Apple iPhone: Busted flush or rising star?
Flagging iPhone sales have been in the news for the past few month and some commentators have suggested that the smartphone market is cooling down; that perhaps it is reaching saturation in the developed world.
I believe all this misses the point. iPhone sales have been depressed not by outside influences but by the iPhone itself. It is too good for its own good.
The rot set in with the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014. For well over a year before this there had been a pent-up demand for a "phablet" format, an amalgam of the communication potential and convenience of a phone and the larger working area of a tablet. It is fair to say that the iPhone 6 Plus was a huge success and most owners, myself included, we're so impressed and satisfied that they are still using the 2014 phone. The rather unexciting S upgrade, introduced in 2015, was not sufficiently compelling to encourage owners to switch.
Part of the feeling of satisfaction with the original 6 and 6 Plus lies in the excellent battery life. The Plus, especially, started life in 2014 with a battery that could easily last a day even int eh hands of power users. And, unlike previous iPhone 5 and 4 ranges, this battery life continues to be acceptable even after 20 months. I recently checked the battery health of my 6 Plus and found it still at 96% of its original capacity. Wear is remarkably little after such a long period.
Those of us who religiously upgraded every twelve months found that, for the first time, the 6 and 6 Plus could easily last two years. The cycle of annual upgrades has been broken and I think even Apple acknowledges that. In some ways, the smartphone and tablet markets are mirroring the PC market where annual upgrades are not the norm.
What does this mean for the market? First, it is obvious that there is now a huge demand for a replacement for the original 6 and 6 Plus. All the people who rushed to buy their phones in 2014 are just waiting to slap down their money when the iPhone 7 is launched this Autumn. There will be a tremendous spike in sales during the last quarter of the calendar year and this will have a significant bearing on Apple's figures for the second half of the current financial year.
Long term, Apple will come to terms with the two-year replacement cycle. Buyers of the 6s might hold out this year, but they will be queuing for the 7s (if there is one) in 2017.
But what of the competition. Surely, you say, Hauwei, Samsung, Xaiomi and HTC produce phones that are more advance in some ways than the current iPhone; possibly also far more attractive to the butterflies who see only glitter, not the gold.
The fact is that the gold in Apple's iPhone lies in the ecosystem, the interoperability of all Apple products, the seamless synchronisation and, above all, the perception of safely and an "at home" feeling. Stepping outside the comfort of Apple's system is a serious step into the unknown.
Apple products also have a cachet. They have broad appeal as a quality, prestige brand that the far eastern manufacturers can only dream of. For all these reasons, I believe the future is rosy for Apple’s smartphone sales.
The iPhone brand is alive and kicking and we will see some monumental sales figures this Autumn and over the Christmas season, such is the latent demand for the iPhone 7.