Apple’s iPhones Hit an Evolutionary Stasis
The original iPhone was the consumer tech equivalent of the Apollo mission — but you can’t just keep going back to the moon
Did you enjoy the iPhone launch event? Or did you perhaps feel that it was kinda more of the same — a story we’ve heard before about faster processors, better (and now more!) cameras, smarter things, new colors, and fresh software (apparently hurried along by threatened Trump tariffs).
Certainly, almost every year you can find someone saying that this year the iPhone announcement was boring for some reason or another. Apple didn’t introduce the oft-rumored augmented reality (AR) glasses; it isn’t using different materials, like carbon fiber; it doesn’t have a holographic display like Star Trek: Enterprise.
But that’s not my point. If we’re being honest, smartphone launches haven’t been interesting since about 2014, when Apple introduced the larger screens on the iPhone 6 and finally started competing properly with all the larger-screened Android rivals. That led to a huge bump in iPhone sales, which has never quite been repeated but did effectively kill off all the high-priced Android rivals, except for Samsung.
The reality is there’s little to say about new smartphones because there’s little for manufacturers to do with new smartphones, a fact that reviewers struggle with each time they’re called on to deploy their skills. The new screens are great, the benchmarks are better, the cameras are better in the dark, the battery life is a little better, urrr… is that 900 words yet? No surprise, therefore, that people in the United States now keep the same smartphone for an average of nearly three years.
It’s like the Apollo moon landing program, the 50th anniversary of which we were all called on to be so excited about back in the summer. We stepped on the moon! We flew people to the moon—and back! But after that, what? Subsequent Apollo missions included: “We’re going back to the moon, but this time with golf clubs.” Or: “We’re going back to the moon, but this time with a car.” Yes, but you’re still only going back to the moon.
The original iPhone in 2007 was the equivalent of Apollo 11: an accomplishment so audacious, so…