Apple making headlines for accessibility, not innovation

Apple announced yesterday the release of two new iPhones, one of which is a low-cost model priced at $100 with a contract. This cheaper option, called the 5C, is aimed at developing nations, where a big portion of the consumer market has so far been unable to afford the originally expensive smartphone.

In the early 2000s, a smartphone was considered superfluous — a nice toy to have, but only a necessity for wealthy business professionals. Now they are a staple of everyday life, allowing 24-hour access to email and the Internet. They are also commonplace even in developing nations, as Apple hopes to gain a foothold in the untapped markets of less industrialized nations.

This iPhone may edge out the competition in foreign markets because of its lower price and brand name, but its failure to deliver on innovation brings how essential it is into question. Apple, a tech industry giant that has promised a combination of creativity and functionality since its time as a small player, is clearly sacrificing innovation for the expansion of their market share. The new iPhone 5C has virtually no new features, with the exception of its new compatibility with global cellular networks.

Like the PC before it, the iPhone began as a luxury — first considered excessive, then indispensable and now even extending its reach into the developing markets. While facilitating the spread of technology into burgeoning economies is admirable, the strategy of relying on large sales and low profit margins is not so noble. Apple and their competitors are forced to produce new products at a pace that is incompatible with the speed at which meaningful scientific discoveries occur.

Before the iPhone, Apple distinguished itself by valuing quality over quantity. However, since the phone became their main source of revenue and the company grew to become the world’s most valuable, it now joins competitors in a business model based on high sales volume, increasing the amount of different products which are similar in purpose and in consequence the amount of electronic waste the planet has to deal with.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 11 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at edit [email protected]