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Why the boring iPhone 7 is the smartest thing Apple has done in years

Published Jun 22nd, 2016 10:38AM EDT
iPhone 7 Rumors
Image: Martin Hajek

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Apple’s top brass have lost their minds. Tim Cook is running Apple into the ground. The iPhone 7 is going to be boring and awful, and kittens may die as a result.

The smoke has cleared and the dust has settled following a series of reports on Tuesday covering Apple’s upcoming new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Pro, or whatever they end up being called. The reports, which were almost certainly planted by Apple’s PR team, made it clear that the new iPhones launching this year will not be major updates. Instead, they’ll be minor updates just as we’ve seen in leaks. It looks like the photo that seemingly gave us our first look at a real iPhone 7 was indeed likely genuine.

Apple shares dipped on the news before quickly recovering and then actually gaining, but the internet wasn’t quite as forgiving. In fact, bloggers where whinier than ever on Tuesday when covering this year’s upcoming iPhones. Should they be angry, or is all this complaining totally off base?

MUST READ: Next year’s iPhone may feature a futuristic design that makes Jony Ive’s dream a reality

Apple has had tremendous success sticking to a certain formula with its iPhone launches. Tick, tock. First Apple releases a new iPhone, then Apple releases an updated iPhone “S” that looks the same but packs more power and new features. This year, however, Apple is essentially going to release another “S” model despite the fact that we’re due for a redesign.

People always resist change, so the reaction to yesterday’s news isn’t terribly surprising. But here’s the thing: Strategically, now is the perfect time to make this huge change and wait another year before launching a redesigned iPhone.

First of all, next year marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone. There’s no question Apple was going to save its big new launch for 2017, and according to rumors it’s indeed going to be big. Reports suggest it’ll sport a nearly edgeless OLED display with no home button. Instead, Touch ID will be embedded right in the new iPhone model’s display.

Should Apple have devoted time and resources to launching two completely redesigned iPhones in consecutive years? That’s just not how Apple works right now. One or both of them would have compromised in too many areas, and the user experience would have suffered as a result. By launching a second “S” model of sorts before the big 2017 refresh, Apple is using a tried and true model as its base and building in more power and new features on top of it.

But there’s another important consideration here. 2016’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Pro launch will mark two years since the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released. You’ll recall of course that Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sales were absolutely insane thanks to pent-up demand for iPhones with larger displays. So beginning in September and carrying through the following quarters, tens of millions of people will be due for an upgrade

It’s quite possible that iPhone sales will continue to slide a bit in the quarters following the iPhone 7’s release, but that slide will be minimized by the waves of iPhone 6 owners who want new iPhones. And of course, every US carrier offers phone leasing programs now, as does Apple, so getting a new iPhone 8 next year after picking up a new iPhone 7 this year won’t cost anything beyond an activation fee.

Long story short, releasing a second S series in 2016 is the right move from a business sense, and that’s likely a big part of the reason that Apple’s stock recovered so quickly on Tuesday.

Now, there is some speculation that this marks the start of a completely new pattern for Apple, and that from now on redesigned iPhones will only come once every three years. I’m not buying it, and I explained why in an earlier piece. Skipping a redesign makes sense when there’s an influx of customers looking to upgrade, and when a bold reimagining of the iPhone is due next year. Making it an ongoing strategy when the high end of the smartphone market is nearing saturation does not.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.