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The iPhone is no longer Apple’s most important product (inc.com)
74 points by heshiebee 82 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments



Great that they've been able to grow their services revenue, but a huge percent of that is driven by iPhone owners subscribing to things.

Headline is misleading at best, if the iPhone were to suddenly lose their market to Android phones, most of that subscription revenue would dry up too.

Music and Arcade I'd expect are vastly phone-based. TV might have the Apple TV as a significant subscriber base, and Music admittedly has an android client, but I'd be shocked if iPhone users weren't the majority of all of those subscriptions.


What I like about this problem is that it encourages Apple to continue supporting old hardware.

When you upgrade, they want that old device to stay on-the-grid.


I agree. Those older devices are still subscribing to some of your services, making them very valuable.

I admit, however, that I get a new iphone each time one is released, and I've gotten the newest watch at its release also. My macbook, on the other hand, I do plan on keeping (and not upgrading) for _hopefully_ three to five years...unless of course my wife decides she wants my Air (to replace her ipad) - then I suppose a Pro is in my near future. :D


I will bite : what's the point of upgrading at each release cycle ?

I am a mobile dev looking at my phone a lot .. and even in that case I am now changing phones every 2 to 3 years.

The ecological waste is one of my main motivations, but tbh I don't really get much from a new phone. It goes so slightly faster and that's pretty much it.


As a mobile dev for games/apps I like to have as many versions of devices as possible, newest one if possible.

However, the older phones/tablets/devices are best to start and do most of the development on, somewhat like making sure a game runs on an older PC or laptop.

If you tune your app to the lower end (older) devices, scaling up is easier than scaling down. If all you have is the latest devices it will lead to bloated apps and slow games.

Similar to how John Carmack does parallel implementations and starts with the lower end renderers in game engine design [1].

> However, some of my most effective uses of this strategy have been more aggressive. Over the years, I have done a number of hardware acceleration conversions from software rendering engines. In the old days, I would basically start from scratch, first implementing the environment rendering, then the characters, then the special effects. There were always lots of little features that got forgotten, and comparing against the original meant playing through the game on two systems at once.

> The last two times I did this, I got the software rendering code running on the new platform first, so everything could be tested out at low frame rates, then implemented the hardware accelerated version in parallel, setting things up so you could instantly switch between the two at any time. For a mobile OpenGL ES application being developed on a windows simulator, I opened a completely separate window for the accelerated view, letting me see it simultaneously with the original software implementation. This was a very significant development win.

[1] http://sevangelatos.com/john-carmack-on-parallel-implementat...


Camera upgrades are another major reason for phone upgrades. Processor bumps are nice, but the camera improvements are dramatically bigger and probably also more noticeable to your average user. To some extent the processor goes hand-in-hand with that, since Apple's new computational photography features are driven by their new processors.

I'm still running an iPhone SE, but if I were to upgrade it would be for the camera.


I held at the iPhone 7 until the XR. I didn't actually need to upgrade, but I knew I wouldn't upgrade to whatever they released this year if 5G and other nice hardware things were coming next year.

The 7 is fine. Went to my partner, could've gone to my teenager, but he's not interested in a phone.

The question I've asked myself a bunch of times in the past and which could be super relevant next year: if there's a 120hz iPad with 5G, I could absolutely live with that as my only device.

I barely want a phone these days and work hard not to pull it out. I do use it for running though (heart rate band). Easily replaced by something else, but I definitely don't want to just buy gadgets on an annual basis anymore.


> could've gone to my teenager, but he's not interested in a phone.

You’re going to have to explain this one.


He's homeschooled. He loves Minecraft and Kerbal.

But I think what did it the most is that the adults in his life are all self-employed and a bit stuck on their phones/laptops/tablets. I'm thinking this may end up skipping a generation.


The kids are going to be all right


Apple has a recycling program you might want to consider:

https://www.apple.com/recycling/nationalservices/


Don't, they'll just shred it. Sell it on Ebay and let it be harvested for spare parts.


Even if they reused the parts, the less wasteful phone is the one you already have.

I am not trying to be overly moralistic though .. just trying to understand if there is any value people see in getting a new phone each year outside of social/new and shiny.

It made a lot of sense 8 or 10 years ago where each year there was a big leap. But nowadays, even for e.g. camera, the improvements are very incremental at best (when they are not mostly algorithmic so backportable) .


You can do what you do because the old devices hold their value.

Buying last generation Apple stuff is a safe decision, so the constant upgraders get good prices when they sell their old stuff.

It’s also because spare parts are hard to come by, so Apple consumers cash in by selling their equipment as donors.


There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you sell or pass on the old device.


This isn't true... imagine half the population passing on their phones to get a new one, and the other half always getting used phones because the new ones are (say) too expensive to justify it. Versus another population where neither group gets new phones. They're quite obviously not consuming things at the same rate. And by passing it on, you're enabling people who might never cycle through phones to actually do that now. (Which is most definitely not to say that you shouldn't buy used or pass on an old device. 100% please very much do do so. You'll obviously prevent some folks from buying new, and it will obviously reduce consumption. Just don't come to the mistaken conclusion that it's equivalent to keeping your old device and not upgrading at all.)


I think you're wrong about this. The incentives are much better environmentally for a cascade of third party purchases, it creates an incentive for you to look after the phone, and to buy a phone which is robust, the manufacturer is incentivized to produce something long lasting, because otherwise the depreciation is too high for the consumer to justify buying it. The phone carries enough value so that it's worth repairing, even when it's 3-4 years old.

Cheap Android phones aren't worth repairing, people are validated to beat them up, their security updates run out within 1.5-2.5 years. Most iPhones are likely still to be on the market and being used after 4 years or more. If you buy an iPhone and sell it on you're clearly displacing another phone from being bought, which almost certainly would have a shorter lifetime before being scrapped.


If I understand correctly you're saying that people take better care of their phones because they want to be able to sell their old ones when they upgrade? Whereas presumably people who were just going to keep the old phone wouldn't look after it as well and would then break/damage it sooner?

I'm sure some fraction of people probably do what you day, but as far as I know, it is known that this is the exact opposite of what happens for a lot of other people (even iPhone users): they in fact tend to be more careless and break them more easily because they want to upgrade. [1]

Anecdotally, on a somewhat related tangent, I have found it curious that whenever I see a phone with a broken screen, it almost always tends to be an iPhone. I have no idea why this is, and I doubt it necessarily has to do with the above effect, but it does make me skeptical of the idea that people take better care of their iPhones because they presumably want to sell it later.

I'm also skeptical that most people go through the trouble of selling their old phones at all, even iPhones. Far, far more people seem to have iPhones than bother to try to sell their old ones, so I would guess a lot of people just do nothing with their old iPhone. Or trade it in. It's not exactly painless for everyone to sell their old iPhones.

Moreover, incentive-wise, like every phone company, Apple has every incentive to make everyone upgrade. Despite the continued support for old devices, you can imagine they pour a lot of time and money into making sure this happens, and judging from how well they've done, I'm not under the impression they've had massive failures on this front.

So I mean, it doesn't seem impossible that what you're saying could happen, and I'm sure it does for some subset of the population, but every evidence I've seen suggests it's far smaller an effect than would be necessary to compensate.

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/when-people-want-u...


Apple just released an update for phones going back to the 4s which was released in 2011.


In addition, the Apple Watch still isn't viable to own without also owning an iPhone, and the AirPods are significantly less useful without an iOS device.


Clearly taking steps in that direction with watchOS 6 though. On-device app store, and the activity app lets you look at workout info and awards instead of forcing you to go to the iPhone app.

On the face of it, that makes me wonder if they're aiming to expand it to Android users. But I suspect they'd need a real Android integrated app if they want to compete in that space.


> Headline is misleading at best, if the iPhone were to suddenly lose their market to Android phones, most of that subscription revenue would dry up too.

I think the title implies "iphone sales" and not the iphone as a device..


Very true. It is also important to point out that the latest is innovations from Apple on mobile phones were alienating a non-trivial percentage of their customer base.


If that were the case, you should be able to see it in surveys showing iPhone users switching to Android en masse.


Matters on the definition of en masse. As anecdotal evidence many of my friends hold an older version of iPhone and refuse to purchase a newer model. I think 6s is the peak of mobile phones and for me there is nothing new that Apple could add. If they were keep producing 6s with better CPU or more memory over time I would keep purchasing that phone. Since they degraded the UX for me in the newer iPhones I won't buy it any more.


There is no definition of “en masse” based on “anecdotal evidence”.

All of the evidence from Apples financial statements when the X was introduced is that people did upgrade.

But to your point, the iPhone 6s was when phones got good “enough”, it is still fast and the only reason I upgraded to the 8 plus was for the larger battery and screen.


>Headline is misleading at best, if the iPhone were to suddenly lose their market to Android phones

10 years into the iPhone, it's safe to say this is never going to happen.


Hmmm..., I remember the Macintosh’s slow death to the PC in the late 1980’s and 1990s.

I think you should probably look more closely at the iPhone’s global market share.

Developers will support the larger, more profitable markets first. At some point, they’ll stop supporting the shrinking market.

https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/07/31/iphones-global-ma...


Now look at the revenue per device that is generated for developers.

https://themanifest.com/app-development/android-vs-ios-which...

Not only is it easier to build and maintain apps for iOS, people spend a lot more money on that platform. That Android market share is, in large part, driven by developing nations that aren't going to spend a lot of money on buying software on their mobile devices.

That could certainly change in the future, but I just want to illustrate why just talking about the number of devices might not be the best indicator for which platform you should develop applications.


That was as the market was growing. Once it saturated (late 90s?), Apple's held a fairly small, but also reasonably constant proportion IIRC.

We're seeing the same thing happen in phones; the developed world's market is saturated now and the rate of turnover is slowing, and Apple doesn't have pricing that competes in the developing world.

The point I'd disagree with in your comment is that you say "larger, more profitable" when those two don't necessarily go together. Samsung and Chinese vendors are not making more profit than Apple anytime soon.


Declining sales != declining install market share


The problem is No Newspaper actually write the word Declining Sales, they all use the word marketshares, where it means unit / revenue in the total market during a period of time.

As a matter of fact Tim Cook mentioned in the Investor Q&A that iPhone User base has been growing in all of their Operating Segment. ( The word Operation was chosen likely because Apple doesn't actually operate in India, where it has declining usage ). The last reported Active iPhone users were 900M nearly 10 months ago. Apple are highly likely to reach 1B Active iPhone user sometime in 2020.


Developers will support multiple markets, the same way that car companies deliver cars with the steering wheel on the wrong (i.e. right) side of the car for those comparably small markets.


I guess I wasn’t clear on this point.

“At some point, they’ll stop supporting the shrinking market.”

If the market is profitable, they’ll support it. However, as the Macintosh market shrank in the 1990s, for example, some developers fled.

Also, great iPhone only apps will try to capture part of the larger Android market. As more revenue comes from Android, that’ll be their primary market.

Read this story about Steve Jobs and Adobe. It might give you a better idea about what I’m trying to convey:

https://www.businessinsider.com/the-real-reason-steve-jobs-w...


The biggest threat right now is prices. There are pretty good Android devices available for cheap (Pixel 3a, Nokia 2.2, etc). Not so much with iPhones.

Rumor is they're dropping 3D Touch in 2019 models, and 2020 might see a screen size reduction on the smaller "X"-sized phone. So it's hopefully something they're working on.

I'm sure they'll still be priced as premium devices and not competing directly against phones that cheap, but if they weren't 5x as expensive it would certainly help.


The iPhone has been the most expensive, premium product since the day it was launched (see the incredulous Balmer video about the $599 subsidized price). It was also the primary engine that drove Apple to being one of the richest companies on earth, ever. For years people have said it was doomed to failure because it was overpriced, but here we are, with an iPhone that is more expensive than ever, probably even adjusted for inflation.


Apple has done a fairly good job of offering devices across the pricing spectrum. Their strategy has largely been to bump last years phone down a notch when the new models come out. You can buy a brand new iPhone 7 for $299. Budget Android phones can go lower, where Apple competes by selling refurbished phones.


Depends what you mean by budget, I bought a Nokia 6.1 last summer, it's decently fast, Android One is excellent, the screen is great and for a smartphone it's built like a battleship (milled alumnium billet) I think I paid £169 for it.

I mean my partners new iphone has a phenomenal screen but not different enough to cover 600 quid difference in price phenomenal.


You completely ignored the prices I mentioned in my comment and compared a low-end Nokia to a mid-range iPhone. Pretty much all iPhones use the same LCD's up and down the price spectrum, save for the OLED models at the very top.

Go compare that Nokia to an iPhone 6S if you want an apples to apples comparison.


That they do and equally they also have a longer support life for their phones, allowing them to do this. Makes total sense marketing and cost wise by doing this unlike others who just move on year after year and artificially obsolete those products earlier within 2 years in most cases.

Be interesting to see a price comparison based upon total expected lifetime and usability of a product and by that, once support/updates and with that, security updates stop. That product is dead beyond some fanbase support. So for the base consumer market that's 99.9% of the end-users, this means there investment can last longer. Which is another factor in why the second hand price of Apple phones is much more stable and depreciate in value more gradually than Android alternatives.

THough there is also only so much tech you can cram into a phone and whilst the basic level of tech has risen and risen, it is worth noting that the mid-range android offerings are tech-wise, pretty darn good. Not saying we have reached peak tech or some form of leveling of, just yet. But the leaps - year upon year in the top end are smaller and smaller. Eventually we will get to the stage in which battery life becomes the factor again, after 2g phones leveled, that is what happened. Be case for smartphones and in some ranges, already starting to happen and an area of importance that will become more and more the main selling point in flagships, maybe not this year, but certainly soon.


Actually I got a new (not a return) 128GB iPhone XR for $349. They had these on absolute fire sale recently via the carriers if you jumped through a few hoops.


There's been cheaper alternatives to the iPhone since it first launched. It just doesn't matter.


When you start reaching 1k USD it does.

iPhone went from world domination to 15% global market share.

According to recent numbers (posted on HN 1-2 weeks ago) 20% last gen iPhone users now have a Samsung.

(Disclaimer: maybe I am misreading those stats, sounds like a too large drop to be correct)


Cheaper iPhones will open up markets that didn’t exist before, both to consumers and 3rd party buyers (corps and telecoms).


Nokia, Ericson, Blackberry...

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” — Ferris


Absolutely will happen, not suddenly but ....


Downvoted because 10 years isn't that long but never is.


I think iPhone sales are slowing because the devices have become more durable and last longer. People aren't abandoning their iPhones, they're just using them for 3 and 4 years instead of replacing hem every 18-24 months under carrier contracts. The iPhone 6 is still a very capable smartphone five years on, provided you've replaced the battery in the meantime. The same couldn't be said of the 3GS in 2013.

And this is where services and wearables come in to pick up the slack, which is arguably more consumer friendly than building devices that barely last two years.


> And this is where services and wearables come in to pick up the slack, which is arguably more consumer friendly than building devices that barely last two years.

It's worth noting Apple's US battery replacement fees.

Watch: $79

AirPods: $49

AirPods Case: $49

Not outrageous on the watch, but on the lower-end SKUs it could constitute a large percentage of the original purchase price, especially if they were purchased at even a common discount.

$98 to refresh AirPods is significant. The case battery does tend to degrade a bit more slowly, but my experience is that they don't last all that much longer than the AirPods.

A new wireless charging case is $79, while a standard replacement charging case is $69.

Given that the above hardware has about a 2.5-3-year life on the batteries, it doesn't seem as consumer-friendly as it could.


On those devices, battery replacement is impractical in part due to their design (how do you take apart a pair of AirPods to replace the tiny batteries inside?)

The $29 battery replacement cost for iPhones seems very reasonable.


Well, and maybe they've saturated the "willing to pay a lot for a cell phone market".

They may need an entry level phone to grab any additional market share. Which is dangerous because of potential to cut into higher end sales.


The low end of the market isn't a very appealing place to be. I think they don't mind if Android takes that market.


The floor price keeps going down though. Maybe they don't want a $125 phone, but perhaps they want a $250 (new, not refurb) phone.


The recent drastic redesign also lowers the appeal of the older iPhone models.

A $139 Nokia 2.2 looks like a better phone than the refurb iPhone 7 does, just because they designed it to imitate the iPhone X's curved corners and camera notch.

Removable battery and headphone jacks aside, it's probably a worse phone than the iPhone 7 is. But it doesn't look like a worse phone.

When Apple's cheaper used phones catch up to the modern phone design style, I think they'll be more competitive. But that's still years away, and who knows what new phones will look like then.


Apple dipped their toes into the lower end of the market with the 5C and the fact that they made it look drastically different suggests that Apple agrees with you.


The 5C was never a lower end phone. It was the typical year old phone sold for $100 less. They just put a less expensive case on it.


Isn't that like saying BMW needs to address the economy car market?


Assuming they had fully saturated their current market and wanted to grow. Not the best comparison in my mind.


Apple wants to grow profits and you don't do that selling low margin devices to people that don't spend a lot of money on apps and other Apple products and services.

Nobody is making any money selling to the low end of the market.


Apple sells $299 non-refurb phones, which is pretty close to that price point. Getting down to $250 probably isn't hard with various discounts offered by carriers.


> And this is where services [...] come in to pick up the slack

I take it you mean subscriptions? If so, that's a mischaracterization.

Subscriptions aren't "taking up the slack". They will soon become, if not already, an equal partner in Apple's revenue picture.

You have to love that a big company like Apple can seamlessly shift their business model just a bit, with dramatic results. Many companies their size become protectionist, and then fail.


The iPhone 6s continues to be the best piece of hardware I've ever owned. I imagine folks with an SE feel similarly.


i'm on a 6s as well. every year i look at the new phones and i just can't justify paying so much for incremental improvements.

faceID is nice but touchID is just fine. 2GB of memory is fine too. and while i don't use the headphone jack much any more, it's nice as a backup for when i forget the airpods. i may upgrade next year with the purported 5G rollout, but i'm not even sure that's worth it. LTE is fast enough and its coverage is mostly good enough too.


When LTE came out in India, I noticed my service provider (Airtel) deliberately slowing down HSPA+.

Plus, I am pretty confident that the speeds that I actually get didn't change by a huge factor when the transition happened. If anything they got slower because of congestion, due to the amazing price drop and crazy increase in user adoption.


For the longest time I thought the iPhone SE was the best phone they've ever made. I might finally upgrade to a model that has NFC and a screen that doesn't stop working in the rain, though.


It's rumored that next year's phone in the iPhone X slot will be shrinking down to 5.4". Not quite as small as the SE's 4.9", but a definite step in the right direction.


I like my 8+

The X and beyond are nice, but I think the facial unlock is a pita and stopped my upgrade. I also ordered a purism phone...


Sure do!


They last longer because innovation has slowed. My old Motorola Droid still works but I moved away from it because of missing features, not wear and tear. I can say this about almost every phone I've had.


Most non-iPhone smartphones don’t provide security updates for more than a few years. The hardware isn’t much use if the software is unsecured.


I really do not think this is a concern that the general public has or is aware of. Never has anyone told me the main reason they're upgrading their phone is because their old one is not getting security updates.


Funny how that happened immediately after they got caught purposefully slowing down phones without telling people when all they had to do was replace a battery instead of buying a new phone to fix declining speed issues. Sales seem to have dried up pretty quickly after that because you could fix it for $50 and have a fast phone again instead of $1000 on a new one. Most people don't need a faster processor to view their Twitter.


I dont think its this at all. What happened is the processors became fast enough. Each year the processors were "twice as fast" as the year before. Somewhere around the A10 there were diminishing returns, where being twice as fast wasnt useful anymore. Much like laptops, once they got fast enough, energy efficiency became the most important metric.


> Most people don't need a faster processor to view their Twitter.

If twitter keeps “improving” their app you will.

But seriously though, how is it that the twitter app regularly causes my devices to lock up?


No idea, I don't allow those apps (most) on my phone. The website works just fine for those rare times I actually use it, which is mostly clicking on links that lead back there. If I need a newer faster phone to view basic html (a list view of posts, with video...basic stuff here...) then I just won't use that noncritical service. I'll live. There is no need to use a lot of cpu for such a basic thing. It's a glorified website.


This mischaracterization of the battery issue is nonsense. Phones finally got fast enough that people were using them until the batteries could no longer hold any meaningful charge, causing the OS to throttle the CPU so that users got more than 5 minutes of battery life.

Anyone who brought their phone in to an Apple store was told all they needed was a new battery.

That isn't "planned obsolescence". If you want real planned obsolescence, look at just about every Android phone that stops getting firmware updates after 18 months.


The iPhone is still THE MOST important product for Apple.

No iPhone means no services and no wearable sales.

The iPad may sell independently of the iPhone and Macs would as well, but they are both significantly smaller than the iPhone market.

Apple appears to believe they've saturated their addressable market, and their best bet for growth is to sell more to their existing customer base.

I suspect we will see a shift in their marketing as well. The general ads which would attract new users to the iPhone platform will reduce, and the focus will be more on getting existing iPhone users to upgrade, or buy additional services/products.


Yes, the headline is not just misleading, it is false.

Not only does the iPhone drive other revenue streams, "It also still makes up the largest chunk of Apple's revenue."

It is no longer the only important product, but it is still the most important.


Rate of growth is a garbage indicator for anyone who isn't VC funded. Particularily if you're a (still predominantly) hardware outfit with Thea history of designing, producing, shipping and selling some of the most profitable mass market products in history.

If I decided to setup a lemonade stand in my front yard and sell one glass today (it's already late in the day here) and 100 glasses tomorrow then the growth argument makes me the most important (future) retailer in the world.

Diversification is good for Apple, it's good for the ecosystem and as mentioned elsewhere probably makes it easier for them to produced devices that are less disposable. That's a great story and, given the dollars at stake, an important one. Why bother with the click-bait title that seriously erodes credibility?


I use an android phone, I'd buy an apple phone in a heartbeat if it didn't cost as much. They just keep raising the price too, which is ridiculous.

I get its a premium product, but they've priced themselves out of so many peoples budgets at this point I think.


In many venues, I'd be labelled an Apple fanboi. And I probably am. I've got all their shit; services, too. The day their credit card comes out is the day I sign up for it. Hey, it's one-stop shopping, I'm comfy in the ecosystem, I feel like a superior person by using their products, and the stuff mostly works.

But I would absolutely love a $400-500 iPhone and I'm fine if it's missing a lot of features. My phone just isn't my primary point of mobile computing anymore (if anything, Apple Watch fills that role for me now[0]), so I neither need nor want a $1000 phone (even though, being a fanboi, I have one). And the point of putting my CV in the first paragraph is to point out that, hey, even if you don't make money selling me a phone, Apple, you'll still make an arse-load of money off me. And maybe you'll get new customers/revenue to boot.

[0]Which, I'll point out, is also a ridiculously-priced device at $900 for the one I bought.


> But I would absolutely love a $400-500 iPhone and I'm fine if it's missing a lot of features.

Apple still sells iPhone 7.


Good point, I somehow skipped right over that one. Granted, I was thinking more along the lines of the SEs, which were a CPU generation behind, and would be supported for a while. The 7 is only a couple of generations from obsolescence.

OTOOH, having given a bit of thought, is it just more economical to eat the expensive of the flagship up front and then hang on to it for four or five years (which is what we currently do).


So far, the trend seems to be for Apple to support devices for 5 years after release [0]. Most apps will support at least 1 previous version of iOS, so your total lifespan is around 6 years total. Given that, you end up with:

XR: $750 / 6 years = $125/year

8: $599 / 5 years = $120/year

7: $449 / 4 years = $112/year

So assuming you plan to keep the device for its entire lifespan, I'm not sure it actually matters very much what you buy.

[0] http://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_5824_io...


This is my point exactly. My moto x4 is no slouch and does almost everything I want. Cost me $150.

Will easily last me 3-4 years.

50/year to own.

iPhone 8 assuming it lasts 4 years without battery/breakage means I could buy new moto x4 every year I own that 8. I get that its supported longer but these devices are heavily used and abused.


I think if you buy the trailing edge of the latest generation, and re-sell it once it’d trailing edge of the next generation, you’ll have s cost-effective cycle of good devices.

Or trailing edges of the 2nd and 3rd generation respectively.

Just make sure you don’t hold on beyond obsolescence.

Sometimes old stuff spikes in value a bit as others want to replace/repair instead of upgrade.


Apple is showing a willingness to provide security and bug fix upgrades far longer than they offer OS upgrades.


>I feel like a superior person by using their products

That's quite a shallow self-image


> I feel like a superior person by using their products

Well, as long as you're happy...


If I were truly happy, I wouldn't be trying to fill that empty hole, where a soul should be, with electronics.


Honest question: how long do you generally keep your Android phones? An iPhone XR is $750 retail (I would assume you can get it cheaper) and I would feel comfortable saying it will last 4-5 years and get all OS and security updates.

I’m sure from a TCO it will still end up being more expensive than Android but not quite as much when looking beyond initial purchase price.


I have a OnePlus 5T, which I got when it was brand new, so that's coming on two years. It replaced my previous phone because it was unusable (apparently a deliberate tactic to stop the battery suddenly running out of juice). I would like one of the Linux phones when they come out later this year, but I guess the this will remain in use after that. I would love a phone with a better, intelligent camera app, but I don't want to replace the phone "just because".

My previous phone was an iPhone 6. I'm pretty sure it was around March when I got it, and it was the topend phone at the time, so I guess it was March 2015. So that was perhaps 2.5 years; this jives with my recollection of it being out of contract, but not hugely so. But my wife kept using it till May this year because I accidentally left it near her when her phone broke, and she thought it was fine even though to me it was unusable. Perhaps you can call that about 4 years of use.

Before that, I had a Nexus 5. I don't think it lasted particularly wrong. I got it on my birthday, which makes it July 2014. So I presumably replaced it within a year. I think I was unhappy withe the phone for its whole life; in particular, I had been planning to try an iPhone so I don't know why I bought a Nexus. Its battery life was awful. Once the screen broke, and its replacement cost was a massive proportion of its purchase price, I decided to try an iPhone. But my wife used it after hers got stolen till it completely broke apart sometime last year (she used both the iPhone and the Nexus for a time).

Before that, I had a G1. It was probably around 2009 or 2010 that I got it, so maybe it was four or five years. At the time, my coworkers laughed at me for having such an old phone, but I didn't think it was weird to keep a phone so long.

So I guess the phones I buy get used for about four years, no matter who owns (I mean, wrote the OS) them. But I get itchy feet every other year.


I bought a used "One Plus 3T" last spring and am still using it. At this point it looks like I can use it for one or two more years. I think this is not bad for a device which came out in 2015. I recently got the update for Android 9 and security patches are from June, so it's not that bad either.

On the other hand, One Plus seems to behave somewhat special here. The Samsung phone of my mother might have received one or two minor updates and it's already down to the ground although it's not even two years old, I think.


I try to keep them about 3-4 years, I'll do a battery replacement myself if needed as thats usually the first thing to really cause problems. Battery is maybe $30 and an hour of my time. This last phone I got was a moto x4 for $150, so if it lasts me 4 years with a battery swap, TCO ~$180 for 4 years, or 60/yr. To get that out of an iphone I'd have to have it for 10 years or more.


The iPhone is exceptionally cheap compared to what a device with similar capability would have costed 5 or 10 years ago.

So, pricing is always relative to the existing technological level and competing offerings. Within a given technological age, Apple chose to always go after the upper third - quarter - or even tenth of the market. It's a strategy that brought them great fortunes, they don't compete on price, not even on capability per unit of price, they sell premium gadgets for those with high disposable income.


Everything in tech is cheap compared to what its equivalent would have cost 5-10 years ago.


What's mind blowing to me is they could easily double their already respectable Mac revenue by simply undoing some of the Ive-induced idiocy like keys with no travel, dongle infestation, touch bar that distracts when you look at the main screen, or hinge which breaks if you open/close your laptop a lot. I hope this can actually happen now.

And their services themselves have considerable potential given that currently most people just use storage and music.


Their MacBook sales never dropped. The dev and internet geek community who want MacBooks but have stopped buying them isn’t that big. They aren’t going to double MacBook sales. If that was the case there would be some clear indications of it, no?


Did I say they did? I merely said they could double if they paid a bit more attention to usability.


Well, new iPhone sales may not fuel the future growth of revenue for the company. Yet, the existing base of iPhone devices is definitely fueling the revenue growth for the company's new and future services.

Rare are the non-iPhone owners who choose Apple Music, or Apple TV... The iPhone is the gateway to that walled garden.


...and if a current iPhone owner switches to an Android device, I doubt they'll stick around Apple services! Therefore, the iPhone is still cornerstone to Apple's growth, as it enables it.


You're right about switchers, but I wonder if this is a missed opportunity. If I switched to Android, I might still want to use iMessage. I'd probably still want to be plugged into shared photo libraries between family members. I honestly prefer Apple Maps to Google Maps at this point. But I'm not sure how Apple would monetize this, or if they'd want to give people any incentive to switch.


Terrible headline. iPhone is still by far Apple’s most important product. Just because it doesn’t account for the majority of the company’s revenue doesn’t demote it. Some other product would have to be more important. But what is that? The article never says.


If they can't really compete on engineering they are done. Everybody can pretend services and style and brand makes up for it but it don't. They were built on engineering and without it and leadership to actually do something it's just a matter of time. The rate might be faster than expected. Looks like it to me.


Sales are slowing because they stopped innovating and give us the same exact device for four years in a row. Every once in a while the apple sheep wake up a little and stop buying until they add another camera then gobble the next device up. I’ll ativk with my X until they actually do something innovative. Maybe they can figure out how to copy notchless androids by 2025 or so?


“Apple sheep”. Good mature comment!


Still more substantial criticism of Apple than your comment. Besides that, insults are often used as a rhetoric element, is that too hard to grasp for people on HN or why is this so frowned upon?


I mostly agree. I am finding Apple Services to be much improved and I often leave my iPhone at home and just wear my Apple Watch.

I hope I don’t sound too judgemental, but every time I see a room full of people where most everyone is staring into their phone I question if they are really making best use of their time in the wonderful world that we live in.


> I hope I don’t sound too judgemental, but every time I see a room full of people where most everyone is staring into their phone I question if they are really making best use of their time in the wonderful world that we live in.

There are a lot more use cases that demands phones instead of smart watches.


Agreed, which is why I sometimes do carry my phone, mostly when I think I might be taking pictures or be on a video call. I am trying to make my default ‘no phone’ but I understand that does not work for everyone.


So they're going to bank on the $60k desktop or the $4k laptop vs. the $1500 phone?

I guess there's always beats with $300 headphones too.


The Apple watch is the only other device with the popularity to kind of sell Apple services. People aren't buying Apple's smart home solutions. I really wish Apple services were more broadly sold over other platforms.


And the watch is still tethered to the phone. We are a looooong ways from the iPhone not being Apple's most important product.


For how long though? It will gain its own App Store this year, with standalone apps.


iPad? Android for Apple Music?


Beginning of the end. IBM, HP, Oracle - once tech companies start making more money from services than products, they lose something and start to decline in relevance.

I would include Microsoft in that, but they started making things again.


Oracle is a massive company in profits and market cap still.


yeah, but outside a tiny (although rich) part of the industry, they're irrelevant. Well, except for the things that Sun built and they bought.


Apple are excellent at figuring out what "the next big thing" is. The fact that none of us know what that could possibly be is kind of exciting to be honest.


iPhone may still be an important product to Apple. But the competition is too high nowadays because of the cheap Android mobiles which provide similar features like iPhone.


Not really interested in iPhone development anymore since mine already meets my needs.

The Macs, on the other hand, have so much room for improvement.


One could almost say they've leveraged their monopoly position in phone platforms to expand into additional markets...


Can you explain the monopoly part?


There is one seller of iOS devices and you can't select another seller if you want to run software from the Apple store.


That’s not how monopolies work. In that case all of the console makers are “monopolies”.


Usually the friendlier term "ecosystem" is used.


For those who don't want to read through, they're saying it's services, Mac, and iPad.


Apple is the new IBM!!!


yeah not because they made a more important product but because people aren't buying the iphones like they used to


I have upgraded once in 5 years (from a 6 to the 8+) They are a great product, durable and very capable even when they are 3 or 4 years old.

Im not chasing innovation, I want something I can depend on.


I have a similar opinion of iPhones.

It's sad that people only really look at the flagship models and go "WOWZER IPHONES COST 1200$?!" The iPhone 8+ is 700$ which is still inline with "Previous Generation Pricing", heck a iPhone 7 starts at 450$ and is an incredible device.

I have a 7 Plus, it's going to be 2 years old this year, still going strong, no desire to upgrade - which is odd for me, I'm the kind of person who has a 1080ti, etc. - but my phone does EVERYTHING I ask of it, and Apple is happily supplying it with updates for at least another few years.

This idea that people have to spend $1200+ dollars on a phone every year needs to die.


I agree. I used my iPhone 6 since 2015 till a few months ago. Androids do not last that long.

The problem is that during that time my iPhone suffered damage, despite a case (some of the damage was acknowledged as inherent flaws, but some were just my fault). And being a 6 I was able to get it repaired for a reasonable price.

That is increasingly less true for newer iPhones. It's $50 more to buy a new iPad than it is to repair the iPhone X screen. You can buy an iPad Air ($499) for less than the cost of any other iPhone X damage ($549).

And if you lose your iPhone, and would like to buy something cheap to keep you going until you splurge for the next generation a few months or a year from now, then your cheapest entry point is north of $500 again.

The economics of owning an iPhone are getting pretty rough, compared to what you get on the Android side.


(I work in cell phone repair part time)

Checkout the "lower end" iPhones like the 7/8 (wait for apple to release their new stuff in the fall first so it's price drops). They really aren't that slow compared to the new phones, the improvements in phones have REALLY slowed down. I'm the kind of person who has a i7 8700k, 1080ti, 32GB gaming machine, but I've been using my iPhone 7 Plus for two years, and I have nothing to complain about performance wise.

And the iPhone 7 is only 450$ new from Apple. A screen repair from a 3rd party will be less then 100$.

The iPhone 7/8's are also really easy to repair by yourself (can't speak for the higher ones) - the exact screen our store uses for iphone 7 repairs costs less than 25$. Battery is only 12$. I understand that the "average joe" likely shouldn't attempt to repair it, but I figure the typical HN audience wouldn't have much issues - just be slow and follow ifixit.

They're very affordable/easy to repair, and are solid phones, and they'll be getting updates for at least a few more years.


> The economics of owning an iPhone are getting pretty rough, compared to what you get on the Android side.

Specially when you can get a pretty decent device such as the Mi A2 for $200 that runs Android One (almost stock).


I’ve had experience with “pretty decent” Android phones like the Moto G. It was nowhere near as performant as my iPhone 6s that was three years older. I bought a Moto G for my son. He was glad to “upgrade” to a phone that was three years older.


I had a Moto G (it was my first Android phone) and the Mi A2 is way better than that.


Apple products are no longer durable, well-made or a good value, so their "services" are now required to keep them operable, which explains why said "services" revenue is now more important than purchase price. Think of Apple products as American-made Mercedes rather than a Volvo.


Last I checked my four year old iphone still works without paying for apple music, icloud or any other apple services. It also lasted longer then the phone I had before it (an android), and my friends phones that run android. I don't know if your argument holds water.




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