For several years now, Apple, Inc. has occupied the enviable position of being the world’s most capitalized company, with a capitalization of eight hundred billion dollars ($800 billion) last week, with over two hundred and fifty billion dollars ($250 billion) in cash. Apple’s iPhone 5 which was launched in September 2014 catapulted the company into this desirable position, while iPhone 6 launched in September 2015 contributed to over two-thirds of Apple’s revenues for that period.
Apple launched iPhone 7 and 7 Plus on 7 September 2016. The event was memorable in the sense that it occurred while Apple’s arch rival in the smartphone business, Samsung Electronics, was frantically going through the grinds trying to solve its Galaxy Note 7 problem. Galaxy Note 7 was found to burst into flames in dozens of cases all over the world because of a defective lithium battery. So serious was the problem that travelers in some developed countries were advised to not enter the plane with Note 7 phones in their person or in their luggage because of the fear of explosion. It was quite unfortunate for Samsung, because by some objective measures, the Galaxy phones were assessed to be as capable as the iPhone 7/7Plus. At any rate, Note 7 was non-issue for iPhone.
As fate would have it, for both Apple and Samsung though, Apple was not able capitalize on the gaffe by Samsung because the iPhone 7/7Plus phones were merely evolutionary, not revolutionary, products. That is, they were just iterations on their predecessors - iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. So, consumers were not compelled to open up their wallets. By far the feature in 7/7Plus that received the most attention in the media, negative in this case; is the absence of a headphone jack in the new iPhone, the space for a headphone jack having been filled with battery and other stuff. So, in return, you have phones with a longer battery life, with the sizes of the phones unchanged. Compared to 6/6Plus, 7/7Plus have 5% and 14% longer battery life, respectively. In place of the headphone jack, Apple began to sell its own $160 AirPods, which are wireless headphones. The water-resistance feature of 7/7Plus also received some attention - the phones can survive 30 minutes under a meter of water. The improved camera in 7/7Plus was considered by some to be the biggest deal; particularly the ability to take pictures in low light.
As stated above, 7/7Plus didn’t click with consumers, since there were no real innovations. So, basically, relative to their respective two predecessors, the models failed in the marketplace. This means that a lot will be riding on iPhone 8, which is due to be released this September, if Apple’s release schedule for the iPhone line of product is maintained. Already, there are many signs that the company is losing some of its luster with both consumers and shareholders, notwithstanding the humongous capitalization and the cash on hand!
Besides the issues with its immediate predecessors, iPhone 8 - or whatever name Apple decides to give to the product - will also be the 10th anniversary version of iPhone, making it even more critical for Apple to come up with something celebratory. Unfortunately, this will not be easy simply because consumers have seen phenomenal smartphone innovations over the years, meaning that the bar has been raised. Apple will certainly try, but will the company be able to impress you?
There are certainly areas where improvements are needed - such as wireless charging, virtual/augmented reality, and better cameras, including multiple cameras that make Apple’s augmented reality capability competitive with Google’s. It is also conceivable that Siri, the digital assistant, could get smarter. Near-field communications (NFC) is another area where iPhone could try to impress. For example, Apple could make iPhone pair Bluetooth speakers, launch a phone call or become your bus or train pass. Even this list doesn’t look impressive enough to drastically change minds, as the features are just enhancements, no disruptions.
There are rumors here and there regarding what you’ll see in iPhone 8, as well as iOS 11, the to-be latest version of the iPhone operating system. Many of the rumors, which are consistent with the list given above for the areas of possible enhancements, were gleaned from the 5 Jun 2017 Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which is a meeting held annually in California by Apple Inc. to showcase the company’s new software and technologies for software developers.
What you’ll see in the next version of iPhone will certainly be a good measure of the innovation quotient of Apple. This is because the motivation is there - poor iPhone 7/7Plus and the 10th anniversary celebration of iPhone - as is the challenge: pleasing consumers who seem to have seen it all.
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