Apple announced the latest iPhone yesterday. It’s thinner, faster and has a better screen than the previous model. But of course it does. That’s how these things go. But the phone also lacks things I consider part of my daily life. I’m lost. This iPhone is not for me.
Without these two features, I’ll stick with the boring and passé iPhone 8. The iPhone X follows a troubling trend. Apple is seemingly in a habit of reducing core features rather than advancing them. Maybe I’m an old man yelling at clouds for moving too fast.
I have an iPhone 6. I upgrade only when I must and I’m approaching a point where I need to upgrade. My current phone’s storage is full and the battery doesn’t last half the day. I’ve had this one since September 2014.
The $1,000 price tag of the iPhone X doesn’t bother me. I tend to keep these things longer than Apple’s upgrade cycle. My first smartphone was a Droid X, which I traded in for an iPhone 5. I only got rid of the iPhone 5 because I cracked the screen but held on to it for 5 months so I could get the iPhone 6. I’m the same way with cars but that’s a rambling post for another day.
By my standards, two things are missing from the new iPhone: A headphone jack and TouchID. I knew the former was going to be missing. I was prepared to begrudgingly purchase wireless earbuds and join the wireless revolution even though I have several sets of lovely headphones with 3.5mm jacks.
Second, TouchID is gone. This is killer. I use it constantly. Perhaps it's ignorant of me to dismiss FaceID before trying it, so call me ignorant. It’s not a replacement for TouchID which requires the most minimal of user interaction and works perfectly in the dark and on the sly.
FaceID sounds great in theory and perhaps I'll change my tune after the bugs are worked out. After watching the system fail during the first public demo, I knew this wasn't something I wanted to beta test for Apple.
Thankfully Apple is releasing an upgraded version of the iPhone 7. The iPhone 8 lacks the headphone jack but retains TouchID. It just doesn’t have that swanky, no-bezel screen found on the iPhone X.
Supposedly that screen killed TouchID.
As the story goes Apple tried to build TouchID into the screen of the iPhone X but couldn’t pull off the trick. Instead of following the trend found on many Android phones, Apple did not, for whatever reason, put the TouchID sensor on the back of the iPhone X. It’s just gone.
Listen, I understand how this editorial makes me look. I’m that guy. I’m the guy at the dealership yelling at a green salesmen because the new Buick does not have an ashtray. But I’m not surprised. The iPhone X is following a quintessential Apple trend of eliminating items Apple feels are no longer necessary. But this trend is accelerating and that’s troubling.
Apple has long removed components ahead of the rest of the industry. It killed off the floppy disc when Windows was still available for purchase on floppy. It removed Firewire when Firewire was the de facto standard for video professionals. It removed CD drives from notebooks while consumers will still making mix tapes. And in all those cases, history proved Apple’s foresight correct.
The last couple of moves have not gone as smoothly. Apple killed the headphone jack with the iPhone 7 in 2016. At the same time Apple announced its wireless earbuds AirPods, which seem to be universally loved and hated. But good luck walking into a store and buying a set. They’ve been on backorder since their release (Apple released a new version today). Studies have shown that even with their limited availability, the AirPods bought Apple a commanding lead in the wireless earbud market. And competitors have followed suit, too, with most companies from Sony to Samsung to B&O releasing sets of their own. Yet few other phones have ditched the headphone jack altogether, and if the rest of the industry does not follow Apple’s lead, there’s going to be little reason for accessory makers to keep making the wireless earbuds too. After all, Apple AirPods have accounted for 85% of money spent on wireless headphones in the US since their launch.
The latest MacBooks and MacBook Pros also demonstrate Apple is outpacing the consumer electronics industry. In its latest notebooks, now nearly a year old, Apple got rid of standard USB ports in favor of USB-C, a new standard that supposedly was going to lead us into universal happiness. Instead, users are living the dongle life now to charge USB devices, use SD cards and flash drives. Worse yet, USB-C cables that are supposedly universal are anything but, with some cables only capable of charging while others can do data transfer and still others do not work at all — and they all have the same connector at the end of the cable.
Apple is notorious for its margins. It’s how the company amassed its $261 billion cash hoard. It can afford to release products on a systematic schedule to maximize margins. Components found in the latest iPhone will eventually make their way into other products like the Apple TV, iPad and iPod touch. This happens when the prices of such components drop to levels where Apple can integrate them into a broader product line while maintaining predetermined margins.
Why did Apple kill the floppy drive and standard USB? Because in both cases, Apple felt the component was going to be used less in the near future and wanted to build a platform that it could still use after the component was eliminated.
It’s these margins, I fear, that are killing Apple’s common sense. Instead of retaining beloved features, Apple is killing them prematurely to hit an internal accounting goal. Products need to evolve and change but the trick is to do it along with consumer expectations. Too slow, and the company dies. Too fast, and, well, you make this old blogger upset and no one wants that.