Apple enjoys an enviable position with an installed base of 1.4 billion active devices around the world. The question is, can it monetise its user ecosystem? “We believe that technology should be in the background, not the foreground, and that technology should empower people to do things and help them do things they couldn’t do otherwise,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview.
With smartphones in the Android ecosystem taking lead in way of features and innovations, Apple is trying to grapple to retain customers. But going by a few recent developments, Apple is getting a few things right — putting consumers at the centre of its ecosystem — before the launch of the next iPhone on September 10.
Good news for India
Apple will start online sales of its devices in India within months, according to a report from Bloomberg. Last month, India eased rules that “forced companies such as Apple to source 30 per cent of their production locally”. The company is also working on its first company-owned offline store in India, which is expected to come up in Mumbai. “We love our customers in India and we’re eager to serve them online and in-store with the same experience and care that Apple customers around the world enjoy,” Apple has said in a statement. The company’s presence in India has also improved in the recent months. “India bounced back. During the quarter (April to June), we returned to growth there. We’re very happy with that,” Tim Cook had said during a recent earnings call.
Easier to fix Apple devices
In a big move, last week the Cupertino HQ-ed company announced that it will allow more independent repair shops to buy “genuine” iPhone parts and tools, allowing them to complete repairs in roughly the same way that an Apple Store would. The programme is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.
Yes, it comes with a few qualifiers, like some type of certification is still required before Apple will provide the required tools, and the company is demanding that any broken parts collected by the indie repair shops are sent back to Apple. Yet, this is big news for a company that tightly controls access to the tools needed to fix Apple devices.
The idea behind fixing devices is to extend its life and enhance its resale value. The programme will hopefully make things easier.
This image released by Apple TV Plus, Jennifer Aniston, left, and Reese Witherspoon appear in a scene from "The Morning Show," behind-the-scenes look at fictional players in the competitive morning broadcast realm. (Apple TV Plus via AP)
Two weeks ago we got a taste of what Apple is baking on the streaming front with the release of a trailer for The Morning Show, an original series with an all-star cast featuring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. According to reports, the company is spending $300 million alone for the first two seasons of the show and Apple is said to have committed $6 billion overall to produce original shows and movies, according to the Financial Times.
Though pricing and other key details for the TV+ subscription service haven’t been announced, the company has said that new content will be added every month after the service launches in more than 100 countries. The launch comes at a time when Apple is looking to reduce its dependence on the iPhone. During his most recent earnings call, Cook has said that he expected most people to “get multiple over-the-top [streaming] products”, adding that “we’re going to do our best to convince them that the Apple TV+ product should be one of them”.
Apple TV+ will indeed be a milestone and it mirrors the sentiment of Jennifer Aniston’s character in the trailer of The Morning Show: “I just need to be able to control the narrative so that I am not written out of it.” Let’s hope Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg — two well-known executives from Sony Pictures Television who were hired to lead the charge in 2017 — would deliver.
An important acquisition
In July, Apple said it would acquire “the majority” of Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion. This will help Apple to control its smartphone production ecosystem and create technology that’s different from competitors.
“I think we’ll see future generations of iPhones that have a fully integrated modem,” Alan Priestley, an analyst at Gartner, has told Wired. “At the moment, Apple is unusual in that they use a discrete modem — most other smartphone vendors are using integrated modems.” This means that in Apple phones, the modem is a separate chip rather than being integrated into the application processor, a design feature that requires more space and power within the phone. Agreed, it’s going to take a few years for Apple to establish a modem capability that can compete with that of Qualcomm but the deal has certainly put the company on a stronger ground.
The next launch
The question on everybody’s lips: “Do I buy the next iPhone or do I hold out till 2020?” Going by rumours (most of which are often proved… right!), the changes that would be announced on September 10 would be incremental but productive.
We expect three phones to be announced at the event — iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, of course, the naming convention might differ and one could be called 11R. Two of the phones are expected to come with a triple-camera system on the rear of the device (about time!). And the Notch — though smaller — is expected to remain.
Also expected is “bidirectional wireless charging”, which allows one to charge, for example, AirPods when used with their new wireless charging case. By the way, the feature is already there on some Huawei and Samsung phones. And there will be upgrades to battery life and Face ID biometric security (allowing it to work at multiple angles).
The other rumour is that one of the Pro versions will include the ability to use the Apple Pencil, and may come with a smaller version of the stylus. But we doubt it as much as Apple announcing a foldable device. As for a 5G device, it makes more sense to ship one in 2020 when the technology would be available in many parts of the globe.
Obviously this may not be enough for a non-Apple fan to switch over and those in the Apple ecosystem will upgrade only if their phones are on the verge of giving in. What could make a difference is Apple agreeing to USB-C charging technology (and fast charging), like it has done on its recent iPad Pro.
Besides the iPhone, we are looking at other pieces of hardware — a new version of Apple Watch and maybe a cheaper version of its HomePod smart speaker (frankly, few care about it in India). And what about the rumoured AR glasses the company has been said to have in the works?
But the biggest factor determining the next iPhone’s success would be price, especially for the Indian market. If that ain’t right, the iPhone 11 will be another news that would be soon forgotten.