Apple Launches Evil Plan to Steal Carriers' Customers

Tighter integration across the Mac, iPhone, and iPad potentially makes carriers less important.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

June 3, 2014

7 Min Read
Apple Launches Evil Plan to Steal Carriers' Customers

Apple's upgrades to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, announced Monday, are focused on tightening integration of those three products into a unified universe. That's both an opportunity and a threat for carriers.

The more useful Apple makes its mobile products, the more customers use them. That makes money for carriers.

The threat is that customers are loyal to Apple, rather than the carriers. Customers think of themselves as Apple customers, and the carrier is just a provider of the dumb pipe that connects their Apple devices to each other and the world.

It's kind of like the way customers think of cars. You have strong feelings about the car you drive. Even if you're not a car buff -- even if you just think of your car as a box to take you place to place -- you know whether it's comfortable, whether it runs well, whether it needs much repair.

You probably don't care what kind of tires are on the car.

In this metaphor, Apple is the carmaker. The carrier is the tire manufacturer.

This strategy is nothing new. Apple has been following this plan since at least 2001, when it introduced the iPod and started calling the Mac the hub of a digital world, rather than just a PC.

The turning point was 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. Until then, mobile consumers bought whatever phones their carrier was selling. Beginning in 2007, millions of customers wanted an iPhone. And they'd do business with whatever company would sell it to them.

Apple stepped up that game Monday. Now, the Mac, iPhone, and iPad are peers on a digital network that includes cars, health devices, and the home. It's a network that carriers can play on -- with Apple's permission. (See Apple Launches Biggest Changes Since iPhone and Apple Joins Home Automation Wars.)

Says Re/Code's Walt Mossberg:

  • The biggest new features were about making iPhones, iPads and Macs work seamlessly together, so that people on Planet Apple have no reason to leave, and those toting other brands might be tempted to fully join the Apple tribe.

He adds:

  • The overwhelming purpose of Apple’s latest software is to make it irresistibly attractive to use all of its devices and services as a unified digital ecosystem, not to mix and match.

A big part of that strategy is to make the Mac work better with the iPhone and iPad. With a new feature called Continuity, you can start a task like composing a mail on your Mac, and then pick up where you left off on the iPhone. AirDrop is extended to share items across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac -- to let you clip content to the Mac clipboard and throw it to your iPhone or iPad. You can answer or place calls on your iPhone with your Mac.

Apple is primarily fending off Android, of course. Apple is fine if you want to buy an Android phone and use it with your Mac, but Apple is trying to entice you to use an iPhone with your Mac. (The same applies to Windows on the desktop, though Apple is increasingly seeing Windows as irrelevant rather than a threat.)

Indeed, Nilay Patel, writing at, detects a new tone to Apple:

  • What Apple was really announcing was the next version of itself -- a playful, relaxed, hyper-competitive giant that wants the next generation of products and services to be built on its platforms. That's the game now, after all -- the mobile revolution is over, and the war is now between Apple and the Google / Samsung alliance for the hearts of developers.

    That's why Apple spent fully one-third of its presentation today on new developer features, including an entirely new programming language called Swift. That's why iOS is opening up in entirely new ways, including previously forbidden things like letting apps talk to each other and even share interface elements with the system. That's why Apple is building out the foundations of both health-tracking and home-monitoring platforms that big companies like Nike and Honeywell can tap into alongside smaller players like the smart lock maker August and speaker companyiHome. And that's why Apple is adding all sorts of little features to its systems that only power users really want, like widgets in the notification shade and replacement software keyboards. Make the developers happy, and they'll stick around to write great apps that rely on the iPhone as the center of the universe.

Since the launch of the original Macintosh in 1984, Apple has historically been hip with the Baby Boom and Generation X (demographics that include people who once used the word "hip" unironically). Those groups are nearing middle and old age now -- the oldest Boomers are nearing 70, and the youngest Gen Xers are turning 30. Older people need more healthcare, so it makes sense for Apple to get into that market. Monday, Apple introduced a new health app and HealthKit API.

HealthKit isn't just about connecting your iPhone to your Fitbit, Jawbone, or Nike Fuelband (Apple announced Nike as a partner). The prestigious Mayo Clinic is a partner. Most important of all, HealthKit can also connect to medical apps, and Apple has partnered with Epic Systems, the largest provider of electronic health records in the US. So if your fitness or medical device detects an anomaly, it can automatically send a message to your healthcare provider.

In addition to the big strategic stuff, Apple introduced an abundance of new features and capabilities for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. But I want to draw your attention to this article, which contains plenty of tasty tidbits for Apple enthusiasts like me: "20+ iOS 8 features Apple didn't talk about." Highlights:

  • Voice activation for Siri -- just say "Hey Siri!" How's that going to work? Is the iPhone just going to be listening all the time? Isn't that going to kill battery life and raise privacy issues?

  • "Siri will recognize and transcribe words as you speak, rather than waiting for you to complete your command." Nice! Android voice recognition works that way; it's much nicer than the current way Siri works, which is to wait until it thinks you're finished or until its buffer fills up before it starts to transcribe.

  • DuckDuckGo support in Mobile Safari. Apple is really sticking it to Google. DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that's a darling of privacy advocates.

  • Battery usage by app. I love this. My iPhone 5 has pathetic battery life. If the iPhone can tell me what app is the culprit, I'll be happy (particuarly if it turns out to be an app I don't really care about).

  • An in-case-of-emergency card for the HealthKit app.

  • WiFi calling. My colleague Dan Jones nailed this one; I'm giving myself a dopeslap for having missed it. This is huge, and it fits into an overall trend of carriers offloading traffic onto WiFi. I want to take a deeper look into how this works. (See T-Mobile Jazzed With WiFi Calling on New Apple iOS, Comcast Whips Up More WiFi, Cablevision Plots WiFi Market Disruption, and TWC & Charter Embrace Next-Gen WiFi.)

  • Camera enhancements. Burst mode for the camera in older iPhones, panorama photos in iPad, timelapse video mode (sounds like some kind of automatic GIF creator -- one of the best features of Google+), and camera timer.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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