Despite Incremental Improvements, this is a Transformational Year for iPhone
To put it bluntly, this was a rather underwhelming year for the iPhone as far as technological innovations go. However, 2018 should go down as one of the most transformational years in Apple’s flagship product’s history.
Leading up to the annual fall Apple event, we pretty much knew exactly what we were going to get with the new models—the only real question left was what Apple would ultimately name each new device. And so, here we are with the oddly named iPhone Xs, the iPhone Xs Max (because it’s bigger than Plus), and the iPhone Xr (which stands for who knows what).
Internally, those devices boast some incremental improvements over last year’s iPhone X. Among them, a new A12 Bionic chip that improves performance across the board while also increasing power usage efficiency, an upgraded dual-camera system (in the Xs and Xs Max), faster FaceID performance, and an improved IP68 rating. And, of course, the new Xs Max has the 6.5-inch Super Retina HD display, which makes it the largest iPhone screen to-date.
Beyond the increased screen size of the Xs Max there’s nothing about these new flagship phones that makes me—an iPhone X owner—chomping at the bit to ditch my year-old device for the latest and greatest iPhone. But the more I sit here and think about Apple’s strategy and what they’re trying to do with these new phones, the more I begin to realize that it’s not me specifically, or other iPhone X owners in general that they’re trying to reach out to.
This new crop of iPhones is all about adoption and standardizing the iPhone X design. Apple wants to get more than just a simple majority of their consumer base up and running on this new all-display device. Analysts have long talked about the current upgrade supercycle that we’re in, where consumers have been holding onto their smartphones for two and three years now, and they’re more than ready to upgrade. A good chunk did so last year, and that’s what helped the iPhone X become the best-selling smartphone in the past year. Now, in 2018, the next wave is coming, and Apple is doing everything it can to get those users to buy into this new Home Button-less design—and that’s where the “budget-friendly” iPhone Xr comes into play. The lower end model becomes the de facto entry-level device.
Apple can still be a leader in innovating the smartphone category. But as has long been their corporate product strategy, they’ll only do so when they believe their consumers are in a position to benefit from such innovations. The first step in getting to that point is to drive adoption, and that appears to be a priority for Apple with this new slate of iPhones.