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Still no iPhone innovation from Apple in 2021

Apple is about to drop a number of product updates this upcoming Tuesday. The odds are high that we will see new iPads and potentially a brand new iMac design.  We might even see the introduction of a new iPhone design.

But, this Tuesday will have more to do with Apple’s hardware than innovation. This does not mean that there are not interesting things in store on Tuesday, but these updates are primarily about hardware upgrades and improvements, rather than about groundbreaking innovations. None of what is on the horizon for Apple offers the kind of shock value which we have come to expect from Apple when it comes to their hardware products.

The need for innovation is minimal

The Cupertino tech giant‘s products are so good that the need for innovation is minimal. Tim Cook and his product development team take their time to „milk the market“ and do not seem eager to change that strategy. 

The product line up remains narrow. The only real differentiator between Apple‘s iPhones are the size and color options. In terms of hardware functionality, the core product (iPhone) has not seen major physical hardware changes, in years. 

It is true that Apple does not do much in terms of innovation, but they are still the most anticipated hardware tech show in the world. The anticipation for this upcoming event is high because people have been waiting for new iMacs and iPads for what feels like forever. Apple has always done a good job at keeping their products updated so that there isn’t a need for them to innovate anything else other than colors and size options.

The iPhone is key

In the future, perhaps as soon as September 2020, Apple will release updates to its existing iPhone models. Even though new iPads and iMacs are rumored to be released in the near future, tech writers and leakers continue to discuss the launch of the “all-new and improved” iPhone 13s (13 or 14).The next iPhone iteration will be introduced in the fall of 2021 (September 2021).

The first product renders of the next iPhone generation circulate on the internet. Jon Prosser even “leaked” the first renders of the iPhone 14(! not 13!). Dismal changes to the camera layout on the back of the smartphones and new color options appear to be the only notable changes. 

The fact that the tech media are more interested in bringing out the latest and greatest rumors about a product that we won‘t see until the end of this year, is astonishing to me. It comes to show that no one truly believes that Apple will dazzle us with new and innovative products, this upcoming Tuesday. 

Software innovation 

Apple‘s hardware are not going to change much in the coming years. We won‘t see a folding iPhone or a pair of augmented reality glasses anytime soon. Hence, the main innovation will have to come from software updates. The WWDC event will be more interesting than any of the hardware announcements we will see in the weeks to come. 

It is software integrations where Apple is falling behind. 

If Apple aren‘t going to play the hardware innovation game, they will have to raise the pace with regards to software. In areas of home automation and transportation (Apple Carplay), the gap with Google and even Amazon is growing. 

Apple‘s hardware products are not as well integrated with third party products than their Google and Amazon counterparts. This could pose a serious problem in the (near) future. 

Tease us, like Elon does

Why don‘t Apple tease us with their vision of the future, like Elon Musk does? Tesla is a serious contender for the innovation thrown in the western world. Tesla‘s cars are just as well known for their software as their looks. 

The latest model 3 might is not the most attractive (good looking) EV on the market, anymore. But customers continue to buy them based on the future vision and updates Elon Musk continues to communicate. 

If Apple would like to get into a new market, now would be the time to start communicating their vision for the future. Luxury car manufacturers have been doing this for decades. First they show case their „vision for the future“ prototypes and one or two years later they launch the finished product. Not every innovation is transferred to the final product, but that is not the point of these product presentations either. 

The goal is to speak to the customer’s imagination. If done well, brand loyalty is build up based on a vision for the future. There are hundreds of thousands of people who accept Telsa‘s poor build quality, because of what they know will come in the future. These customers want to be an active part of the journey, support the company live up to their own vision and expectations. 

This is where Apple lacks, dramatically. 

A lack of product vision 

I don‘t believe that Apple sees their 5-6“ pieces of glass with a battery as the long term solution to everything. The iPhone is where hardware innovation started, and we are all eager to see what is next. However, the longer I am in the Apple ecosystem, the more I feel that it lacks a vision of the future. 

My iPad Pro (2018, 12.9“) is my favorite device to use for both work and leisure. It is portable, quick and aesthetically pleasing. There is very little I don‘t like about it. Yet, a device like the Microsoft Surface Duo (folding phone/tablet) speaks to the imagination of what the future holds in store. The product isn‘t nearly finished and far too expensive, but a step forward. 

Both the iPad and the iPhone need a vision for the future. That is what I would love to see from Apple in the next few days, weeks and months. Please give us something to go on. Tell us you are working on a car or another product that can help solve serious world problems. 

Oh of course we will most definitely buy your latest and greatest iPad. It is still the best tablet on the market – don‘t worry about that – at least, just yet.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below. Follow me for more tech, entrepreneurship and opinion pieces on Twitter @rlivain

New iPhones are coming our way in 2021

The iPhone 13 (or iPhone 12s?), will be a beast of a phone. I own an iPhone 11 Max and there is absolutely no reason for me to upgrade at the moment. The iPhone 11 works perfectly smoothly, it doesn’t stutter, gets the job done, the screen is magnificent and there is little to complain.

Yet, I am on a two year cycle. I want to keep up with the latest tech and generally pass on my two your old devices to someone in the family or at work.

This next release is rumored (well, leaked) to be big. A 120 herz screen refresh rate and better cameras (of course we need better smartphone cameras) are some of the big features of the new iPhone drop in 2021.

But do these changes really change our lives? Is Apple innovating enough? Or just continue to milk the market?

Samsung won’t wait

“Everyone” claims that Apple will finally put an everlasting nail in Samsung’s coffin with the upcoming iPhone 13. But to be honest, as much as I am an Apple fanboy, little is to be said that this will truly be the case.

The Galaxy Z Fold is a far more interesting device, than the iPhone 13 will be. It pushes the boundaries of our current (mass production) technology and is something truly new.

One day, Samsung will get it right

The question is not if, but when Samsung (or Huawei) will get it right. Will Apple’s brand image continue to shine through when product innovation becomes more important than brand image, again?

Luckily for Apple, they have made a great effort to broaden their product portfolio. The AirPods (Pro) and new M1-powered Tablets/Macs are strong products that have catapulted Apple into even higher spheres. However, the success of these products might also cause the team to lose focus. And innovate even less – at least when it comes to iPhones.

2021 is a boring tech year (at least when it comes to Apple)

I don’t believe Apple have really shown us what they can do. The new iMacs look great, but are mostly big screens with a tablet chip. It’s impressive, surely, but not innovative enough.

Let’s hope the September events will show us a side of Apple we haven’t seen in a long time.

Let’s hope, the team around Tim Cook will get the freedom to think out of the box once more.

Let’s hope, the iPhone 13 will truly blow us away.

… Let’s hope, there is a “one more thing” that changes our lives, again.

September Apple Event 2021 “Innovation Highlights”

No new AirPods in 2021, either

We’ve just witnessed yet another AMAZING Apple event, with no real product innovation. No one last thing, this time, either. Apple decided (or had to?) leave out their new AirPods due to manufacturing issues – or so it seems.

With Airpods being the second best thing to happen to the Cupertino-based company since the invention of the iPhone, we had all expected shiny new earplugs. Yet 2021 is not the year we had planned it to be.

Maybe the covid-19 situation got the best of Apple this time. We’ll have to wait and see if there’ll be another (small) side announcement in the days and weeks to come.

Cinematic mode is all we have to talk about

The main big improvement, was a software update more than anything. The new iPhone 13 supports a new cinematic mode as of now. Geared towards videographers and anyone who wants to go iPhone-only for their content creation, cinematic mode offers users the possibility to shift focus.

Cinematic mode is not just a party trick, it is pure genius. This features makes the iPhone an even more capable cinematic machine; a true video-beast in an incredibly small package.

For those of you who don’t use their phones for videography, there isn’t much of a reason to upgrade to the new iPhone. That is, as long as your battery is still holding up fine.

2021 iPad Mini looks amazing

Oh yeah, and then there was the iPad Mini that looked absolutely grand. It’s basically a small, miniature version of the iPad Pro line. It has the same sleek lines and finishes, and just looks incredible.

The iPad Mini has a peculiar form factor. It is too large to fit into your pockets, but if you have large hands you can still hold it in one hand. It is basically the perfect little screen to read books on, and to watch video content on the go (or on the couch). Whereas the regular iPad 11 and 12.9 inch iPads can be a bit cumbersome in one handed tasks, the iPad mini passes the test with flying colors.

But again, no real innovation here. It is just a cute little mini iPad (Pro) in the exact same package. If you like the iPad and you love this form factor (or you are into small things), buy it; you won’t be disappointed with the iPad mini 2021 edition.

The Apple Watch is larger, but looks the same

The Apple Watch is a great device. It has an even smaller screen than the iPad Mini (haha), but still packs a punch.

I think every single leaker and YouTuber out there had counted on some form of innovation on the Apple Watch this year. But Apple didn’t really drop anything interesting here. The color palette looks great, the screen is slightly larger and there is a wide array of watch bands.

Yet, no real tech innovation was added to the Apple Watch, nor did we see a new design. A bit disappointing for all Apple fanboys out there.

Not the most innovative year for Apple

All in all, this year’s September Apple event gave us exactly what we’d already expected, no real innovation. It’s becoming a little hard to stay exciting about Apple’s product launches to be honest. Maybe it would be best to switch to a two year rhythm for some of the products and really make an impact.

Oh well, I doubt they will do so though. Were stuck with minor hardware updates and upgrades, forever. That is, until a truly innovative company comes along, and changes the status quo, once more.


Also published on Medium.

Remco Livain
I’m a digital entrepreneur, online performance marketeer, founder and CEO of the digital innovation consultancy GANDT Ventures (based in Switzerland). We support organizations (SMBs, corporates and later stage ventures) in their digital efforts. I learned the trades of the (online) business at Venture Stars (MIFLORA), Rocket Internet (Westwing Home and Living) and Insparx (C-Date and be2).

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