Apple Needs to Redeem Itself in 2017
Let’s be honest, 2016 was a horrible year on many different levels. We lost countless legends like Ali, Prince, Bowie, Wilder, and Arnie; we all suffered through one hell of an election slugfest; and there was that whole exploding phone crisis that still hasn’t completely resolved itself yet—c’mon Samsung.
And then there’s Apple.
The undisputed king of the tech world right now, Apple has, in all honesty, really stumbled through the past year and a half. Tim Cook was given the unenviable task of picking up the torch after the passing of founder and tech visionary Steve Jobs, and he did about as well as anyone could have expected. Now five years removed from Jobs’ passing, though, the shine is starting to wear away, and the scratches are starting show about as clearly as they do on the back of those Jet Black iPhone 7’s.
This year, Apple saw iPhone sales decline year-over-year for the first time ever. And then the second time ever. And then the third time ever. The third decline in iPhone sales actually resulted in Apple’s first annual revenue decline since 2001.
The struggles extended far beyond just iPhone sales, though. Other Apple flops this year included
The headphone jack-less iPhone 7. Not something I’m entirely too upset about because I get what they’re doing in trying to move the consumer towards Bluetooth headphones, but public backlash over removing the legacy audio tech was swift and hard. People can’t come to grips with the fact that they need to carry around a dongle just to use their wired headphones. And it is a bit hard to get past the fact that charging and listening to music cannot be done simultaneously with wired headphones—unless you have a separate dongle. Apple has a history of pushing newer technology onto the consumer for the consumer's benefit, but in this case the consumer might not have been ready.
The Airpods flub. Apple’s answer to the iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack was their new Airpods. The wireless earbuds, while a little pricey, are relatively less expensive than what’s out there on the market right in this category. Apple announced the Airpods at the iPhone event in September with a launch “date” of October. That turned into late October. Then that became later this year. And then it was just eventually. The Airpods now have a real launch date, but the uncharacteristically long delay really hurt Apple. It’s a hit against their reputation, but also it put the Airpods in a position where they've now completely missed the 2016 holidays. They might be available in the store on a limited quantity basis, but online orders won't ship until January (maybe). It’s not like Apple to release a product before it’s ready, let alone announce one that still had plenty of glitches that needed to be worked out.
The uninspired new Macbook. And can we talk about the new MacBook? How gimmicky is that new touch bar at the top? Is it cool? Maybe. But, really, what value does that add to the laptop experience? None. And they’re upcharging their new MacBooks a crapton for this new feature. To me, this comes off as Apple succumbing to outside pressure to update a product that didn’t really need updating.
It was a rough year for Apple, to say the least.
But as we turn the calendar over to a new year, Apple has a chance to put all of this behind them and reassert themselves as the dominant tech company that they are.
Of course, there’s the iPhone 8, or iPhone X as I’ve been calling it. The 10 year anniversary of the first iPhone will be celebrated this year, and Apple will likely do so in a major way with its flagship product. There are rumors of an OLED screen, wireless charging, and the removal of the home button. Elsewhere throughout the company, there are talks of a larger MacBook Air coming to market, updates to the iPad Pro lineup, and a refreshed Mac Pro. Software updates are likely to happen as well with iOS, WatchOS, TV OS, and MacOS. And there’s the continued talk about a possible streaming video service coming to market.
We’ll be on the lookout for all of that and more. But what I’ll be most looking forward to is how well the added features and new updates resonate with the consumer. Can Apple get back on track with its mission of giving the consumer what they need before they actually know they need it? This year, they either jumped the gun or left me feeling just meh.
In a year where they could’ve really stepped on the throat of the competition (see: the Galaxy Note 7 debacle), Apple stumbled. They’ve fallen back to the pack. In 2017, the story needs to read very differently; otherwise they face the very real possibility that they’ll start to fall by the wayside.