Apple officially revealed the new 2019 iPhone line at their annual event Tuesday.
The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max (RIP iPhone 9) bring faster processors, new colors, and upgrades to the camera. And that’s about it.
Yes, at first glance, the iPhone 11 doesn’t look that impressive, compared to previous years of iPhone reveals, and that might be a sign that the iPhone’s run at the top is nearing an end.
Let’s take a look at these new features, looking specifically for anything really exciting for an average iPhone user.
The stuff an average consumer really doesn’t understand:
- A new A13 Bionic chip (it’s faster. How much faster? Um, just faster.)
- Faster Face ID unlocking (because the current fraction of a second is soooo long)
- Wi-Fi 6 support (pull a random person from the street. I’ll pay you $100 if they know what Wi-Fi 6 is)
The stuff an average consumer understands, but will over-justify:
- An extra hour of battery life (Just. Carry. A. Charger. With. You.)
- 2x optical zoom (This … is not new. Come on, CNET)
- 4K front camera (photos viewable on a non-4K screen)
- 12-megapixel front-facing camera (because we need those high-res Snaps)
The stuff even average consumers think is pointless:
- New colors
- A third back camera lens
Now, the list above wouldn’t be all that underwhelming had this not been a “tick” year in Apple’s “tick-tock” iPhone release cycle.
For those unfamiliar with the cycle, Apple typically follows a two-year cycle for its iPhones, with a “tick” year (usually a new number iPhone) showcasing a new design, big hardware changes and new experimental features. This is followed the next year with a “tock” (the iPhone “S” models) that are more focused on software improvements and refinements to the previous year’s hardware, but typically no dramatic changes.
Consumers generally agree that the “tick” years are more exciting since it often brings something new. That’s what makes this year’s iPhone such a disappointment; there’s arguably only one major hardware change (the new camera lens), which 1) is only available on the bigger models, and 2) has had a overwhelmingly negative reception among consumers and reviewers online.
Other than that, there’s nothing really special about this new iPhone model. Sure, some (as tech-y as me) will geek out about faster processors and maybe the new colors, but under-the-hood improvements and a fresh coat of paint aren’t really magical-must-have new features that can woo the average user.
Case-in-point, as I pointed out on Twitter, the hype around this year’s announcement was almost non-existent from those attending and covering the event. I have almost every major media outlet’s app on my phone with push notifications on. Throughout the day, only one outlet (the Wall Street Journal) felt Apple’s event was worth a push notification, and that one notification was about Apple TV+ pricing, not about the new iPhone. Even the major media outlets felt underwhelmed about the new device.
The lack of excitement doesn’t bode well for Apple, who, as a hardware company, relies on convincing users to upgrade from their old models to the new one. Now, of course there will be those with iPhone 7’s and iPhone 8’s (pre-bezel-less-design devices) that may make this year the year they upgrade to the new design, but for those carrying around iPhone X’s and iPhone XR’s, there’s virtually nothing worth it.
Now, will this matter in the long run? Will this be the end of the iPhone?
No, don’t be silly. There are plenty of Apple fanboys who will rush to pre-order the device. There are plenty of online influencers who would lose their status if they didn’t have the new phone day one. And, more importantly, there are plenty of iPhone users who enjoy their devices and will buy the new model, not necessarily because it’s new and flashy, but because their old iPhone 7’s are reaching end-of-life.
But I do expect that Apple’s recent drop in iPhone sales will continue, and perhaps even accelerate if next year’s “tock” cycle is nothing but software-related.
Despite a (small) price cut for the new models, this year’s iPhone is just not as enticing as previous years’. Combine that with competitor devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the hyped-yet-unannounced Google Pixel 4 strategically positioning themselves to attract iPhone converts, and the next two years could be really rough for Apple.