Is Apple out of Ideas?
September 23, 2022
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by Stephen Kanyi

The recent iPhone 14 release has been met with great fanfare. Apple faithfuls have flocked to Apple stores to get their hands on the newest products and reviewers like myself have been fast to heap lots of praise on the company’s newest products.

While doing my review, however, I remember thinking to myself that it might be a good idea to keep the draft of my article for next year’s products. All I will do is just swap some numbers like the iPhone 14 with 15 and my article would still make sense.

Lazy writing, I know. Crazy thing is, it would totally work. Nothing would be out of place.

More importantly, it is indicative of a deeper lying issue within Apple; it has become predictable. Think about it. If I asked you to guess what next year’s Apple products would be, I am certain that more than 90% of Apple consumers would get it right. That’s how predictable they have become.

Just take a look at the company’s iconic products over the last four years.

 iPhoneWatchMacbookAirpods
202214 seriesSeries 8, UltraPro, AirPro, 2ND Gen
202113 seriesSeries 7Pro3rd Gen
202012 seriesSeries 6ProMax
201911 seriesSeries 5ProPro Headphones

It doesn’t take a genius to guess what we will get from Apple next year.

Now I know a lot of Apple fans may disagree with me on this. Apple is, after all, a smartphone manufacturer. The iPhone is the company’s most successful product accounting for more than 50% of its yearly revenue. It would be like criticizing Starbucks for only selling coffee since its inception.

Also, Apple is famously a minimalist compared to its competitors. When Steve Jobs returned to his company, he scrapped a number of products to focus on a few core products that took the company to the stratosphere. The iPod and the iPhone were the results of this minimalist approach, ironically garnering Apple the title of the most innovative company on the planet at one point.

These are all valid arguments that deserve quite a bit of merit. However, Apple is a tech company and in technology innovation is key.

To make my point, let us compare Apple with Samsung, arguably its main competitor. Now Samsung is not entirely a smartphone manufacturer. The company’s long list of products includes televisions, digital cameras, semiconductors, memory chips and laptops. It only started making phones in 2010 with its flagship product the Galaxy Series. Despite being a latecomer to the industry Samsung is already outselling Apple globally with about 21% of the global market share compared to Apple’s 16%.

This is however besides the point. I want to focus more on their product offerings, specifically the design shift in the Galaxy Series. Since its inception, the Galaxy Series has been making steady improvements in its specs. Bigger screens, bigger memory capacities, better cameras, longer-lasting batteries etc. This was all in line with what Apple has been doing.

However, Samsung has also been experimenting with foldable devices. The firm first tried the idea (albeit unsuccessfully) with the Samsung Galaxy Fold and is this year doubling down on the concept with the Galaxy Z Series. Granted the idea is not especially original, but Samsung seems to be the few who are still willing to experiment with the idea.

Now whatever your opinion on foldable phones, one thing you must commend Samsung for is the desire to experiment. The willingness to stay on the edge of innovation, try out new things and see what sticks. This is innovation. It is what Apple, at least in the Job’s era, used to be known for. They are responsible for introducing personal computing, the iPod and the iPhone that is regarded by many as the first smartphone that actually worked.

Today’s Apple, however, is shy. Not willing to take bold steps into the future. They are no longer trendsetters. The company has for the last five years or even more, only been making slightly better improvements on the products they already have.

When is the last time Apple created something truly original and exciting? We are not talking about small improvements but huge leaps in innovation, something truly remarkable. This is what Apple used to be known for.

At this rate, if the trend continues, Apple risks being left behind by other companies willing to be bolder. In the modern economy innovation is key to growth. Most tech companies understand this. This is why Facebook pivoted to Meta, Tesla is growing its electric car fleet, Amazon is moving to entertainment and Netflix wants to offer games on its platform. Stagnation is death and Apple, no matter its size, is at risk of dying.

Of course, the next question is; whose fault, is it?

Well, the leader of course; the CEO of the company. He is responsible for describing the path everyone is to follow. And, at Apple, perhaps more than any other company, the CEO is king. While CEO, Steve Jobs created a management structure that placed him in almost full control of the whole workforce. Perhaps this has played a part in the innovation stunt at the company.

Tim Cook for all his brilliance as CEO taking the company to trillion-dollar status is no Steve Jobs. But to be fair no one is.  Still there is a feeling not just by me but a lot of Apple consumers, that Apple lost something when Steve Jobs left.

Tim Cook, it seems, is more of a businessman than an innovator or a visionary. He has successfully multiplied Apple’s revenues and market shares without necessarily having to reinvent the wheel in terms of production and design.

To be fair this has served the company well making it one of the largest in the world. The question is, will it be able to maintain this level without any significant leaps in innovation? I doubt it.

At the rate that we are going, innovation is key. It is the lifeblood of any tech company. Apple can only ride its brand strength for long enough until another company comes up with the next big thing.

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