First, let’s recap the last 18 months or so, going back as far as the end of 2016.
- For years, people using iPhone in cold weather were experience sudden shutdown of their device even if battery was more than 50% full. Seems quite clear that the iPhone before iPhone 8 had problems dealing with aging batteries and high power consumption in cold weather.
- Apple had to fix the issue and they choose to do it in software (10.2.1) by slowing down the device but without telling the users in clear terms. That was in the first months of 2017.
- The trick was discovered. People went angry for many months. Questioned on the issue, Apple denied to acknowledge.
- In December 2017, Apple changed their mind, openly said they tried to circumvent a problem and allowed the users to opt out with a new iOS release. People were still angry but at least they knew what Apple did.
- So Apple created a battery replacement program where users could replace their aging battery for as low as 29$.
- The year of 2018 went by, and in the last few months, people overwhelmingly choose to replace the battery instead of replacing their “good enough” iPhone with shiny iPhone XS or even XR.
- The battery replacement program came to an end, on December 31th.
- Meanwhile, iPhone prices kept going up for no real or game changing reasons except maybe to expand the price range and test consumer demand elasticity. Some would say that Apple didn’t increase the price but added more expansive version to their line up.
- Meanwhile, commercial tensions heated up between China and US and global economic climate seems to have started deteriorate.
- So Apple sold less iPhone.
And to top all that, iPhone subsidies from telco companies are lower than ever…. so people have to buy the full price of their device. So they keep them longer.
Here we are at the very beginning of 2019 and Apple seems now vulnerable. Even in the Tim Cook letter to investors, as Gruber points out in his blog post “Apple’s Terrible No Good Very Bad Earnings Warning” Apple always preferred to sell more iPhone instead of replacing batteries. Oops. This isn’t what they said in December of 2017 when they announced the battery replacement program.
This unexpected turn of events in the very first few days of 2019 put even more value to my wishes for Apple in 2019: put software and services at the center and clean up the house.
First, let’s face it, hardware is done on many levels and the smartphone market is a mature one. How to you keep people using their devices? With software updates, new features and services. This is the software as become an enabler and a driving force to keep users in the ecosystem. Apple has to double down on their software in all their hardware platforms. Computational photography is certainly a good example of this. My main expectation is for Apple to keep iterating with iOS releases and at faster pace. My hope for an iOS refresh targeted at the iPad that will make us want to replace our computers once and for all is on the top of my list. If Apple is serious about the notion of replacing traditional computers with the iPad, it has to translate this in real features on the iPad that cannot be done anywhere else. Now that the hardware is so much powerful, time has come for iOs to be an adult.
Another thing related to iOS: I’m still wondering about this cross platform thing named “Marzipan”. I’m not convinced by the idea that writing software for the iPad that could also run on millions of macOS computers will start a new revolution for Mac users and give more professional applications on the iPad. I’m wondering if Apple is not trying to make their life easier just to be able to write an app once and run it on iOS or macOS.
My second expectation is for Apple to really turn itself in a serious and respected services company. Don’t be deceived by the ever increasing revenues in this area as this is the law of big numbers in action. There are so many things missing in their current offerings, from a feature standpoint and from geographical standpoint. Software gives life to hardware but is also an enabler for services too. I wish Apple will finish News rollout to all other countries. Same thing for Apple Pay Cash.
Third, clean up the house, oops, the product lines. By offering so many versions of the same thing in so many price points, is seems the Performa age is back with us. That wasn’t a good time for Apple. We pay them to make choices and now this isn’t what they do except for a few notable things like the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone. Bolder choices are to be made like killing iTunes once and for all (and why not replace it with a web only client for Apple Music a la Spotify). Oh, what about this laggy 12” MacBook. Who is buying those these days ? Just kill that. Same for the Mac Pro. This is indecent to keep selling this computer last updated in 2013 at the same price.
Finally, once Apple will be finished catching up with pro users demands I guess they will return their focus on inventing the future. Catching up has something to do with the past, not the future. Time flies. Hurry up Apple.