Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) latest flagship, the iPhone 6, has already set sales records: In their debut weekend, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sold a combined 10 million units -- a more than 11% increase from the prior year. If analyst projections prove accurate, the upcoming holiday quarter could be the best in Apple's history.
But it wasn't innovation that produced those results: Though the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus may be the best phones Apple has ever released (and arguably, the best smartphones ever made) they're far from innovative. Nearly all of the enhancements Apple has made to the iPhone were offered by its competitors -- in some cases, years beforehand.
Big, high resolution screens
The biggest difference between the iPhone 6 and last year's iPhone 5s centers on the screen -- it's 0.7-inches bigger. The iPhone 6 Plus is even bigger still, at 5.5-inches, and its display is sharper, packing more pixels per inch (401) than the iPhone 5s (326).
Competitors using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android operating system have been offering handsets with screens as big and as sharp for years. "Samsung had these products a year ago," Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.
Schmidt was wrong -- it was longer than a year. Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) first Galaxy Note debuted in early 2012; its 2013 flagship, the Galaxy S4, offered a nearly 5-inch screen with 441 pixels per inch. Samsung's recent advertising efforts have centered around this fact, though it certainly isn't alone -- other Android OEMs, including LG and HTC, have also been offering large, high-resolution handsets for some time.
Before it debuted the iPhone 6, Apple's management defended the smaller iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s as having the ideal screen for one-handed use. With larger bodies, the iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus especially, may require two hands to operate.
Apple has attempted to alleviate this problem with "reachability," a new software feature built into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that offers a solution: By tapping on the home button, the top of the iPhone's interface collapses downward, allowing the user to more easily reach icons at the top of the screen.
Apple's implementation is novel, but other smartphone manufacturers have been offering something similar for years. Samsung's Galaxy Note II, for example, included a setting for one-handed use, and Samsung has steadily improved it with each new release.
Rather than tapping on the home button, owners of Samsung's Galaxy Notes swipe the edge of the display to enter one-handed mode. Compared to Apple's reachability, it's far more flexible: Users aren't limited to collapsing the top of the interface, but can fully customize the setting, choosing how and by how much the size of the interface changes.
Apple Pay and NFC
Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the first iPhones to include NFC chips, allowing their owners to make use of Apple's new mobile payment system, Apple Pay.
But once again, this is nothing new -- a partnership between Google and Samsung produced the NFC-equipped Nexus S back in 2010. Samsung, and most other Android manufacturers, have been including NFC chips in their handsets ever since.
Apple Pay is a bit more innovative, making use of the thumb scanner built into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but it doesn't differ too much from the mobile payment systems that preceded it: Google Wallet and Softcard have allowed Android owners to pay with their handsets for years. Both systems require the use of a four-digit pin rather than a thumb print, but in practice act virtually the same.
Of course, Apple has never claimed to be the first: The iPod certainly wasn't the first mp3 player; the iPhone definitely wasn't the first smartphone. Even the iPad wasn't technically the first tablet.
But Apple has always been about delivering the best product. It may have done that with its new iPhones, though from a technology standpoint, there isn't anything particularly "new" about them.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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