Culture

Apple in the Hot Seat With New iPhone 7 Series

All eyes will be on Apple in early September when they introduce their new iPhone 7 series. It’s expected they will introduce a pair of phones, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus at an event in the first week and put them on sale in the last week of the month.

Why is there so much interest that results in this intense speculation and coverage?  When other companies introduce a product, few give a second thought beforehand.

It’s because Apple is one of the largest and most successful technology companies in the world, and they have a history of leading the world with some of the most innovative products. And Apple is the first to tout their accomplishments and do it better than most any other company. They’ve set the bar and created the expectations themselves.

Apple has also become fascinating to watch because many observers think they’ve slowed down the pace of their innovation in recent years, since Tim Cook replaced Steve Jobs. Many analysts believe the current leadership is missing what made Apple so great, and the company is on a decline. In fact, last quarter was one of the most disappointing in several years.

As a result, the financial and press worlds are looking for signs to either see a renewed pace of innovation or confirm some of the pessimism that abounds in their communities.

Considering that the iPhone accounts for about 80% of the company’s revenue, what the iPhone 7 turns out to be could be very telling. The best way to judge a company is by its products. And the signs of this new product are not very compelling, justifying some of that worry.

My own perspective is that Apple has slowed down in its innovation, and that will become evident with the new iPhones. This will be the third year in which the phones are the same shape, size and with similar specs. The new models will look remarkably similar to those that were introduced three years ago.

Yes, we may see some minor improvements in areas that are already good enough. Expect to see an improved camera with a dual lens to offer better close-ups. Look for a slightly faster processor and perhaps more memory. But this is all incremental and not very exciting.

We do know that the headphone jack is gone on the 7 series, because removing a feature to force users to use their own proprietary connector has been well documented. But that’s hardly innovative; it’s more arrogance.

Expect to see the initial hype in which Apple makes a big deal of small things. But let that pass and don’t be fooled. Wait for the comprehensive reviews, which will likely disappoint.

What adds to the pressure on Apple is that Samsung has done a much better job in advancing their Android phones. Compared to Apple’s iPhones, they have a much longer battery life, expandable memory, better displays — some even with curved edges — and are water resistant. My 11-year-old grandson, who has an iPhone 5c as his first phone and loves it, told me that many of his friends are moving from iPhones to the Samsung phones because they are much cooler, require less charging and are waterproof. When kids at this age notice, there’s clearly something going on.

The new Samsung Note7, which I will review soon, looks like the Galaxy S7, but has a built-in stylus and software to take notes. It has a battery with twice the capacity of an iPhone, and an amazing display with curved edges that blend into the case.

I’ve been a big fan of Apple products and currently have two notebooks, as well as an Apple iPhone 6. In spite of its thin form factor (or because of it), the 6’s battery life is much too short and needs to be recharged in the afternoon to get through a day of heavy use. Yet Apple insists that the thinness is more important. I call them thinness zealots that sacrifice usability for something that’s less important.

As a company becomes complacent, it rests on it laurels. It believes its own hype and pays less attention to criticism. With great success, often what follows is a more cautious management, and even arrogance.

This is what I see happening at Apple.

Apple is still an amazing company, unlike most any other in the world. Few companies make the profits that they do on hardware. No company provides the customer support, the after sales service, and the caring for their customers.

My point is just that they are becoming another kind of company from what they once were. And we will see that with the iPhone 7.