Apple's iOS 5 built-in a lot of new, basic functionality previously filled by 3rd party App Store apps, which effectively "Sherlocked" those apps, rendering them redundant in a post-iOS 5 world. Or did it? There's a world of difference between basic functionality that serves the needs of only the most casual user, and advanced functionality with enough control and features to satisfy a hardcore pro.
What Apple did with iOS 5, as with previous generations of iOS, is take away the entry-level business of several prominent 3rd party apps, but still left them with the premium, higher order market. While it's always dangerous creating an enterprise based on glaring functionality holes Apple will almost certainly fill at some point in the future, there's just as much opportunity building a great product that Apple's entry into the space can benefit.
Here are a 5 apps (and a couple things more) I think could make that case.
Marco Arment's excellent read-it-later client, Instapaper, which strips away everything but body content from web articles and lets you store it on his web service and access it via a paid iOS app, at first glance, looks threatened by Apple's new Reader and Reading List features in iOS 5 for iPad and iPhone, and OS X Lion Safari. However, as any long term Instapaper user knows (and Arment himself will tell you), Instapaper goes far beyond the bare-bones, Readabiliy-derived, bookmark-synced implementation Apple is providing. Arment uses the example of how Apple baking RSS into Safari and Mail hasn't hurt dedicated RSS readers like Google Reader, Reeder, NetNewsWire, etc., and it's not a terrible. While Google's entry into navigation (with the free Google Maps Navigation) was met by a similar response from traditional turn-by-turn navigation vendors, Instapaper isn't a recurring monthly charge or a massive up-front expenditure. It is well regarded and has a devoted install base, and more importantly it has a passionate and creative developer who's probably as happy to occupy the high end against Reader/Reading List the way MacBook's occupy it against cheap netbooks.
Arment was smart, however, to drop the free version before Apple launched Reader/Reading List.
Just like Apple put a hurt on HDR (high dynamic range) app makers with iOS 4, the addition of Twitter integration, gridlines, and basic photo editing tools will be challenging for App Store apps that previously filled those post-production and easy sharing niches. There's an especially bitter irony here for Camera+, however, as the Lisa Bettany-driven, Tap Tap Tap built, filter-filled shooter was previously removed from the App Store for using a private API that enabled the volume button to be used as a shutter switch -- something Apple has now added as default to the built-in Camera app in iOS 5. Whether you consider that fair or foul, in a post iOS 5 world, Camera+ still offers those previously mentioned filters. And as for the elements iOS 5 does include, some still seem to prefer Camera+'s implementation. So neither Camera+, nor other popular apps like Hipstamatic or Instagram are in immediate danger.
(Ironically, Apple's iBooks did much the same to Tap Tap Tap's Classic following iOS 4 [Hat tip, @arnoldkim])
LockInfo, the brilliant lock screen information and pull-down notification manager by David Ashman, was the primary reason I jailbroke under iOS 4.x. iOS was (and still is, outside the iOS 5 beta) a modal, interruptive bag of notification hurt, and LockInfo was my salve. With iOS 5's Notification Center, however, Apple has taken almost direct inspiration, offering both the lock screen info and the pull-down notifications that made LockInfo so indispensable. But again, Apple is -- so far -- only covering the basics. As Ashman told us during our video interview at WWDC 2011 there's a lot that LockInfo does that Apple's Notification Center still doesn't do. LockInfo provides quick access to full mail texts, for example, and has a plugin architecture for extensibility. Those who only need very basic, unobtrusive notifications will be fine with Notification Center. Power users will still want LockInfo's fuller feature set.
Whether you're a fan of Appigo's Todo, or of another app like Omni's OmniFocus, Cultured Code's Things, you probably thought there was no way Apple would ever enter their space. They hadn't in 4 versions of iOS, after all, and since Steve Jobs has assistants to manage his lists, there was a slim chance he even noticed the gap. (That's a joke, I know he doesn't code the entire OS himself. He has people for that too...). Enter Reminders in iOS 5. Time aware, location aware, it will help you get things done whenever, and wherever you need, and unlike Things it offers sync -- with iCal, after a fashion -- from day one. But it's rather spartan. It does what it does simply and elegantly (if you like paper textures), and that's about it. One-trick list-making apps and alarm apps are in a lot of trouble, but deep, highly productive, nerdy apps like Todo and Omnifocus, and even more able alarm apps like Due will still be required for more complex time management. Even Omni's premium price probably won't cause them too many problems since at that price people who get OmniFocus want OmniFocus, they don't want Reminders.
[$4.99 - iTunes link]
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) is such a platform lock-in for RIM that it's not surprising astute developers made direct messaging apps for iPhone, including Kik, Whatsapp, and the now Facebook-owned Beluga. That's probably the very reason Apple introduced iMessage in iOS 5, to provide platform users the ability to quickly, easily, and cheaply text each other. (Roshambo'ing the carriers by building it into the previously SMS/MMS-only Messages app was no doubt the cherry on that feature Sunday.) But here's the thing -- Kik isn't a platform owner, so they have no vested interest in locking their users into a platform. Instead, they want to lock them into the app/service, and so they make them cross-platform (though RIM has pulled Kik from BlackBerry App World due to a legal dispute). This means, while they're still proprietary and you're still locked in, you can message people on non-Apple mobile devices, and if you ever switch to a non-Apple mobile device (perish the thought), you can bring your contacts with you. BBM might eventually go cross-platform, Twitter might one day supplant messaging apps, or -- please, oh please -- someone might actually build a great service with non-proprietary pipes on top of Jabber (or something similar), but for now only iOS-to-iOS only users will have any incentive to switch.
Right before the WWDC 2011 keynote I asked Saurik, founder of Cydia, if Apple was out to make Jailbreak irrelevant. He didn't think they could, and neither did I, but Apple is certainly going through the list of compelling reasons to Jailbreak and checking them off in the stock software, at least some of them, at least to some degree. I already mentioned LockInfo, but Apple still doesn't offer any form of quick actions, like BiteSMS does for responding to text messages without having to switch to the Messages app. Apple doesn't offer quick access either, like SBSettings does for toggling Wi-Fi, Blue Tooth, Airplane Mode, etc. Apple doesn't offer themes beyond wall papers. And like a host of other apps do for a host of other features Apple can't or won't yet support. Nor do I think Apple wants to kill Jailbreak. Aside for their not going out of their way to kill recent exploits (with the exception of easily targetable malware vectors like web-based PDF attacks), it gives Apple a free expert mode and public test bed -- an incubator to see ideas and metaphors tried out on a scale their own secrecy would never allow. They have to have some way of vetting features for next year's iOS 6, right?
As I was writing this article, Seth Weintraub joked that, with iOS 5, Apple tried to Sherlock Android. It's fair to say that however many checkboxes Apple was trying to take away from Jailbreak, they were trying just as hard to take them away from Google's competing OS. While Android's "openness" is disingenuous, their relative freedom and powerful feature set are inarguable. You can still do more on a stock Android device than you can on a stock iPhone, but the gap narrowed with iOS 5. (Ignoring for the moment rooting vs. Jailbreak which is a different conversation). Android still has widgets, it still has skins (a mixed blessing but an important one to many users), it still offers tons of customization options, and hooks into the OS Apple will probably never provide. It's a different OS, operating under a different model, but that will no doubt appeal to a different type of user. And most importantly for iOS, it will keep pushing Apple to check off those boxes and narrow that gap even further.
Who's Sherlocking who?
With iOS 5, Apple certainly killed the low-end, casual market for a lot of iPhone and iPad apps. (Just like they've done with previous generations of iOS, including Installer for Jailbreak when they released the App Store with iOS 2.) For the best-in-class, however, for the premium apps with the pro-level functionality, it's possible Apple's entry into their space will validate their functionality and introduce them to a much larger audience. Only time will tell if they ultimately lose any sales to the new built-in apps, or gain even more customers due to increased awareness. But this has happened before and it will happen again, and the really savvy developers will have positioned their really great apps to take full advantage, and perhaps kill a certain lucrative segment of the built-in apps' user base.
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