Is the new iPhone 7 a leap or a tweak? Is it just a stopgap to a 10 year anniversary version in 2017? Here’s a re-cap of all the issues and stats surrounding the year’s biggest device launch…
With the launch of the iPhone 7, can Apple save itself from crisis? After all, this is a company that announced its first quarterly sales decline in 13 years earlier this year. Yes, sales were down from $58bn to a miserly $50.6bn.
The numbers put into context the reality of the perceived alarm around the world’s biggest company. No firm can grow for ever. And Apple remains astonishingly successful and profitable.
However, there are still challenges, and they can be summed up as follows:
Smartphones are too good
The improvements in new models are incremental now, which means more people are content to stay with what they have and not upgrade.
Android has improved
Some people like iOS, some like Android. And at the premium end, there’s little to choose between the top models. So there is not much Apple can do to wrestle market share back from the Google platform.
Apple doesn’t do mass market
If there’s any growth left in smartphones, it’s at the low and mid tier. There is huge demand from customers in developing markets, but it’s being met by firms like Oppo and Vivo, not Apple.
Apple is a one product company
iPhone may be the most profitable product in the history of the world. But its sheer success has made Apple very dependent on it. Barrons reckons its revenue exposure to the iPhone is 70 per cent and its operating profit exposure is 85 per cent. Apple needs another hit, but…
The Apple Watch has flopped
Yes, it’s the world’s best selling wearable, but that’s all relative. Wrap it up how you like, the Apple Watch has failed. IDC said Apple Watch sales fell 55 per cent year-over-year in Q2, to 1.6 million from 3.6 million. Apple itself won’t release sales numbers for ‘competitive’ reasons, but if it were selling hundreds of millions, you can bet it would.
So these were the background factors to Apple’s launch event yesterday.
Would there be groundbreaking news? Frankly no.
There was no Apple TV or Apple Car. There was no addition of VR or AR inside the new iPhones. Instead, there were a series of incremental improvements.
The new devices feature better cameras, battery life, processing and storage. All of which would be expected in an upgrade. Notoriously, Apple banished the audio jack. This prompted a backlash, but there is an adapter included and a pair of wired earphones, so this may be overplayed.
Apple also appears to have shifted its Watch strategy. The firm was criticised for marketing the watch as a luxury product with a 18-karat gold edition. It’s now dropped that strategy, and appears to accept that most people want wearables for sports and fitness, rather than as a ‘remote control for life’.
Until there’s a killer app for the watch, it’s now a glorified Fitbit.
The iPhone 7 has enough significant improvements to keep Apple at the top of the smartphone business. But there are many who believe the bigger update will come next year as the iPhone reaches its 10th birthday.
There are rumours of an iPhone 8 or maybe an iPhone X edition, with spectacular new features. Apple has always paved the way for major changes in increments (it bought a fingerprint firm, then added Touch ID for unlocking, then introduced Apple Pay). Maybe the dual camera in iPhone 7 could be the indicator of something big.
This is all speculation. Par for the course with Apple.
In the meantime, here is everything you need to know about the new iPhones, Watch and iOS…
- Colours and finish – There are five: Rose Gold, Gold, Silver, Black, Jet Black. The latter is the one Apple is shouting about. It has a mirror-like screen.
- Size – Height, width and thickness are the same as the 6 models – 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch.
- Screen – The resolutions are also the same: 1,334 x 750 pixels and 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
- Water resistance – The new iPhones are water and dust resistant. They have an ‘IP67 rating’, which means they can survive 30 minutes in water up to one metre deep.
- Home button – It’s now solid state, so you don’t push it in with a click. Instead, it’s haptic, so it responds to your touch.
- Brightness – The new models are 25 per cent brighter than before
- Headphone jack – Gone. This is the big news of the launch. New models come with earphones that connect via the lighting port and an adapter for connecting 3.5mm audio jack headphones.
- Storage – The entry-level 16GB is gone. They now start 32GB and go up to 256GB.
- Battery Life – Best ever, says Apple. Around two hours better than the 6S.
- Processing – 40 per cent faster thanks to the new A10 Fusion chipset. That’s 120x faster than the original iPhone.
- Camera – Overhauled with new image sensor, 12-megapixel resolution and optical image stabilisation. There’s a new 7 megapixel front-facing camera too. But the big change is the dual-lens rear camera on the 7 Plus. This enhances the zoom and depth-of-field. The idea is to challenge SLR cameras.
- Audio – The new iPhones feature stereo speakers
- AirPods – Apple wants to encourage BlueTooth listening, hence these new wireless earphones. They use Infrared sensors to detect when they’re in your ears, and connect more easily than standard BlueTooth accessories. You can double-tap the AirPod to activate Siri. They play for 5 hours before needing a charge, which can be done via the package they ship in.
- Pricing – The iPhone 7 starts at $649, the 7 Plus at $749.
Watch and services
- Apple Watch – A new Apple Watch Series 2 will feature a swim-proof casing, and there is also an Apple Watch Nike+ targeted at runners. They include internal GPS so users can track their exercise without the phone. The new models start at $369.
- Apple Pay – The new iPhones will support Felica, the NFC technology used widely in Japan.
- Gaming – Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto was the surprise guest at the keynote. He announced Super Mario Run as Mario’s mobile debut – exclusively on iOS. He also confirmed Pokémon Go is coming to the Apple Watch. Users can find and catch Pokémon without using the phone.
- Siri – Overhauled to do better image searches, transcribe voicemails, and write your text messages. Apple is opening up Siri to third parties, so you can use it to send a message in WhatsApp etc.
- Universal Clipboard – Copy text or images from an iPhone and paste them on a Mac.
- Raise to wake – Lift the phone to see the lock screen and notifications.
- Enhanced notifications – Use 3D Touch to interact with an app through notifications, and without launching it fully
- Apple apps – Apple is refreshing its built-in apps: Photos, Phone, Maps, Music, News, Home, and Messages.
- Apple Music – The much-maligned UI has been overhauled.