NEWS ANALYSIS How drastically could they really change the phone at this point to really blow both critics and die-hard fans away?

Once again, we find ourselves at the end of the almost ritual-like iPhone cycle. First the rumours begin, and then, after an agonising wait, we find out for ourselves what Apple has cooked up over the last one-year. Lastly, we all watch as it becomes the biggest-seller across U.S. and Europe, just as Christmas hits.

This time, however, it seems as if something was missing, almost as if it was a little less magical. After all, what could one truly expect after five years? How drastically could they really change the phone at this point to really blow both critics and die-hard fans away? Make it faster, perhaps? Cram in a better camera and adopt newer technologies such as the much-vaunted LTE?

A common critique of Apple is that it is following in the footsteps of BMW and Porsche — constantly refining its flagship, but never reinventing. Apple’s marketing team, borrowing from their late founder’s philosophy, responds to this by maintaining that the company is at its best when making something that works (albeit with a state-of-the-art user experience) — not something with more bells and whistles than the other guys. They might miss the mark occasionally, but they still hit it so much more frequently than the competition. But surely this doesn’t leave much wiggle room for innovating on the current line-up? If the iPhone ‘just works’ and there is no need to add more bells and whistles, then eventually other phone makers will leave them in the dust. While it still remains a great phone, not innovating on old products seems like an out-dated business model as it only leaves room for new products and at a 2 per cent R&D budget they don’t seem to be headed that way just yet.

Apple got where it was by taking risks. Its sales are now booming, with net profit margins of nearly 30 per cent. And let’s not forget — this is a near miracle in the consumer electronics hardware business. The latest updates for the iPhone 5 are ones that customers have been screaming for over the last year or so. The move to expand the iPhone’s screen is one that rivals adopted, in the tech-cycle, ages ago.

Steve Jobs was definitely right about one thing: waiting for the average customer to tell you what they want doesn’t get you anywhere. Why has this changed now?

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