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Is Apple Losing the First Mover Advantage?

Is Apple Losing the First Mover Advantage?

By Saurabh Gandhi

Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

With the iPhone and the iPad, Apple had positioned itself as one of the most innovative companies catering to consumers all over the world. On 9th September, 2014, Apple unveiled two new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 plus, a mobile payment system based on NFC (Near Field Communication) and the much awaited Apple watch. The company hopes to establish itself in these territories too, just like it did with the iPhone and the iPad. In the case of the latter, however, the tech giant had what is called the ‘first mover advantage’.

In lay man’s terms, first mover advantage is the competitive edge that a company has over its rivals due to the fact that it is the first one to enter a product or market category which has not yet been explored. This not only gives a monopoly to the company, but also adds credibility to its name and consumers develop a liking towards it as they believe that the company is taking an initiative to cater to their needs with those much needed products.

Apple not only revolutionized the music industry with its iPod, it took the phone market by storm by bringing the mobile screen to life. With its touch screen, the iPhone had the first mover advantage and it became synonymous with touch screens until the other players in the market started following suit. In fact, even now a lot of people swear by iPhone’s touch screen. A similar story unfolded with the iPad.

What Apple announced in its keynote a few days back, however, failed to awe everyone (unlike its previous announcements, which had even its critics impressed). This is because much of what is being promised by Apple now has already been delivered by other major market players. Let us take the two major announcements one by one.

Beginning with the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 plus, a funny tweet by a parody account of Indian cricketer Ravinder Jadeja pretty much sums up the whole point. (Here is the link to the tweet: Be it a larger screen, cross app communication or battery performance, Tim Cook had very little to offer in terms of innovative features.

Apple had been avoiding a larger screen for its signature smart phone since many years. In the mean time, however, Samsung and other smart phone manufacturers have created a space for themselves in the larger screen segment. Even in terms of camera, if you look at the 8MP that the iPhone 6 offers looks meager in front of the 16 MP that the Samsung Galaxy S5 offers. Not just this, the latter offers a quad-core processor while the former offers a dual core one.

Coming to the Apple watch, it can be said that there was too much foreplay and it turned out to be an anti-climax. An iWatch from Apple has been expected since times immemorial. Entering the market with such a huge bag of expectations, it will surely need to create a market for itself. The fact that it works only in combination with an iPhone 5 or above doesn’t augur well. It will be available only in 2015 (much after Diwali) and the price is too high ($349) for it to appeal to the Indian consumer. These factors will make it difficult for the product to dent the other players in the market, much less become a game changer in the wearable segment.

If this was what Apple was offering as the first smart watch in the market, then things would have been different. But, with the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the newly launched Moto 360 already entrenched in the market, it seems that Tim Cook will have a hard time convincing the un-initiated to adorn his/her wrist with Apple’s watch. It promises faster payments with Apple Pay. However, security concerns regarding iCloud have risen and a lot needs to be said and done by the company before the world consumer will trust it with his/her credit card details.

In case of the iPhone, Apple can surely claim that it will be the best when it comes to implementation and delivery of its features, which Samsung and Nexus devices are already providing, but that remains to be seen. In fact, it is only better delivery in terms of technical specs and usage that can make Apple blunt the first mover advantage that its rivals have over it this time. However, as regards the new Apple watch that it has come up with, it can only be said that it might be a hit among existing Apple fans. Time will be testament of the fact whether the iWatch will be able to carve a niche for itself in the wearable segment. Steve Jobs might not have rolled over in his grave, but he must have at least massaged his wrist.

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