iPhone slow down hints Apple’s transition has begun

Apple has already told you what it is doing

apple, iPhone, AirPod, iOS, wearables, AI, Tim Cook

Apple announced a c.1 percent downturn in iPhone sales this week, but the one question people aren’t yet asking is: If iPhone sales are down just one percentile, how is it looking elsewhere in the smartphone industry, which Trendforce expects will decline by 23 percent in the coming  months? Not only this, but what is the future of this category?

Next generation

Apple seems clear that the downturn is in part caused by greater than usual interest in the next edition iPhone. That makes sense – ten years since the company took the concept of smartphones to the mass market it is surely inevitable that consumers and competitors are keen to see what Apple has planned next.

The fact that Apple has already told us what it plans next appears to be passing many industry watchers by. Potentially that’s because they are so fixed on their own world view they can’t actually hear what Apple is saying. What I think Apple is saying comes down to:

Wearables and services

Look, I warned you about this when I told you that iPhones don’t matter anymore. They will always be part of the mix, but smartphones will slowly become background technologies – you could perhaps see them as your individual server/processor, a computer you carry with you that controls other computers, in your ears, on your eyes, around your wrist and in your lapel. Or hat, boots, home, or car.

This notion of connected everything means that as we move forward we’ll find out that many of the things we used to rely on mainframe computers for can now be handled for us using a combination of A.I., intelligent assistants, voice, multiple services, and so on. This kind of transition has happened before – can anyone recall just when the pocket calculator got replaced by the voice assistant?

This transition will take time and it isn’t really time to declare iPhone E.O.L. just yet, to do so would be ridiculous: but as smartphones proliferate, it’s going to be what you can do with those phones that becomes ever more important. That’s why the fact that Apple’s services stream now accounts for around 13 percent of its revenue is so important. That’s where, as the saying goes, the money is. And Apple has a big ambition to generate more income there.

Feel the Beats

Discussing the results, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, came in for a little mockery for describing Beats headphones as being “wearables”. The mockery was misplaced – equipped with Apple’s W1 chip and access to Siri, Beats is also in the business of making wearables, and as time moves on we’ll see more contextual intelligence made available through our ears.

Apple will proliferate connected things solutions and as it does so you’ll find your reasons to take your iPhone out of your pocket will reduce. Add an Apple Watch with its own 5G radio and eventually some of us won’t need to carry a phone at all, as the smart watch with services will provide all the computing we need. I’m convinced this is the model.

So, when I read that Apple’s iPhone sales have fallen somewhat, I’m not remotely concerned. Not only is the company building a substantial income in other products and services made available to iPhone owners, but it is already laying the building blocks for life after the smartphone.

Polarized thinking is not an answer

“Life after smartphone,” doesn’t mean the end of the category. Far from it. After all, some say we are already in a post-PC world and Apple’s Mac sales climbed in the last quarter, so it’s pretty clear that while the computing options made available to us may multiply, there will still be specific needs for specific tools. Did the invention of the motor car mean the eradication of the bicycle? It didn’t. The age of services and wearables won’t mean the utter disappearance of smartphones either. All the same, when looking at Apple’s results it’s important to see these as a signal of the coming transition, and to ask yourself who else in the sector is equally as well prepared, and who else has already built a strong and loyal support base among the kind of customers who already rate their Apple experiences as around 98 percent.

Is it the end of days or the beginning of new ones? Let us know what you think in this poll.

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