Tim Cook on bigger iPhones, ‘crappy’ Android experience, not making junk and more

Tim Cook holds iPad (with Katie Cotton, Jacqui Cheng)

Following notable excerpts from Daisuke Wakabayashi’s interview with Tim Cook in The Wall Street Journal, the financial newspaper has now posted the whole thing on its Digits blog.

The full interview gives us a more detailed insight into the mindset of Tim Cook’s Apple as the CEO discusses recent topics of interest, including Lenovo’s $2.9 billion purchase of Google’s Motorola Mobility unit and additional information regarding Apple’s share buyback program.

He also took time to touch upon the ongoing discussion concerning supposedly bigger iPhones in the pipeline, the current products not yet hitting the ceiling and lots more. I’ve included the best quotes and tidbits for your reading pleasure after the break…

Acknowledging that the iPod “never really took off in emerging markets,” Cook credited the iPhone with finally penetrating emerging markets in China, Russia, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

The China Mobile roll-out of LTE (fourth-generation wireless) takes place over a year. And even with adding China Mobile, we still only present our products to two-thirds of the subscribers in the world. In fact, this quarter, we’ll sign on 50 new carriers.

The addition of 50 new carriers should help boost those iPhone sales.

North America was “challenging” as “we had no growth” there and Japan is “a very key market” for Apple as it accounts for about nine percent of the company’s revenue.

On bigger iPhones:

What we’ve said is that until the technology is ready, we don’t want to cross that line. That doesn’t say we’ll never do it. We want to give our customers what’s right in all respects – not just the size but in the resolution, in the clarity, in the contrast, in the reliability. There are many different parameters to measure a display and we care about all those, because we know that’s the window to the software.

Just to make things a bit more interesting, here’s a nice iPhone 6 concept by our friend Federico Ciccarese from earlier today.

iPhone 6 concept (Federico Ciccarese 004)

On “crappy” Android tablet experience:

We have over a million apps on iOS. We have over half-million that have been optimized for iPad. That half-million compares to 1,000 for Android tablets. That’s one of the reasons, although not the only reason, why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy because the app is nothing more than a stretched out smartphone app.

He also likened Android to Europe:

The other thing is that Windows pretty much was one thing. Android is like Europe. Europe was a name that somebody came up with for Americans who didn’t understand that Europe was a lot of countries that weren’t like U.S. states.

They were very different. Android is many things. How many people who use a Kindle know that they’re using Android? And you see what Samsung is doing by putting more and more software on top. I think it’s night and day. The compare is so off.

On market share in smartphones:

I look at the mobile phone market as having three kinds of phones: feature phones, smartphones that function as or are used as feature phones, and real smartphones. I care about the market share of the last one.

I don’t care how many feature phones are sold.

The more that are sold I look at as good because those are all potential future customers for real smartphones. The same thing goes for the second category. I’d like to convert as many of those as possible to real smartphones.

And then this on making junk:

Would I like to be one in the places where we are two? You better believe it. If there is a way we can do that without changing where our line is on a great product, then we’re going to do it. But what we’re not going to do is we’re not going to make junk. We’re not going to put Apple’s brand on something someone else designed.

I don’t view that as being satisfied with being small or however you want to define it. It’s not saying that market share is irrelevant or not important. I’ve never said that. I just always tried to say that the macro thing for us is to make a great product and we must do that.

On Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, previously a Google company:

I wasn’t surprised. It seems like a logical transaction. Google gets rid of something that’s losing money, something that they’re not committed to. I think it’s really hard to do hardware, software and services and to link all those things together. That’s what makes Apple so special. It’s really hard, so I’m not surprised that they are not going to do that.

By the way, Google will own a 5.94 percent stake in Lenovo worth $750 million once Lenovo’s Motorola deal closes, per a disclosure on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

And here’s the full quote regarding introducing new-category products.

It goes to the heart of what is innovation. We’ve had a prolific period of innovation. We’ve had enormous new products over the last several months with the iPad Air, the iPad Mini with Retina display. We’ve had Mavericks (the new Macintosh operating system). We’ve had iOS 7. We’ve had iTunes Radio. Basically we re-did the entire Macintosh line. We came out with two phones at the same time for the first time ever with the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. And the dream of using your fingerprint for authentication has come true. Innovation at Apple is alive and well. But all of that being said, we can do more.

We don’t believe we can do things at the level of quality and link things as we want to between hardware, software and services so seamlessly if we do a lot of stuff. So we’re going to stick with our knitting with only doing a few things and doing them great. There will be new categories and we’re working on some great stuff. We’re not ready to talk about it. We’re really working on some really great stuff. I think no one reasonable would say they’re not a new category.

I think Apple can grow well with great improvements and new products on its existing category of products. We haven’t exactly hit a ceiling with products like the iPhone. There are still a lot of people buying feature phones. There are a lot of people still buying smartphones that they use like a feature phone but it’s labeled as a smartphone.

We said early on that the tablet business would be bigger than the PC business. If anything, that’s happening sooner than we thought. There’s still a lot of PCs being sold and a lot of those users would have a better experience on an iPad than a PC. We still view that as an opportunity.

And we haven’t given up on the Mac. A lot of people are throwing in the towel right now on the PC. We’re still spending an enormous amount on really great talent and people on the Macs of the future. And we have some really cool things coming out there. Because we believe as people walk away from the PC, it becomes clear that the Mac is what you want if you want a PC.

We don’t think about our size and we don’t manage the company like a big company, but we did sell $171 billion worth of stuff last year.

And in terms of the stock market, it’s worth mentioning that Apple’s stock continues to be undervalued (if you ask Carl Icahn). Cook basically said his company isn’t buying stock for the heck of it, but because short-sighted investors are driving the stock down.

Just earlier today, Google passed oil giant Exxon Mobil to become the second-largest U.S. corporation in terms of market cap. Apple is still #1, followed by Google, Exxon Mobil and, Microsoft.

The full interview is available here.

So, your comments on Cook’s comments?