Technalysis Research
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January 27, 2015
How Will Windows 10 Impact PCs and Tablets?

January 22, 2015
Insider Extra: Hands-On (or Heads-on) With HoloLens

January 20, 2015
Whither Windows 10?

January 15, 2015
Insider Extra: Mobile Security: The Key to a Successful BYOD Implementation

January 13, 2015
Smart Home Situation Likely To Get Worse Before It Gets Better

January 6, 2015
More Tech Predictions for 2015

December 30, 2014
Top 5 Tech Predictions for 2015

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TECHnalysis Research Blog Extra

January 29, 2015
Insider Extra: iPhone Next

By Bob O'Donnell

Now that the excitement has died down regarding Apple’s amazing financial results and the nearly 75 million iPhone shipments it achieved last quarter, it’s time to start looking ahead. From where I sit, I think there are some legitimate questions about how the iPhone can evolve.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s still plenty of juice left to the iPhone 6/6 Plus story, and I expect Apple will have strong seasonally adjusted shipments for the next several quarters. But what comes after that? Apple clearly has no interest (nor any need) to develop low-end iPhones. It also seems clear that they’re counting on existing iPhone customer upgrades as well as high-end Android switchers to drive their business for the next few quarters. The problem is, many industry watchers believe that the high-end market is getting saturated and that most of the action is going to be in mid or even lower-tier smartphones in developing countries.

Of course, a lot of people said that before the 6 and 6 Plus launch, and Apple’s ability to not only ship a staggering number of units, but raise the ASP by over $50 this past quarter shows how wrong that kind of thinking can be. Still, those kinds of trends are very difficult to maintain forever.

The biggest challenge I see is in the product roadmap. In the near term, it probably won’t be a big issue. If they follow the traditional patterns they’ve developed, we’ll likely see the launch of the 6s and 6s Plus (or 6 Plus s, though that’s a very awkward name) later this year. As with previous “s” iterations, these will be modest upgrades with faster processors, better cameras, a slight increase in battery life and maybe a bit of industrial design tweaking. (C’mon, let’s be honest…there’s still a lot of blank bezel space at the bottom of the iPhone 6). It’s going to be very difficult to decrease the thickness of the device by anything really noticeable, however, because they need that depth for battery. It’s also going to be hard to improve the screen resolution—you really can’t see much beyond what they offer—but they could offer modest improvements in color gamut or saturation.

They may also be able to integrate a few more sensors. Bosch Sensortec, for example, recently debuted new sensors that can be used to measure barometric pressure, temperature and other atmospheric elements—essentially turning your iPhone into a portable weather station, among many other intriguing possibilities.

While several of these are interesting, I’m not sure they’re really compelling enough to drive major upgrades—especially for existing iPhone 6 owners. Yes, if you’re sitting on an iPhone 5 or 5s in the middle of your contract, it’s not unreasonable to assume you’ll jump to whatever generation iPhone 6 is the latest and greatest when you’re free to do so. But, that’s different than the kind of wholesale market lunging and grasping we’ve seen for the large screen iPhone 6 models.

The challenges get that much harder for the iPhone 7. Yes, I realize it’s early, but there are no clear signs for what Apple can do to make the next generation iPhone so compelling that they’ll be able to drive the kind of success they’ve had with the iPhone 6. They could add any of the things I mentioned above that don’t get into the 6s (and maybe they’ll finally support higher-resolution audio output), but I see no component technology on the horizon that portends a dramatic shift. Foldable screens would be nice, but they are a long way off….

The fact is, adding big screens to iPhones was a slam-dunk opportunity that Apple walked into perfectly. People were dying to have them because competitive phones had shown consumers how much better an experience larger screen smartphones could offer. In fact, in many ways, Apple was late to the party on phablets, but obviously not so late to have missed it.

Now, however, in the same way that we’ve seen Samsung and lots of other vendors start to run short on innovative new hardware ideas, I think the same thing could challenge Apple when it comes time to debut an iPhone 7. Of course, Apple has the clear advantage of owning and controlling the OS and ecosystem, and lots of services built around it. That’s something that really only Microsoft could truly compete with them on, and the likelihood of that happening in the phone space in the near-term is exactly nil. So, Apple is still very well positioned to maintain a position of strength in smartphones.

Maintaining strength and being able to repeat the kind of blockbuster growth that Apple just displayed are two very different things, however. Rightly or wrongly, expectations around Apple are incredibly high because the company keeps surpassing the bar that others have set for them. It’s both an incredibly inspiring and incredibly challenging spot to be in.

Ultimately, I have to wonder what kind of magic Apple will be able to conger up for the iPhone 7, because it is that product that will have an enormous impact on the company and its future. Will they knock it out of the park again and keep their incredible growth rate going? Or, will they make some nice, but not truly compelling changes that end up stalling their growth. As an avid iPhone user, I hope they can do the former, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up being the latter.

Here's a link to the original column:

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