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Just because Apple leads doesn't mean everyone is following

Just because Apple leads doesn't mean everyone is following
We are very big proponents of giving credit where it is due, but that also means that we like to set the record straight when a company gets credit for more than it deserves. It's a very tricky line to walk, but one that we find most can't walk properly with Apple more often than any other company. We know that preaching objectivity in the tech world, especially when it comes to Apple, is something of a fool's game, but we can't help trying. 

Ever since Apple announced the new iPad, and especially the Retina Display of the new iPad, there have been the two standard camps that have set up on either side of the issue. There are those who want to praise Apple for the innovation, and often use that praise to attack other companies for not "being good enough" to make that technological leap first; and, there are those who want to claim that Apple didn't really innovate anything, and is merely using a component designed and manufactured by other companies. As is usually the case in these times, both sides are actually right. The key is to remember that just because one company is leading doesn't mean that the others are following.

Requirements of innovation 

Yes, Apple has pushed forward displays in consumer devices, and has been the first to do so at times. Many Apple supporters always like to make the claim that the technology has been possible, and Apple was the first to push it out, which is true. It's the point that often follows that doesn't really hold water. Often, the argument follows that other companies couldn't or wouldn't push this technology without Apple having done it first, but that's an extremely reductive view. Let's take the case of the Retina Display that Apple loves to market for the new iPad. 

Sure, the technology for higher pixel density on screens was possible 10 years ago, but we have to remember that something being technologically possible is actually a very small piece of the puzzle that we call innovation. It has been technologically possible to have electric cars for over a century now. Back in 1900, 28% of all cars on the roads in the US were electric. Given how that has played out, technological possibilities are quite obviously not the main factor in popular uptake. 

As far as high PPI displays, sure the technology has been possible for a while, but the need wasn't there. HD video wasn't pervasive until very recently, and the TV was still the focal point for visual media consumption, so naturally HDTVs got the push instead of computers. Additionally, before the wide variations in screen size which has come from mobile, there was no need to even talk about PPI, let alone make that a distinguishing factor of a device. The vast majority of computer screens fell within a range of about 12-15" on laptops, 19-27" on desktops, and 27-50" on TVs, and all of those devices were essentially used from a fixed perspective. Now, we've also added in the lower sizes of 4-10" between smartphones and tablets, which are completely mobile, and in our hands at all times. So, PPI is a more important metric, and one that has been especially important for Apple. 


That's not to say that PPI hasn't been important for other manufacturers. No one was "waiting for the Apple green light" to begin using the technology, rather, no other companies have been as focused on visuals nearly as much as Apple. Apple is a design company, so it wants the best visuals at all times. That means not only having well designed hardware, but having well designed software as well. With everything moving towards HD, the display and graphics processing is far more important than anything else on devices, and so, that's where we've seen Apple focusing its efforts and leading the way. Maybe Apple didn't design or build the display panels for the new iPad, but like it or not, Apple was the first to put a display of that quality into a popular consumer device, and that counts for quite a lot, even if that kind of push comes with problems as far as manufacturing

We already know that Apple is willing to slow down processes within iOS to give preference to UI interactions in order to give it that extra visual smoothness. And, we also know that the company ethos of Apple is to be incredibly focused on certain aspects in order to get them right, and possibly ignore other areas. So, it shouldn't really be any surprise that Apple would spend all of its efforts in updating all of the graphics of iOS, not to mention pushing the graphics processing ahead of data processing in order to be able to point at its visuals as the best available. 

On the other side, Android manufacturers are more concerned with making adaptable devices, so we've seen things like the PadFone, or laptop docks, or more work with a new generation of styluses (styli?). As with all technology, high PPI screens will make it around to everyone eventually, as they have with smartphones. Sure, Apple led the way with the iPhone's Retina display, but other devices have since easily eclipsed that with new 720p screens, and even before that qHD screens were able to get pretty close to the iPhone's display quality on many occasions. 


Every company wants to be the leader in something. Every company has a core focus. Google wants to be the fastest way to organize and find data, and wants to be malleable with open data and customization. Facebook wants to be the best at knowing what you want. RIM has traditionally wanted to be the most secure option for enterprise. And, Apple wants to create the most beautiful products around in a tightly controlled ecosystem. 

And, in those efforts, each company may ignore other aspects in order to reach its focus. Google has traditionally ignored design in favor of speed, and maybe has put too much faith in users rather than building better security from the start. Facebook has sometimes ignored user comfort in order to build a more complete database of interests and behavior. RIM forgot that there were consumer users and was left behind in that market, despite still excelling on security. And, Apple has ignored customization options in favor of presenting its design vision. 

Each company has its focus and its flaws, and we have to try to align our personal values with those company aims, not the other way around. Apple may lead in visuals, but that doesn't automatically make other companies followers. It simply means that other companies have different aims, and may look to innovate in other ways before pushing for the innovations that Apple makes. Similarly, eventually it goes the other way and Apple will adopt innovations that other companies thought were more important, like the notification tray. Every company leads at some point, and every company follows. That's just the beautiful circle of innovation. 

  • Options

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:37 19

2. good2great (Posts: 1042; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

great read!

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:03 16

13. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)


posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:33 7

28. Mandroid (Posts: 209; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

Crap article was crap.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:41 17

36. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Does that mean you actually bothered to read it?

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 23:26 9

76. the_s2 (Posts: 239; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

Michael, this reminds me of the trolling that was(maybe still) going on in gsmarena.com on a writer named Prasad. Initially, a few of his apple biased articles caught the attention of droid fanboys, which they exaggerated and they started bashing all the articles written by him altogether, even the articles that were non biased, and in some cases, android sided. Going through your comments, I understand your feelings. And compliments from me, this is the most neutral article I have ever read. Why dont you chill, and just ignore these haters? You are a great writer, and you shouldnt be let down by negative comments. All due respect, I am a droid fanboy, and I am against the ethics and unfair pricing of apple products. Technology is meant to be appreciated , and not bashed out, be it apple or samsung or whoever.

posted on 24 Apr 2012, 07:34 3

103. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

As long as it isn't Ray S writing the article im fine. Now he is biased

posted on 24 Apr 2012, 10:32 3

110. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

People can call me biased all they want as long as they're willing to discuss the points. Mandroid's actions here annoyed me far more than any troll because he came in and attacked my content while flat out saying that he didn't even bother to read the article. That is beyond unacceptable to me.

posted on 25 Apr 2012, 06:12

132. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

I agree. Very nice article. The last line in the article says it all:

"That's just the beautiful circle of innovation."

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:38 2

3. joseg81 (Posts: 194; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)

do u mean Apple in the title?

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:03 5

12. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

sure did. fixed that. sorry.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:26 6

26. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)

I keep laughing at UR avatar.... U and
Naithan the sad panda makes me laugh....

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 20:47 2

59. joseg81 (Posts: 194; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)

it's the cookie monster zombie :)

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:39 6

4. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

who is Apply?

Apply apply with the colorful eye. spell check musta been drinking whiskey and rye.. singing this will be the day that I die.. this will be the day that i dye.

lol, sorry just read the singing quit notice thread. :)

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:53 8

8. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

if its apply its a very very rotten apply .-.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 20:45 5

57. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

so i guess thats not 2-ply then. :)

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 21:46 2

72. corporateJP (Posts: 2431; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)

The Microsoft Excel chick is a good singer, plus she could catch it.

Just sayin'...

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:44 2

5. ivanko34 (Posts: 617; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)

must be apple not apply

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:47 11

6. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

Good concise article, michael. Still trying to squash the fanboy riots, eh? Lets hope it opens some actual discussion up before the usual mudslinging starts.

was that electric car stat real? Does that count the old "wind up" cars they had going for a hot minute? interesting.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:01 6

9. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

as far as PBS told me, that electric car stat was real:

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 20:46

58. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

neat timeline. They didnt mention wind up cars, so i guess thats part of the car movement. I almost forgot about gasoline crank starters though. lol.
Funny how they credit the invention of the electric starter as a main cause of the death of the electric car. the irony..:)

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 17:50 11

7. andro. (Posts: 1998; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)

Apple doesn't innovate,it merely pays Samsung
,sharp of LG etc for to use their new technology

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:01 15

10. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

So, why doesn't Samsung or LG ever put these components into their own devices before Apple does?

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:07 5

15. BattleBrat (Posts: 1457; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

Apple might pay them not to, or contractually obligate them not to.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:08 9

16. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)

Very logical question!

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:13 5

19. GENARAL.LEVY (banned) (Posts: 93; Member since: 17 Apr 2012)

Cause not everyone thinks like Mercedes or BMW.....

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:16 4

20. GENARAL.LEVY (banned) (Posts: 93; Member since: 17 Apr 2012)

Only the finest will do... Marque of distinction. Prestige.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:21 11

22. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

my guess would be that samsung lg etc would make more money selling the retina display for example to apple rather than put it in there own product....what i hate is when some articles title is like apple invent retina for ipad when its not true and give no credit to the companies that actually make it.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:22 9

23. Lucas777 (Posts: 2137; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)

exactly… apple designs them, but they are far from owning the means of production.. its cheaper and less messy to have sharp, samsung, lg implement it

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 19:27 6

46. jjjsong (Posts: 74; Member since: 27 Dec 2011)

It should be pretty obvious and logical that Apple requested screens of such spec and would like manufacturers such as Samsung, Sharp to make them.

In terms of how it can be achieved, it only makes sense that it's really up to Samsung's or Sharp's technology. I don't think Apple invented anything there.

And it should be obvious that since Apple requested this screen and it is most likely there are contractual terms to make this "technology" exclusive to Apple for a certain amount of time.

This has been my thought since the very beginning. Albeit I don't have any facts to back any of my thoughts up, it seems pretty logical to me.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 19:44 5

47. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

my guess is that LG got a fat payday to let Apple introduce retina. As far as Samsung, the same probably happened with the hummingbird, though samsung did keep the better GPU version to themselves.

posted on 25 Apr 2012, 02:22

130. thelegend6657 (unregistered)

So Mali better than powervr ? Damm i9100g sucks

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 11:58

139. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

huh? no

on the iphone4, it shares the exact same CPU, the Humminbird, as the SGS1. They BOTH use PowerVR GPU's, but The one samsung gave to apple is a bit older than the one it put in the SGS1, resulting in the SGS1 having the GPU advantage.

posted on 27 Apr 2012, 02:02

142. thelegend6657 (unregistered)

Oh . Sad that s1 won't get ics while the ip4 runs so nicely in ios5 although they are launched at the same time and like you say the iPhone has worse GPU than the iPhone4 . I forgotten to ask Samsung when is the ics update for i9100g that samsung states coming soon while my classmates i9100 is running on ics already

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 21:13 2

65. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)

actually Apple designs their own chips at least and Samsung is just used for their factories. The innovation is from Apple.

posted on 24 Apr 2012, 07:09 1

99. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

apple doesnt design chips. they got their chips from the same place samsung did. they just happened to buy the company that made the designs. why do you think the hummingbird and A4 are the same and the exynos and A5 are the same (except the GPU switch). There wont be any meaningful differences between their chips until the A6 which is probably a little while off.

posted on 25 Apr 2012, 02:23

131. thelegend6657 (unregistered)

The gs1 feels less snappy than my iPod touch 4g , is there a possibility that android slow it down ?

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 11:59

140. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

thats the differences in the OS. Apple designed iOS to put all movements as priority in processing. Android does multiple things at the same time and doesnt give priority to movement.. resulting in it looking not quite as smooth. The trade off is eye candy vs functionality.

posted on 27 Apr 2012, 02:08

143. thelegend6657 (unregistered)

Small fix to the problem , settings animation none .
Although windows phone is better cause more snappy than android . You have a hd7 right ? Compared with the desire hd the hd7 feels so smoother

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:06 3

14. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)

I personally and few of the, or more of the people allways wanted the best ov the best
.we the customers allways demanded, but manufactures never or hardly ever listen....
Just few example= the best CPU the best gpu
The music chip the best screen the best software the best materials the best the finest
Available was put onto q device, the asking price would eg been near nough 700£
Was that to much to ask..... Anythings possible....

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:08 4

17. denney (Posts: 98; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)

I believe you excluded a rather important factor Michael, remember that crazy iPad 3 Concept with the projectors and edge to edge screen? That could be done, probably pretty easily, but that wouldn't be the market savvy thing to do. Apple (and pretty much any other tech manufacturer) funnels innovation. They hold off one the good stuff and update features incrementally so we can't have it all at once, so when next years iPad comes out and only includes 1 of 10 new features we would want it to have, we settle to purchase because of our initial want, and then we are required to purchase the next years, when its just better enough to make us want it more. This process keeps the market from a plateau.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:12 14

18. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)

great read Micheal. but i personally think apple doesn`t innovate like samsung or google does. I dont have a problem with apple products but i hate the culture of the company. credit should be given where its due but i guess apple always gets more credit and hype than it deserves. its an evil company for which higher profit margins comes first. they dont give a damn to ethical values or being fair.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:18 8

21. GENARAL.LEVY (banned) (Posts: 93; Member since: 17 Apr 2012)


posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:33 5

29. biophone (Posts: 1956; Member since: 15 Jun 2011)

My definition of innovation is much different then most people's here. I think for innovation to occur the entire landscape must be changed of an industry. This happens seldomy most recent example the og iphone. That device changed the form factor/design/interface/and really the concept of a phone. Otherwise a screen with high ppi or a better procesor is just the natural evolution of a product. Things always will get faster and better but not game changing. So if you want to talk about innovation in my mind you need to talk about a cosmic shift in the industry not who makes what part of which phone. If you wan't to say whose in the lead in the evolutionary battle say that but this isn't innovation not by a long shot.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:40 3

33. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I think what you consider innovation is what post people call revolution.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:52 4

40. biophone (Posts: 1956; Member since: 15 Jun 2011)

Well my idea of revolution would be the creation of the phone/computer/automobile something that changes your life. Innovation as defined by webster is the creation of something new. This means too me something different the industry hasn't seen before. All phones have a screen so how is a higher ppi screen new. Its just a better verision of a prexisting entity. However something like the iphone gave a new outlook on what we view a phone as.

posted on 24 Apr 2012, 03:07 1

92. mrochester (unregistered)

There are definitely different levels of innovation. Products like the iPhone and iPad have had a very profound effect on the market as it shifted everyone in a different direction. But then there are smaller innovations such as Android's notification bar which has, over time, become the accepted means of dealing with notifications. There is no one company who is the source of all ideas or innovations, but there are definitely some companies who have more of an effect on the market than others.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:59 3

42. biophone (Posts: 1956; Member since: 15 Jun 2011)

Innovation versus evolution aside I agree with the premise of a great article being that each manufacter has a different goal in mind and that each phone will have different aspects emphasized based on the goals giving phone stengths and weaknesses givin us the ability to decide which mold fts us best.

posted on 25 Apr 2012, 06:19 1

133. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

The only issue I have with this is....sometimes innovative ideas, innovation either never see the light of day or are imnplemented better by other ppl.

Hindsight being what it is....lets say Apple never did the iPhone...and LG's Prada woulda been pushed out to the masses.

We could replace og iphone with og prada in your post.

Since they both were out at the same time....and technically the Prada was created before the iPhone.....one could say the Prada started the cosmic shift. It just didnt sell well. Or Apple did it better with the iPhone.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:39 8

32. captainqtp (Posts: 16; Member since: 25 Jun 2010)

The thing is Apple wasn't even first in pushing high PPI displays. Remember when the 3G/3GS were out with 480x320 screens, phones like the Nokia N900 and the Motorola Droid were putting out 800x480. Until the arrival of the Iphone 4, 3GS screens were just plain bad to look at. Sure apple won one increment to the retina display, but now phones with 720p have incremented again. There are rumors of the next Windows Phone to even beat the 720p displays. Apple does lead in some ways, like the author said, their designs are top notch, but in terms of display, they merely won one resolution increment - easy to do when you control the OS and the hardware.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 18:49 7

39. Johnny_Mnemonic (Posts: 240; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

IPhone don't have a Good design period

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 19:00 6

43. Mandroid (Posts: 209; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

SHHHH, don't let the fine "journalists" here hear you say that!

posted on 24 Apr 2012, 00:28 2

84. Whateverman (Posts: 3262; Member since: 17 May 2009)

Dude, just give it up! You're fighting a loosing battle here and it's just making you look really bad. Ive read some rediculous articles here, but I don't think attacking the writers do any good.

Michael is a good writer, much better than most I've seen and very objective, but even he can't please everyone. Just read the article, agree or disagree with the content. But he's right, leaving "tl dr" is a bit disrespectful and for you to leave a negative comment about something you haven't read is even worse.

posted on 25 Apr 2012, 06:22

134. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Exactly!! At one point some folks said the higher screen res didnt matter....until it has on the iPhone 4. All of a sudden it mattered...lol.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 19:18 6

45. CannedKarma (Posts: 19; Member since: 22 Oct 2011)

Michael, your articles are the among the most well thought out and objective of any in the cell phone blogosphere, and you're certainly the most articulate of any journalist on this website.

There's just one thing you need to learn when reading Internet comments: Don't Feed The Trolls. Nothing gives them more pleasure than to see you elicit the exact reaction they're trying for.

Keep writing great articles.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 19:59 3

49. Fluxman (Posts: 51; Member since: 03 Jun 2010)

In my opinion, I think the necessity of a super HD tablet is a bit of a bad move on Apple's part. Sure you have an amazing display, but the costs are atrocious. ipad 2 (1024x768 = 786,432 pixels) to new ipad (2048x1536 = 3,145,728) ups the pixels by 4.

From this point of view, the battery consumption will be 4 times higher, and the data usage will be 4 times higher. The advantage of the LTE is made moot bc that extra speed will just be used to keep up with the speed relative to the ipad2. Battery usage will drain 4 times faster, so the tablet would need a larger battery to account for it (which it does, giving it the same life as the ipad2). to watch HD movies stored, a 1 hour show in 1080p is near 5 gb while a 720p is near 1.5 gb. The ipad will need more storage space. All this to get a higher resolution, which is very difficult to tell unless you are watching on a 50" screen. (i watch 720p on my 46" TV and they still look great).

I honestly think apple could have done way better by only upping the resolution slightly and putting in the new battery (who wouldn't want a 16-20 hour in use tablet battery life) and LTE to really boost the speed.

Anyways, that's just my two cents. I am by no means an expert...

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 20:42 3

54. E34V8 (Posts: 84; Member since: 16 Dec 2011)

I think the author should learn more about displays and their characteristics, before writing such article. The pixel density is just one property of a display. There other more important ones. Further more the LCD technology (and all its variants) is pretty much reached a stage where it is at the top of development. It is a 40 year old technology and it is cheap. Rising the ppi is the only real improvement that can be done, other than that every thing else is just marketing tricks saying how accurate the new display is (but it really isn't, because it dosen't even have the colour black).

OLED technology is the way to go but it is still pretty expensive. One by one the companies are moving to it. Samsung is the true leader in display technology and development, and that is no secret for everyone who is interested in displays (not the people who like to compare displays on videos or magnified pictures, but the people who read, learn and test themselves). If they produce (as we all expect) their new phone with HD rgb OLED, than - game over for every one else, if they do not want or have the ability to follow. Yes, there are pretty good LCD display, but the technology has some limits that can not be surpassed.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 20:45 5

56. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

Ignore the haters, Michael. It's clear they didn't even read the article.

Overall, it was excellent, well written as always. One thing I would have liked more was more detail on some of the BS claims about Android following Apple made by iFanboys, the biggest lie being that without the iPhone Android wouldn't exist period, or would have merely been a Blackberry copy.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 23:43 1

78. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)

That's true actually. Android developers were busy copying blackberry until iPhone came out.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 23:47 2

79. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

You still haven't named Anything specific that was changed about Android prior to release in response to the iPhone other than changing the main interface to a touchscreen.

I love how you insist on failing so hard.

posted on 23 Apr 2012, 23:59 2

80. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)

One of androids developers did an interview and admitted they changed everything up to be like the iPhone.

You just refuse to admit it to yourself. I've given you lots of examples.

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