Earlier this week, longtime technology journalist Walt Mossberg penned a piece for The Verge arguing that the iPhone 7 needs to “be spectacular,” particularly because the products Apple introduced at its special media event this week were nothing special.
I found Mossberg’s take in this regard to be a little bit off base. This week’s media event wasn’t intended to show off Apple’s latest and greatest technologies. Rather, it was intended to shore up holes in the company’s product line, specifically as it pertains to a 4-inch iPhone.
Remember, Apple last introduced a 4-inch iPhone more than two and a half years ago when it released the iPhone 5s. The iPhone SE, therefore, is simply Apple playing catch-up and realizing that a large portion of its user base actually prefer using a more compact device. After all, 30 million new 4-inch iPhones were sold in 2015 alone.
Similarly, the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is simply Apple’s way of incorporating its more advanced tablet features into a more compact form factor.
So when Mossberg proclaims that Apple’s new “iPhones and iPads don’t break much new technology ground,” he appears to be missing the point entirely. Apple’s media event on Monday was more about strategic business maneuvering than it was a technology showcase.
Also curious is that Mossberg states that the “premium iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are the best smartphones on the market” while simultaneously suggesting that the iPhone is being challenged by Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 phones. If the iPhone models Apple released months ago are still better than Samsung’s current offerings, in Mossberg’s estimation, why is there a “iPhone 7 better be spectacular or else!” theme in play?
In any event, Mossberg proceeds to list out a number of features Apple can add to the iPhone 7 to transform it into a “spectacular device.” The list is mostly reasonable and naturally sparked a whole a lot of conversation about how the iPhone 7’s new features are just going to copy features that Android devices have had for months and, in some cases, years.
For instance, many of the items on Mossberg’s iPhone 7 wish list – quick charging, waterproofing, insane battery life – aren’t unicorn features that the world is waiting for Apple to introduce. Again, many of them already exist on Android. You want a smartphone that can survive a 900 foot drop? Try the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 on for size. Want insane battery life, about 48 hours worth? Again, the Motorola Droid Trubo 2 might be what you’re looking for. Interested in a completely waterproof device? Sony, Samsung and HTC have no shortage of models for you to choose from.
But comparing the iPhone 7 to Android doesn’t really tell us a whole a lot about how Apple’s next-gen device will perform in the marketplace. More to the point, for the iPhone 7 to truly be a success, it simply needs to be a better device than the iPhone 6s. If this involves incorporating longstanding Android features, 99.9% of iPhone users could care less.
If the iPhone 7 is a waterproof device, sales won’t be impacted by tech pundits shouting that Sony had waterproof phones on the market years ago. The reality is that prospective iPhone 7 buyers will only make a note that their current iPhone isn’t waterproof and that the new iPhone is.
Same thing goes for battery life. As long as the iPhone 7 can last as long as the iPhone 6s, devices like the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 will continue to fly under the radar for the vast majority of consumers, and especially for the bulk of interested iPhone 7 upgraders.
The iOS ecosystem is extremely sticky, which is to say that iPhone owners are more likely to stay with the iPhone than Android owners are likely to stay with Android. As a result, the iPhone 7 won’t be competing against whatever Samsung or other Android handset manufacturers have out on the market, it will be competing against previous iPhone models.
Even if the only new iPhone 7 features Apple comes out with are a faster processor, a better camera, a thinner design, no headphone jack (admittedly not a feature) and waterproofing, the iPhone 7 will more than likely break all previous iPhone sales records. Whether or not it’s a “spectacular” upgrade won’t really factor into the equation.