Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which has all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized summary. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes well with a cup of coffee or tea on a Monday morning, but it’s also cool if you want to read it over lunch or dinner.
Life after the iPhone
Last week, a new CIRP report pointed to a trend that will worry Apple: the company’s customers are holding on to their iPhones longer. From 2021 to 2022, the average age of iPhones replaced fell, but that figure is now back to its March 2021 peak. income to upgrade their phones turn out to be temporary. The longer-term underlying trend towards less and less frequent upgrades is continuing.
Your first thought might be that this is good news and an indication that Apple is doing a good job. The phones may be more robust and thus more resistant to prolonged use. The inclusion of 5G support and extremely powerful processors means the hardware is more future-proof. Perhaps the design team should take credit for forward-looking aesthetics that age well. I agree that regardless of the reasons, a slower upgrade cycle is good for customers and the environment. But Apple’s management, at least if they’re honest with themselves, probably won’t feel it’s good for them.
This conflict of interest reminded me of a famous “saying the quiet part out loud” moment during an Apple keynote in 2016, when Phil Schiller said he was “really sad” that so many PC owners held onto their machines for more than five years. For Apple, this was cause for derision: look at those silly old PC owners with their silly old PCs. But for any reasonable company, or rather any company with the good PR sense to act as if it had the best interests of reasonable customers in mind, this should be a point of pride. The addictive capitalist cycle of newness and obsolescence is crushingly bad for our wallets and our world. If you can keep a PC running for more than five years, you’re part of the solution, not the problem.
In fact, I suspect the long-term trend away from frequent iPhone upgrades has less to do with Apple excellence and more to do with the state of the smartphone market as a whole. This hasn’t yet reached the commoditized state where one brand of handset is indistinguishable from another, thanks in part to Apple’s shrewd marketing and refusal to allow features like iMessage on rival platforms. But it is certainly true that products have been made for generations by the same company become more difficult to distinguish each year.
The huge leap in camera quality you’d enjoy jumping from, say, two generations of the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4S would dwarf the iterative and niche improvements you’d notice if you moved four generations from the XS to the 14. doing. groundbreaking upgrades from those early years: 3G! LTE! Siri! Face Time! A front camera! The App Store! The first Retina display! — makes the tentpole features of recent years seem banal by comparison. There’s less reason to get excited about the new iPhone models each fall, and less reason to upgrade quickly, because the phone you already own is already great.
This is largely unavoidable, of course, and the last thing I’d suggest is that Apple’s engineers have been sleeping on the job. The rapid and amazing progress that the smartphone industry made in its early years was possible because the low-hanging fruit had not yet been eaten. But because of those advancements, today’s cheapest budget Android phone is a much more capable device than the fanciest flagship of 2007, and there’s a limit to how much you can improve a product before customers stop noticing it.
To Apple’s credit, it realized long ago that the iPhone wouldn’t be the golden goose forever, and is looking for other sources of revenue to take its place when the time comes. For example, the company recognized that even if they didn’t buy that many iPhones, a large user base of people with enough money to have bought one before was a mature market for subscription services, and now we have Apple Arcade, Music, News+, Fitness+ and so on. But more importantly, it has been looking for the next platform, the one that will replace the smartphone as the one device most people carry with them all day. Apple tried the iPad, and it tried the Apple Watch, and neither proved to have the same universal appeal. The next attempt is an AR headset, which might turn out to be the next iPhone, but it might not.
The iPhone has had a good run and it’s not done – not by a long shot. But the days are numbered nonetheless and Apple shouldn’t wait too long without finding a good replacement. Because that would be really sad.
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The rumor mill
Apple busted a prolific Twitter leaker, seemingly doing extensive work misleading information scam. Be careful what you believe out there, folks.
The 15 MacBook Air is so close, shops have “already started stocking up”.
Apple is reportedly planning the biggest iPhone ever. Could this be the fable iPhone 16 Ultra?
The Apple Watch Series 9 can cause a serious bump in battery life.
New Beats Studio Pro Headphones have been spotted in the latest iOS and macOS betas.
Podcast of the week
After a great few years, the Mac cycle has ground to a halt – or you could say it’s now eerily similar to the Mac’s pre-M1 days. But that could change from WWDC, with the possibility of some groundbreaking updatesa long-awaited Mac Pro and a reveal of the next version of macOS.
You can watch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
And with that we are ready for this week’s Apple Breakfast. To receive regular raids, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for discussion on the latest Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.