iPhone Dominates Innovation at CES 2012

Hundreds of Products Tap into the iPhone’s Momentum, Despite Apple’s Absence from the Show

Tinke sensor
FIT Mobile app
GoPano camera
Bikn app and tags
Sculpteo app

As the build-up to the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas continues, thousands of companies have arrived to show off their latest and greatest products. Stalwarts such as Intel, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, Samsung are here with a dazzling array of products, but it strikes me that the “elephant in the room” is, as ever, Apple.

Apple does not attend events like CES and Mobile World Congress, but for years the company has defined such shows. At CES in particular, Apple has set the trends that have led to a scramble of copy-cat products since the launch of the Mac and the iPod. This was most obvious in 2011 with the torrent of tablets that mimicked — in most cases unsuccessfully — the iPad.

This year, Apple’s influence on the show continues, but what strikes me is not the usual catalogue of iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air and iCloud clones, but the fact that so much of the innovation on show is centred on the iPhone.

At the media and analyst previews I have attended over the past 24 hours there has been no end of new products aimed at iPhone owners. Sure, most companies say they’ll probably develop for Android devices at a later date (and maybe Windows Phone one day — BlackBerry is conspicuous by its absence in these discussions), but all the demos and working samples use iPhones.

A small and far from exhaustive list of such products includes healthcare and personal fitness applications like the Tinke sensor and Body Media’s FIT Mobile, a panoramic camera from GoPano, location tabs from Bikn, 3D printing from Sculpteo and remote-controlled cars, drones and helicopters (see here for an example). Illustrated on the left, these are just a few of the many hundreds of innovative and often quirky iPhone-related products we’ve found at this show.

To me this means just one thing: the iPhone and the momentum it’s generated are firmly here to stay. Concerns that Apple might be lose its competitive edge in 2012 to rival Android smartphones with thinner designs, bigger screens and better specifications seem irrelevant. Consumers who chose Apple (and several million more did over the Christmas period) are making a commitment that will last a very long time. They are already immediately locked into their purchases through investments in apps and content, but when they start buying proprietary add-ons, even if it’s only a speaker-dock for the kitchen, they’re making a commitment that’ll last a very long time. The “iPhone economy” on show here at CES 2012 supports that message loud and clear.