Don’t bet against Apple.” That’s my go-to mantra when someone asks me about Apple’s future as a market leader, or the success of any new iPhone. If the company’s performance this quarter didn’t wow you, the next one probably will.
Yet the wind is clearly shifting for the iPhone, with intensifying worries about sales figures, diminishing global demand for smartphones overall, rumors that Apple won’t make the 5G leap for another year, and the company’s startling decision to stop disclosing unit sales for iOS devices and Macs in its financial reports. Though you’d be foolish to doubt Apple’s prospects, the status quo for its star product is, after many years, changing.
It’s no secret that much of Apple’s recent success has been driven by the now 11-year-old iPhone. Its rocket-like sales trajectory really began in 2009, after Apple introduced the App Store, a platform that transformed the iPhone from a beautiful gadget into a genuinely useful pocket device. Over the next decade, it narrowed our gaze from a wide vista to the distance between our eyes.
Apple and the iPhone are not immune to larger smartphone market forces.
Year-over-year iPhone sales grew by tens of millions, with post-holiday quarters setting monumental records. Looked at in isolation, it’s easy to think that Apple dominates the market, especially if you spend most of your time in the United States, where the iPhone has a commanding 39 percent market share compared to its nearest rival, Samsung, which has 25 percent of the U.S. market. In the global market, Apple trails Samsung and Huawei.
Apple and the iPhone are not immune to larger smartphone market forces. Smartphone sales growth has slowed over the last few years, and, perhaps thanks to market saturation, may even be in decline.
Tuong Nguyen, a senior principal analyst at Gartner, told me via email that although there’s been evidence of a slowing phone market for some time, Apple’s position as a higher-end brand and the overall prestige of the iPhone name may have shielded it a bit.
“Apple’s competitors have experienced it more acutely due to their broader exposure to the market,” Nguyen said.
Still, that Apple cachet, which was so obvious in the original iPhone, has gradually slipped away.
It’s hard to be special when the entire handset industry has coalesced around a handful of smartphone design principles. All-screen, notched displays with multiple cameras on the front and back are everywhere. A $549 OnePlus 6 looks, from the front, a lot like an $1,199 iPhone XS Max. Even the tiny Palm Phone is a knockoff of the iPhone X design.
To its credit, Apple’s iPhone doesn’t just look like a premium device as so many notched competitors do: It functions like one, too. The company commissions bespoke components to push processor, camera, and security performance. Still, Apple’s component lead threatens to crumble as competitors plan major mobile CPU upgrades and prepare for 5G networks. Apple may retain the raw performance lead in 2019 with, say, an A13 Bionic CPU. But if, as has been rumored, Apple passes on 5G at least until 2020, it will fall behind.
It seems unlikely that Apple can continue to charge premium prices for future handsets if the majority of the phone industry has a one-year head start on the fastest mobile connectivity technology.
Today, U.S. smartphone ownership sits at 95 percent. Another shiny screen isn’t going to cut it.
If consumers are, as Nguyen sees it, already chafing at Apple’s higher price tags for incremental updates, how will they feel in a year, when Apple is virtually the only major handset manufacturer not natively supporting 5G? Granted, 5G infrastructure will not be ready for the majority of the U.S. market in 2019 and, more than seven years ago, Apple rightly took the same slow approach with 4G.
In 2011, there were still questions about which flavor of 4G would survive, and the coverage across much of the U.S. was relatively anemic. With U.S. smartphone ownership in 2011 at only 35 percent (85 percent had cell phones), Apple could afford to wait on the relatively untested 4G. The leap from a basic feature phone to Apple’s all-touch, almost all-screen iPhone and its world of entertaining apps was enough for most feature phone users. Today, U.S. smartphone ownership sits at 95 percent. Another shiny screen isn’t going to cut it.
In addition, Apple’s Teflon-like ability to resist smartphone market contractions may be wearing thin. Reports of lackluster demand for all of its new phones have dogged the company for weeks, buttressed by rumors that Apple is scaling back orders from its third-party suppliers.
Apple has tried to beat back some of these rumors, claiming that the iPhone XR is now its best-selling model. However, Apple quickly undercut its own argument by, for the first time in my memory, offering substantial discounts on new models.
Apple’s previously weathered similar fear, uncertainty, and doubt (“FUD”), but rarely has the rumor mill had this kind of impact on the company’s stock price, which has taken an almost unprecedented 60-point slide since October.
These skittish investors could be wrong. Apple is still selling millions of iPhones, and I usually wait to reach any conclusions until the post-holiday earnings report, when blockbuster numbers inevitably erase rumors and concerns.
But that won’t be possible in 2019. As mentioned, Apple announced during its last earnings call that it will no longer break out unit sales for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. While Mac and iPad sales have been shrinking for years, iPhone sales are typically the bellwether for Apple’s success.
During that earnings call, Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, offered a compelling justification for the change:
The number of units sold in any 90-day period is not necessarily representative of the underlying strength of our business. Furthermore, a unit of sale is less relevant for us today than it was in the past, given the breadth of our portfolio and the wider sales price dispersion within any given product line.
He’s right. iPhone unit sales have never been broken out by model, and now there are seven to choose from. When Apple says it sold 45 million iPhones, we have no idea which model is driving the majority of sales, though sometimes Apple tells us. In addition, the cadence of product releases, specifically iPhone product releases, means down quarters in-between new releases are inevitable, but hardly illustrate long-term performance. Still, the lack of transparency is cause for concern.
“It’s certainly suspicious when vendors become much more opaque about their sales, especially if it is in an increasingly tough market environment,” Nguyen told me.
Apple’s decision to stop reporting iPhone unit sales is, I think, an attempt to shift attention away from the iPhone. It’s also an acknowledgment that, over time, iPhone sales will flatten and even diminish as other sectors, like the services business, rise to take its place. Apple’s services now include iCloud subscriptions, Apple Music, the App Store, and others.
On that same earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the decision, saying that the installed base, basically the number of people with iOS devices, enjoys double-digit growth. More iOS users means more services customers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean new iPhone sales. Some Bank of America analysts argue that user growth is coming from used iPhone sales.
Putting iPhone sales in a black box doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve reached the end of iPhone innovation, though recent changes have been incremental — larger screens, for example. Yet Apple still charges more and more for its flagship handsets. It’s a canny strategy. Even as unit sales fall, the revenue numbers could look just as good, if not better.
Apple’s roadmap for the iPhone looks a lot like the future of all smartphones; beautiful, smart slabs with only their services and company logos to set them apart. It’s the end of an era, perhaps, but certainly far from the end of the premium handset.
iPhone 11 Rumors: 4,000mAh Battery, 120Hz Display, Faster Wireless Charging, More
This site is mirroring this Twitter user’s iPhone 11 wish list, rather than providing any new information. The items mentioned should be disregarded. Original story below.
Sketchy new reports from Chinese website Weibo claim to offer up some interesting new tidbits regarding Apple’s upcoming iPhone 11. Most interesting is the possibility of a display with a higher refresh rate, similar to the 120Hz rate found on iPad Pro.
The report also calls for a larger, 4,000mAh battery on the Max model, with much faster 15W wireless charging also in tow.
When iPhone 8 and iPhone X launched with Qi wireless charging support, Apple initially only offered 5W as the maximum speed. Through a later iOS update and a capable Qi accessory, 7.5W charging was eventually possible.
However, if these sketchy rumors prove true, iPhone wireless charging rates will be the fastest on the market, surpassing the best offerings from Android. The possibility even remains of Apple repeating the cycle and boosting the max offering above 15W through a future iOS update.
As for the improved display refresh rate, the rumor specifies between “90-120Hz” rather than a surefire 120Hz, indicating Apple might have found a ‘sweet spot’ of sorts between improved refresh rates and battery life.
The rumor further corroborates reports of a triple camera setup on the back. This could mean Apple will house a wide angle, super-wide angle, and a 3X telephoto lens. The last mark is interesting, as Apple’s current telephoto lens defaults to a 2X zoom.
Previous iPhone 11 rumors have called for a smaller notch, an improved 10MP selfie camera, and of course, a widely improved 14MP triple camera rear setup. As for whether USB-C will finally make its way to iPhone or Lightning will last another year remains to be seen, however.
These claims should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism, like most iPhone rumors this early in the year. Nevertheless, the claims offer some conversational topics for the 2019 iPhones. What do you think we’ll see come September?
Let us know in the comments down below!
Hand-On With Nike’s Self-Lacing, App Controlled Sneaker Of The Future
I flew across the country to Portland to experience the Adapt BB, Nike’s new self-lacing, Bluetooth-enabled sneakers, but the guy showing me around campus is wearing a pair of Zoom Flys that refuse to stay tied. Within 10 minutes of tying them, they’re untied again, flailing all over. I hate when people point out my untied shoes, but his feel intentional. Of course I notice the laces. Of course I point them out. He laughs and swears he’s not doing this on purpose, that Nike hasn’t deliberately set up my visit with a scene out of an infomercial fail.
The Adapt BB — the BB stands for “basketball” — build on Nike’s decades-long dream to create an auto-lacing smart shoe that adapts to wearers’ feet. The company wants to fundamentally change footwear and, of course, sell more shoes.
Imagine: your feet swell during a basketball game because you’ve been running back and forth on the court, and your sneakers detect your blood pressure. Instead of reaching down and untying your laces, the shoes loosen automatically. Never again will you have to fuss around with your laces because, guess what, your shoes already know what you want to do.
“That is the broader vision, or the biggest dream, that the product becomes so synergistic to your body. It just knows almost kind of what you’re thinking,” says Eric Avar, VP & creative director at Nike Innovation. “It’s a natural extension of your body.”
This imaginary, all-knowing shoe doesn’t exist yet. Instead, the Adapt BB represent the next step in that dream product journey. This is the shoe that’ll make self-lacing technology available to more people and get them used to the idea of an app-controlled shoe.
The Adapt BB are a pair of sneakers, sure, but they’re connected tech, too, which means that if Nike pulls off its goal of making a popular, smart footwear line, we’re going to have to care for our shoes differently than we ever have before. We’ll charge them wirelessly, update their companion phone apps, and replace their batteries like we’re starting to do with our iPhones. That’s a lot to ask of people, and that’s not even everything Nike needs to accomplish. Beyond fundamentally changing how we think about shoes, the company has to confront new responsibilities and challenges, like e-waste and tech degradation. The Adapt BB are a big bet for Nike, but the company seems confident that customers will get on board with whatever they sell. (Well, unless they prefer Adidas.)
I’m promised the shoes will move me. Nike says wearing them will be like trying a TV remote for the first time. I’ve grown up with remotes my whole life.
“I’m old enough to remember when you had to get off the couch to change the channel, like it’s that level of wow,” says Dustin Tolliver, senior product director in basketball footwear.
Adapt BB’s predecessor, the HyperAdapt 1.0, debuted in 2016 as a limited run for $720. That first go-around was bulkier, uglier. That same year, Nike sold 89 pairs of high-top adaptive fit Mags, just like the ones in Back to the Future Part II. These sneakers were more of a novelty, and they were certainly not built for a large consumer market. The Adapt BB are something completely new. They forgo anything that resembles a lace, and they ship with Bluetooth connectivity so wearers can tighten and loosen their shoes from their phone. They can even choose the color the sneakers emit when in tightening mode. Adapt BB will debut on the NBA court on both Jayson Tatum when he plays against the Raptors and on Luka Dončić when he plays against the Spurs. Both games are on January 16th.
The shoes will be available for preorder today, and they will officially go on sale on February 17th at Nike stores, online, and through the SNKRS app for $350.
Nike has built connected footwear before — remember the Nike+iPod and the Nike+ Training? — but the company is serious about making adaptive fit a thing. A mysterious but seemingly thoroughly built-out product road map is mentioned to me multiple times throughout my visit. I get the impression that Nike wants adaptive fit technology to be a data-fueled platform with a storied product lineage. Just like we look to the original iPhone to see how far we’ve come with smartphones, we’ll look at the original adaptive shoes and marvel at the fact that we ever used laces.
These new shoes are “smart,” but not in the most obvious sense. Right now, they don’t even track steps or activity levels. They just tighten and loosen at the tap of an app, or whenever someone sticks their feet inside them.
“What we wanted to do was solve something that we knew consumers wanted first as a problem because we look at things like step counting and activity tracking as easy things to add around that, but it’s not necessarily the reason you would go out and buy the shoe,” says Jordan Rice, senior director in Smart Systems Engineering at Nike.
He’s probably right. Sure, it’d be nice if I could wear and charge one less thing, but people like their Apple Watches and Fitbits. They don’t need tracking in a shoe immediately. While the Adapt BB look notably different than the HyperAdapt 1.0, the bigger innovation has to do with what Nike calls the “lace engine.” Every component needed to make the shoe smart lives inside that engine: a microcontroller, 505mAh battery, gyroscope, accelerometer, Bluetooth module, motor, lights, pressure sensor, capacitive touch sensor, temperature sensor, and wireless charging coil. All of the tech that you find in a smartphone is packed inside this shoe; Nike could easily update the app to start counting steps or tracking fitness.
The app walks wearers through the pairing process, which involves holding each shoe close to their phone. That process failed a couple of times during my demo. The sneakers each have a battery inside that Rice says should last 10 to 14 days on a single charge, and they’ll always save enough juice to loosen, meaning your feet will never be trapped. The shoes charge wirelessly on a new mat that Rice says is “Qi-like,” but not Qi. There’s a coil in each shoe, and to charge, the shoes have to be placed on a specific zone on the mat, which has a USB-C port. Mats won’t initially be sold individually and will instead ship with the shoes. Each pair comes with a mat, USB-C cable, and wall plug.
Yes, Adapt BB wearers will be walking around, generating heat, and jumping on top of lithium-ion batteries, which might make anyone familiar with 2016’s Samsung Galaxy Note 7 situation nervous. Still, Nike says it put the shoes through “hours and hours” of testing to make sure they don’t crack under the weight of a six-foot-something, 200-pound basketball player. Rice says that testing involved two parts: a real-world, on-athletes portion, and a lab test that included thousands of impact and impulse cycles. The impulse test attempted to seep water into the lace engine, which is sealed shut. The shoes are waterproof, so they’re safe to wear outside on a rainy day, or in “any moisture environment” that someone might encounter (although I have my doubts about the New York City subways after a rainstorm). The real-world test involved a variety of athletes, including “NCAA athletes, semi-pro athletes, athletes that play professionally overseas and come home for the summer, and regular athletes” wearing and playing in the shoes for hours.
The tightening technology relies on a single cable loop that’s threaded through the motor, which acts as a spool. When the shoe tightens, the cable winds around the motor. Wearers can customize three presets in the app, ideally for warming up or gameplay. They can access those presets from the app, or hold down a button on the side of the shoe to go all the way from tight to loose. They can also make more precise adjustments from the app or by using those buttons. The shoe will remember the last tightness setting and default to that when being worn again.
I can’t overstate the importance of this lace engine; it’s a pivotal upgrade. The HyperAdapt 1.0 was a tangled, entwined mess that couldn’t have been easily mass-produced. With this modular component, however, Nike can pump out shoe husks, stick the lace engine inside, and create a fully connected shoe. That lace engine can go in any shoe that’s big enough to house it, regardless of the design of the shoe. It’s critical to making the Adapt BB widely available and easily repairable.
But right now, it’s not perfect. The shoes are supposed to tighten once your feet are fully inside, but they triggered at the wrong times whenever I wore them. Presumably, this will improve over time as Nike gets data from wearers.
As far as fit, imagine a toy claw machine, but the claw is flipped upside down and inside your shoe, closing in on you. That’s the sensation I felt when the shoe tightened — almost like a robot was hugging me. Compared to the Jordans I wore during my Nike campus visit, though, they were comfortable and tight enough. I can’t imagine ever adjusting them on a normal day, but once you get used to tight shoes, it’s a bummer to go back to your loose-fitting ones. It is kind of a bummer to have to tie them, too.
That said, the Adapt BB are hard to slip into, which The Verge’s video producer Vjeran Pavic discovered when he couldn’t fit into them at all. He has wide feet. I have smaller feet, or at least they’re average for women, and I still had a hard time getting into them. The latch on top is critical for pulling them up, but I really had to yank them. When it comes to sizes, Nike let me try on the only pair of women’s sevens they have, an original prototype in a colorway that doesn’t commercially exist. The shoes will only be released in men’s sizing, in sizes seven to 15, and half sizes will be available up to size 14, too. That means the smallest size is a women’s 8.5. The WNBA tells me that the smallest women’s size in the league is a men’s 6.5, so not even every professional basketball player can wear these. Nike suggested it’ll bring this technology to smaller sizes in the future, but I’m disappointed they haven’t at first.
Now, Nike knows how to build shoes, but creating a gadget requires new processes. The shoes might last a long time sitting on a shelf, but the battery inside them could degrade. (Rice is confident that the shoes will wear out before the tech, but my old Zune that’s been sitting in a drawer for 10 years doesn’t turn on anymore, simply because I stopped using it and the battery degraded.) The same could happen for these shoes if collectors keep them on a shelf. That’s a long-term problem, though, and Rice says the modular component is specifically designed to be swappable. If someone needs a repair, or if a motor dies, users can ship the shoes back to Nike, and the team can pull that lace engine out and insert a new one.
“We have to sort of crawl and then walk and then run,” says Tinker Hatfield, VP of creative concepts. “We’re past crawling. We’re walking, so to speak. So the next phase for us will be to proliferate this technology.”
It’s been two months since I visited the Nike campus, and I can still hear the distinctive sound of the Adapt BB. Strangely, it reminds me of a more harmonic version of what you hear when a Keurig brews a cup of coffee and then tosses the pod into its trash. Rice says the sound, which is an E flat Major, was a long discussion that included one engineer making it play the tone of the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s valuable product currency, and the company is trying to make it synonymous with Nike. Two chords are generated: the first and second chord of the E flat Major scale when the battery is above 20 percent, and an E flat C, or an octave lower, when it’s below 20 percent. The lace engine’s plastic shell amplifies the sound. It’s pretty loud, and there’s no way to make it quieter. The entire experience is sensual, with the shoe tightening at the same time as this note playing.
Rice admits some people might not dig it. “I know it’s polarizing, but a lot of people really like it. They really like the sound, and I think it’s resonated — no pun intended — with a lot of people.”
It’s still unclear if that will be true, if one of the world’s largest apparel makers can make us love charging our shoes or feel bonded with them as they tighten around us. But Nike still knows how to lean into its greatest strength: the brand.
Apple AirPods 2 Will Be The Most Revolutionary Ear Accessories In History
Apple, known for such products as the iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS Max and its “wireless, effortless, magical” AirPods has allegedly started production its AirPower wireless charging pad.
Without too much speculative power, it shouldn’t take your brain long to assume that the release of the AirPower will be timed with the release of second generation AirPods.
Recently, while visiting San Francisco and watching all the mouth breathing scooter riders with AirPods in their ears careen into stationary objects while showing a clear lack of spatial awareness, I realized what a revolutionary product the AirPod really is.
Not only is it a wireless audio delivery device, but is also comes in white and only white. Will the AirPods 2 come in black or perhaps rose gold? Will they be red, pink blue or brown? Only Jony Ive really knows and chances are he’s chugging gallons of antacid in his boxer shorts surrounded by paint samples from Home Depot.
Forget all the products that have come before it, or all the wireless ear buds currently on the market (and there are a lot of them). Forget everything you know about music, audio and sticking things in your ears. It’s clear that the only reason Apple didn’t announce the AirPods 2 and the AirPower charging mat last year is because it is creating a device so revolutionary, so game-changing that it will literally choke-spit us into the 22nd century of audio technology. Our ear holes are not ready for the weight of what Apple is about to unleash upon our tender bony labyrinths.
Sure, we’ve heard Apple rumors of a foldable phone, or even a curved phone but those innovations will be nothing compared to the Apple AirPods 2. The AirPods 2 will probably double as meditation devices, sending calming pulses down your Buccal and Lingual nerves. They will surely be able to send brain scans to your Apple Watch, and into the cloud, to be sold to advertisers hawking speed pills.
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