Welcome to our regular collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
The brilliant, unrepeatable iPhone
The iPhone turned 15 this week, and Apple fans around the globe have been reminiscing about their earliest memories of the device. (If you’re in the mood for nostalgia, check out our original review.) June 2007 feels like a lifetime ago. The world is a different place now, and a small part of that is down to the iPhone itself, a truly game-changing product.
Apple has changed too. What would once have been considered the Mac company has in truth been the iPhone company for a long time now, certainly in terms of revenue and user base. Whether shifting millions upon millions of handsets, taking a cut from app sales, or (as part of a wise pivot that’s happening right now) selling subscription services to wealthy iPhone owners, Apple would be lost without its miracle product.
The company has tried to repeat the miracle, of course, as would anyone who suddenly realized they could turn water into wine. For a time some hoped the iPad would surpass its predecessor; indeed it sold far quicker than the iPhone at the beginning, taking just under a month to sell a million units when the iPhone had needed 74 days. But the comparison was deceptive and sales never reached anything like the same dizzying heights, simply because tablets haven’t found a way to integrate themselves into our lives and pockets the way smartphones can.
The Apple Watch, when it launched a few years later, wasn’t in the same ballpark for sales or visibility, while the HomePod was barely playing the same sport. The AirPods have given it a good go, but nobody is going to upgrade their wireless earbuds every year–or pay a thousand dollars each time; customers could barely stomach half that even for premium over-ears. And most importantly, you don’t build your life around your headphones.
It sounds melodramatic–the stuff of bad cartoons shared on Facebook–but the iPhone truly can be the hub of a person’s day-to-day existence. It wakes you in the morning, guides you through your working schedule, keeps you in touch with loved ones, and amuses or torments you via social media. The iPhone is so compulsive, so omnipresent, that even Apple started to add features to help you put it down. When the bookmaker won’t take your money anymore, you know you’ve got a problem.
Once you’ve understood the centrality of the smartphone, it’s no longer surprising that no other Apple product has been able to match the iPhone. The happiness or utility a product can confer is equal to its quality multiplied by the chunk of a person’s life that it will occupy. You can release the greatest smartwatch in the history of the planet, but it’s still a smartwatch. How much better can it make your life?
The other factor is the surprise itself. Apple will never again be able to launch a product as surprising as the iPhone because its fans expect something that good at every event. And the leaks are a problem on that front, too. When the AR headset arrives, chances are half the audience will know the details already from leaks, while the other will have conjured up impossible expectations and complain bitterly when they’re not met.
So it’s hard to see Apple releasing another device in the foreseeable future that matches the iPhone’s impact. By dominating our lives and raising expectations for every subsequent launch, the iPhone created a world in which its success could not be repeated. It’s hard to see that as a failure.
And it’s not like the iPhone has gone anywhere. In fact, there are four new models coming in just a few months. Tell that to the people of 2007 and see who envies whom.
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15 years on, Apple still thinks Samsung “ripped off” the iPhone.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley.