With the same regularity as pumpkin spiced lattes making an appearance, it’s that time of year when we expect Apple to do its yearly refresh of the iPhone.
And it’s that time when Apple tries to convince millions to part with hundreds of dollars for a phone that’s a little different from the one that they already have.
And when you break it down, there’s an enormous gulf between the features that buyers really want and the features that Apple tries to push as new and exciting.
Poll iPhone users as to what they want, and right at the top of that list is better battery life. I don’t think you could give users too much battery life.
And the iPhone 13 may give users a bigger battery (hurray!).
But what Apple the things that we can take for granted from a new iPhone don’t really excite users.
And with good reason.
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Top of the list for any new iPhone release is a faster processor.
But when did you hear anyone with an iPhone that’s less than three years old complain about performance?
People just don’t.
And even of older iPhones, unless some taxing app is running, performance is usually pretty good (unless the battery is dying, and the system is in reduced power mode).
Another thing that’s guaranteed is a better camera. It’ll have some fancy AI or ML feature, or work better in low light, or offer some pro feature.
But has any of this really changed people’s photography?
The last feature that I really saw improve the quality of photos dramatically was red-eye reduction when the flash was used.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen Apple bake all sorts of clever new features into the camera, but it’s strange that overall I don’t see much change in the way that people take or share photos.
And that last bit — share — is important. The primary way that photos and video is now shared is social media, and those platforms crush and compress the uploads to a point where quality is minimal.
In fact, I’m quite the evangelist for new iPhone camera features and edit tools, but in my experience, it’s hard to get users jazzed. They want to press a button and share and get on with life.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s clear there’s a big gulf between what Apple is focusing on and what users really want.
And as for those “pro” features such as ProRAW file formats or 4K, they’re a great way to fill up storage space and sell users on iCloud storage (or a bigger iPhone).
Most users are never going to need things like this.
But they make great fodder for the launch event and generate a lot of attention.
Another thing that Apple may do is change the design. Or, more accurately, recycle an old design, but add a few tweaks.
What goes around comes around.
There’s only so many variations on the theme of a black rectangle that fits into your hand that’s possible.
So, there you have it.
The things that people want, they won’t get. The things they don’t really need, they’ll buy.