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.
Apple Music To Launch New Multi-Lingual Playlist
Apple Music has announced its latest playlist called Suave, a multi-lingual, global R&B playlist which includes R&B songs in English, Spanish and a sprinkle of Portuguese. The new playlist will launch featuring Melii’s new song “Fresh Air.”
“We fell in love with Melii’s “Fresh Air” the moment she played it for us and we knew without a doubt that we had to launch Suave with this song,” says Marissa Gastelum, Latin Music Programmer, Apple Music. “This is the definitive home for the best of the best in R&B regardless of language.”
Suave is set to premiere on Thursday (Mar. 21) and will be updated every week with music by Paloma Mami and Rosalia, among others.
“Music itself is a universal language, but great music breaks down language barriers. When artists like Melii, Paloma Mami, Rosalía and others make great music, Suave seeks to be the intersection of culture where the music comes first,” added Alaysia Sierra, R&B and Hip Hop Programmer, Apple Music.
The playlist can be listened to here.
Facebook Users Will Be Able To Send Messages Between Messengers, Instagram And Whatsapp : Mark Zuckerberg Announces
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram users will now be able to send messages to each other, Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
The Facebook boss said it will introduce the vast overhaul of the way all of its messaging apps work as part of a move towards being a “privacy-focused platform”.
That will include upgrading its encryption and refusing to store data in countries with poor human rights records, he said, as well as rewriting how the various chat apps can talk to each other.
“People want to be able to choose which service they use to communicate with people,” he wrote as part of a long explanation of his vision of the future of social networks. ”However, today if you want to message people on Facebook you have to use Messenger, on Instagram you have to use Direct, and on WhatsApp you have to use WhatsApp.
“We want to give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer.”
The feature will eventually include compatibility with SMS, he said, which would for example allow someone to text someone using Facebook Messenger. People will still be able to keep all of those accounts separate if they want.
Adding that feature – which Mr Zuckerberg calls “interoperability” – will feed into the privacy focus by allowing people to avoid sending unencrypted SMS messages from Messenger and instead talking on WhatsApp, where conversations are hidden, he claimed. People would also be able to speak to someone on Facebook but do so without having to give out their phone number, he suggested.
But the possibility of combining the apps has been a long-standing source of concern for privacy advocates and using. WhatsApp and Instagram founders have left the company in recent months, reportedly after disagreements over how those various platforms should work together in future.
In the post, titled “a privacy-focused vision for social networking,” Mr Zuckerberg explained how private messaging is becoming the most common and popular method people use to interact with others on its products.
“As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
In his letter, Mr Zuckerberg detailed why people prefer private networks and the intimacy it offers them.
“People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared,” Mr Zuckerberg added. “I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”
In addition to interoptability, he said Facebook would focus on several principles as it tried to create the future of social networking:
Private interactions. People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.Encryption. People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.Permanence. People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want it.Safety. People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what’s possible in an encrypted service.Interoperability. People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.Secure data storage. People should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.
The changes will be taking place “over the next year and beyond”, said Mr Zuckerberg, noting there will be “more details and tradeoffs to work through related to each of these principles”.
“Doing this means taking positions on some of the most important issues facing the future of the internet. As a society, we have an opportunity to set out where we stand, to decide how we value private communications, and who gets to decide how long and where data should be stored,” he concluded.
“I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever. If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.”
Ghana Ranked 25th Country With Least Mobile Data Charges Worldwide
Ghana has been ranked 25th among the list of countries in the world with low mobile data charges.
This follows a recent statistic which showed that the price of an average 1GB of data is being sold in the country at $1.56.
Comparing the cost of the data to other countries, Ghana emerged the 25th country.
Zimbabwe emerged the country with the most expensive data charges, selling same data package at $75.20.
The research was from data gathered from 6,313 mobile data plans in 230 countries between 23 October and 28 November 2018.
The country with the cheapest data packages worldwide according to the research was India which charges $0.26.
In Ghana, the research said data packages could go down as low as $0.34 and as high as $4.75, equivalent of ¢25.96.
Mobile data is very cheap in some countries because of an impressive and efficient mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure.
Countries with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data as well as the dictates of their economies.
“Many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories. Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte. Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford,” the research stated.
Contrary to what one might expect, ten out of the top 50 cheapest countries in the world for mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This is in stark contrast to the cost of broadband on the continent, which is almost universally very high or non-existent.
Rwanda and Sudan featured in the top ten, with 1GB of data being sold for just $0.56 and $0.68 respectively.
However, Zimbabwe is seen as the country with the most expensive data charges, selling same data package at $75.20.
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