If you paid $200 or more for the newest iPhone recently, here's a harsh truth: You've been had.
The iPhone 5 -- released just seven months ago -- is officially antiquated, with a slate of new Android and Windows Phone 8 devices leaving Apple looking several product cycles behind.
That reality came into stunning focus last week as Android's intuitive personal assistant, Google Now, launched for iOS as part of the Google app.
It met with an enthusiasm among Apple followers that would have been unheard of just months ago -- simply because it's an Android product.
The anticipation for Google Now on iOS speaks volumes about Apple's brand, with company stock hovering at its lowest level in two years.
In releasing Google Now, there was a collective sense that Android did Apple a solid. I even jokingly tweeted that Apple should buy Android a beer.
But using the app on iOS reminded me how stifling Apple's platform can be.
While Google Now runs constantly in the background on Android -- for instance, anticipating when you'll leave for work or what events you might enjoy attending -- an iPhone user must make sure the app is open in order to use it.
That defeats the purpose of an unobtrusive, intuitive smartphone assistant.
The difference between now and when the iPhone 5 was released last year is that Apple had a long winning streak on hardware and design. Now, Android has caught up.
Smartphones such as the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and even the lower-tier HTC First meet or surpass the iPhone 5 on basic performance.
Windows Phone's HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 provide a similar marriage of solid hardware and operating system, which is why U.S. marketshare doubled to 6 percent last quarter.
Apple has a tenuous edge in apps and its iTunes-driven ecosystem. A rumored iWatch that will pair with the iPhone may buy Apple a bit more time to develop iOS 7, but the system had better be a stunner.
Nothing less than a complete overhaul from the currently static and uncustomizable platform will be competitive.
I knew I was choosing apps and ecosystem over lots of other features when I bought the iPhone 5. But now it feels like I paid $200 for a pretty-looking iTunes machine with a nice camera.
And I'm in the market for an upgrade.
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