Apple’s Going to take it on the Chin for 3-year iPhone Refresh Cycle

| Analysis

Get ready for the Apple doomsday predictions because a new report suggests the company is moving to a three-year cycle for major iPhone redesigns. Critics will say Apple has lost its ability to innovate, but the slowing pace of advancements and a decision to avoid adding new features just for the sake of artificially appearing innovative may be behind the rumored change.

Apple will face criticism for iPhone refreshes regardless of how far apart they areApple will face criticism for iPhone refreshes regardless of how far apart they are

Word that Apple is planning to push its two-year major refresh cycle out to three years comes via Nikkei. According to their report, the smartphone market is slowing down and big feature advancements aren't coming as quickly for mobile device makers.

That puts Apple in an interesting predicament: Keep up the two-year big refresh cycle and risk falling into Samsung's throw anything at it and see what sticks approach, or stretch out the big iPhone refreshes into a more manageable three-year cycle. The former would likely lead to odd "enhancements" and feature bloat, while the latter could leave consumers feeling like Apple is falling behind its smartphone competitors.

Apple is already facing criticism for the still rumored features of the next iPhone, due for release most likely in September. The new model will sport a better camera, faster processor, audio over the Lightning connector instead of a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a body design that's nearly identical to the iPhone 6s.

Without a fresh look, the argument goes, the new models won't convey a feeling of forward momentum for Apple. It's also a sign that Apple can't innovate any more—a complaint that's been tossed around since before Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO.

But does Apple need to give us a massive redesign every two years? The MacBook Pro has maintained effectively the same look for about four years while adding new features and faster processors, the iMac of today looks like the iMac from a couple years ago, and each iPad has looked nearly identical since 2011. The Apple TV transitioned from a small white box to a small black box after three years, and it took another five before it became a slightly taller black box.

Stretching out the major refreshes would bring the iPhone more in line with its other product cycles, assuming that's Apple's plan. Alternately, the company may have decided to stick with the iPhone 6 and 6s form factor for another year because a major redesign is planned for its tenth anniversary in 2017.

It's important to remember this three-year cycle report is coming from a single source, and that isn't the same thing as actual confirmation. We're living in a time where people blindly accept whatever they see on the internet as truth, and while it's plausible Apple is slowing down the iPhone's major upgrade cycle, it isn't confirmed.

What we do know is that iPhone rumors are focusing more on the 2017 refresh instead of this fall's update. Considering Apple's track record with keeping secrets, that's pretty telling and most likely means we really aren't getting a big iPhone refresh this year.

That doesn't necessarily mean Apple is failing to innovate or has lost its mojo. It does, however, mean Apple is going to face a lot of criticism from the media and analysts whether it's warranted or not.

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Lee Dronick

  Apple is already facing criticism for the still rumored features of the next iPhone

Those critics need to get out in the real world more often.

A better camera? Give me one that that can take landscape video while the iPhone is being held in portrait and vice versa. Make it user selectable so that if I do want to take a video or still photo in either modewhile the camera is being held either horizontal or vertical. Do that and I will upgrade this cycle. For the people who complain about video in portrait mode then I suggest that they too get out in the real world more often; at least go to political rally and video the brawling with the camera held above their head.

Dorkus Maximus

No one wants Apple to adopt the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach to product development; but surely there are enough real and needed improvements to keep Apple engineers working on the current development cycle. You know, like a waterproof iPhone, or a shatterproof iPhone, or longer battery life….

Not to mention that Apple has been ramping up its R&D budget. Spending more for less development seems counter to the way effective cost management is supposed to go.


We’re living in a time where people blindly accept whatever they see on the internet as truth

I would add TV news to the sources that people gullibly accept, despite their poor record of reporting the facts (who, what, when, where, why & how). But, as with Apple, misreporting or just making stuff up[b/] results in little loss of reputation.


Oops hope this fixes my error/typo.


I get savaged for calling them iToys…phones. It’s so played out and moot who does what Android v iOS I always said the market is full, it’s saturated with current and 3 year old phones that do everything well enough for everybody but the few ‘geeks’ that MUST have the newest same old thing.
Apple is chasing features from others for the last few years - kids know it but Apple ain’t hurtin’. Sales is Sales and the wave of ennui is part of the generational and economic shift - the iToys will pay the bills for a long time. I’m more concerned about the poor Mac Pro. If Apple doesn’t step up and acknowledge the professional mixer/producer/graphics/web/print/illustrator CGI/3D VR/6k crowd that made this company then that’s when I’m out. (to get a beer) .....


I bought my iPhone 6 when it was shiney and new.  It’s the best phone I’ve ever owned. None of the features added in the 6s meant anything to me and I can’t imagine this year’s model will entice me either. I may go another two years before I consider a new phone.


I’m thinking about those people who are paying for the auto-updates. Aren’t they getting a bum deal? I’m sure most people go that route, expecting a completely fresh cycle every two years, and are putting up with the half-cycle every year. By doing a three-year cycle, with third-cycle updates, people are getting less for their money. It feels strangely bait-and-switch to me. That’s my first thought.

Lee Dronick

Jon, the accidental damage coverage alone may make it worthwhile. We shall see, I have two iPhone 6S on the upgrade plan.

Glenn Simkus

I think Apple does need help from those who use their iPhones, iPads and macs one thing I believe should is reduce the strictness games and apps are meant to be fun for the consumer and not something that drives the consumer away like checking your account to make they is money there to do updates I know I hate that problem and I think they should let the company’s do their updates via the server and not the App Store as some companies do and I think waterproofing the iPhone and iPad would be nice but I wish the watch came with the iPhone even if the watch was waterproofed to and have longer battery life and for doing recordings whether it’s visual or audio

Glenn Simkus

Should have longer playtime

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