The iPhone has gotten better and better every year. The iPhone 6 sated customer hunger for a larger display, but then Apple had to fill the gap for many who preferred a 4-inch display with the iPhone SE. Along the way, the world economy slowed, the dollar got a lot stronger, dramatic improvements for the 6s just weren't there, and many customers felt like their current iPhone was good enough. So what's next for the iPhone?
The Particle Debris article of the week is from Rene Ritchie at iMore. "Tick-tock... tock?!—The future of iPhone product cycles." What Rene is referencing here is the Intel process for product development. The "Tick-Tock Model." With that as background, Rene mentions a rumor that Apple may have to insert an extra "tock" in the iPhone development cycle. And that implies another year of the "6" models, whatever they be named. OMG.
Time was you'd get something new, then a better version of it, then something new again. You could count on it, like the tick-tock of some great clock. And you could plan for it—getting every one of them if you wanted to, or alternating between just the new or just the improved, depending on what you felt was the best strategy. But now it's all being burned down. Instead of tick-tock we're faced with the ultimate horror: Rumors of a tick-tock... TOCK.
This is an interesting concept to get our head around because many financial observers and the media are expecting that, while the iPhone 6s/Plus wasn't enough to instigate massive upgrading, all would be made well by the introduction of a dramatically better iPhone 7 in September. Hope springs eternal.
Nowadays, there are plenty of rumors about the (presumed) iPhone 7 features: inductive charging, the removal of the 3.5 mm audio jack, waterproofing, even thinner, dual cameras on the Plus model, the removal of antenna gaps/lines, an AMOLED display (but probably not this version), to name a few.
The Big Question
The question Apple faces, and the one Rene fleshes out, is whether the hype surrounding a new iPhone and its actual features is out of sync with the realities of the market place. That is to say, all the new features may not be enough to move customers into upgrading. Should Apple, instead, stretch out the cycle, adding another "tock" to telegraph that Apple is improving the iPhone mildly, but doesn't expect a massive migration? That puts the reality of the situaiton in better perspective, and it doesn't appear that Apple is failing in its traditional process of dramatic growth and frenzied upgrades.
Another factor that has gone largely uncovered, so far as I can tell, is the movement away from carrier financed plans and towards owning the iPhone, even if on a loan. This shift from the carrier carrying part of the financial burden (in the U.S.) to the consumer carrying all of it has probably made consumers more acutely aware that they're buying a US$650 device every year. Possibly more if a spouse and teenager or two is included. In that case, a really tough decision has to be made as to whether the new iPhone model is a "must-have" every 12 months.
Back to Rene's thesis. Would an extra tock give Apple the time to make really dramatic improvements on a three year cycle instead of two? He concludes:
Likewise, if Apple doesn't make significant design changes in 2016 it won't be because the company is stupid or doomed, but because the design changes coming next are f--cking hard and will take another year.
Only time will tell, but I think the current, global market forces and technology limits are coming home to roost. The iPhone is certainly becoming a very mature device, and the dramatic changes Apple wants to eventually make might be more aligned with 2017-2019 technologies. Right now, Apple is pretty good a coping with the realities marketplace, and Rene has a great thesis. We shall soon see.
Page 2: The Tech News Debris for the Week of May 9th. Planning for your next Apple TV.