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. 

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. 

Yet, these product announcements are the most anticipated hardware tech shows in the world. 

The iPhone is key

Whereas new iPads and iMacs might be around the corner, tech bloggers and leakers cannot stop talking about the launch of the „all new and updated“ iPhone 12s (13, or 14). The next iteration of the iPhone will generally be released in the fall of this year (September 2021). 

The first product renders of the next iPhone generation circulate on the internet. 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, or subscribe to my mailing list.

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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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