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Apple’s Phil Schiller explains why new iPhones can seem ‘disappointing’

Original iPhone 10th Anniversary

The device that changed the smartphone landscape like no other product before is 10 years old, yet it still leads the mobile industry in several ways. The iPhone 7, regarded as “boring” by early critics, brings several major improvements even though its overall design is largely unchanged. Speaking about the iPhone’s past, present and future on its 10th anniversary, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller teased that Apple is still just getting started.

When BackChannel’s Steven Levy asked Schiller if Apple can do anything as big as the iPhone, “a product that creates a category that changes the way we live the way this one has in the last ten years,” the exec said that he hopes in 50 years people will look back at this point with amazement.

“Wow, they didn’t realize how much was to come — in fact, others missed it because they were busy running around looking for other things,” Schiller said. “Everyone has their opinions at this point, but it could be that we’re only in the first minutes of the first quarter of the game. believe this product is so great that it has many years of innovation ahead.”

Schiller did admit that Apple never imagined how big the iPhone would become. “We knew we were working on something important that was big to Apple, and that the world was changing around these things in the future. But we didn’t know how big it would be, and we didn’t know how many things would come from it,” he said.

Schiller also said that while the introduction of apps was a defining moment for the iPhone, it’s actually the original device that was “Earth-shattering.”

He also said that the iPod was Apple’s way of testing what it could do outside of its comfort zone. The iPod was the first product that evolved past being an accessory to the Mac, and it became a hit product with a wide audience of buyers.

The exec also explained why some of the recent iPhone evolutions are met with criticism out of the gate, and regularly called “disappointing.” Apparently, our expectations are to blame — we’ve come to expect so much that we’ve grown numb to the scope of improvement that each new iPhone offers.

“I actually think the leaps in the later versions are as big and sometimes even bigger now,” he said. “I think our expectations are changing more, not the leaps in the products. If you look through every version—from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G to the 4 to the 4S, you see great changes all throughout. You see screen size change from three and a half inch to four inch to four point seven and five point five. You see cameras going through incredible changes, from the first camera that couldn’t shoot video, to then having both a front and a backside camera, to now three cameras with the stuff we’re doing, and with live photos and 4K video.”

He reiterated Apple’s mantra that the company focuses on “the best” when it comes to the iPhone. “The quality is unmatched. The ease of use is still unmatched. The integration of hardware software is unmatched. We’re not about the cheapest, we’re not about the most, we’re about the best,” he said.

As for the looming Amazon Alexa threat, which is gaining more popularity among Amazon buyers — and among all sorts of device makers — Schiller thinks that an “disembodied” assistant can’t replace devices with screens.

BackChannel’s entire interview with Schiller, and a recollection of Levy’s interview with Steve Jobs ten years ago, is available at this link.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.