins explained:
“Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market ... They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that,” Mr Heins said.
“History repeats itself again I guess ... the rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old.”
You can't really knock Heins' statement because, after all, the iPhone UI is largely the same as it's been since it first launched back in 2007. Of course, Apple has slowly but surely spruced things up by adding multitasking support and implementing cut/copy/paste functionality, but the basic design featuring a grid of icons remains untouched.
The rate of innovation is indeed high, as Heins notes, but I don't think real innovation is merely the way a phone looks when you boot it up. Innovation comes in the form of software like Siri and Passbook. Innovation is when companies like Apple come up with innovative ways in which users can actually use their devices. By focusing on the user interface of the iPhone, Heins is wholly missing the point. In fact, one could argue that Apple has kept the standard grid interface for nearly 6 years now because it just works. Is it any surprise that the most popular smartphones on the marke (ahem, Galaxy S series) all have the same type of grid layout popularized by the iPhone?
Somewhat ironically, if there's one company that's keenly aware of how dangerous it is to cling to legacy software and hardware, it's RIM. For years, as the iPhone gained in popularity, RIM executives scoffed at the idea of a touchscreen device. Now, RIM's last hope to recapture some of its past glory lies in the impending release of the Blackberry Z10, RIM's 4.2-inch touchscreen that may very well prove to be too little too late.