Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!
Last week, we talked about sunglasses from a company that many people do not like very much. This week, we’re talking about Apple, and the company is 1,600 times smaller than it facing similar product problems.
If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny
the big thing
When you get deep enough into the tech industry, it’s harder to look at things with a consumer’s set of eyes. I’ve felt that way more and more after six years watching Apple events as a TechCrunch reporter, but sometimes memes from random Twitter accounts help me find the consumer truth I’m looking for.
As that dumb little tweet indicates, Apple is charging toward a future where it’s becoming a little harder to distinguish new from old. The off-year “S” period of old is no more for the iPhone, which has seen tweaks and new size variations since 2017’s radical iPhone X redesign. Apple is stretching the periods between significant upgrades for its entire product line, and it’s also taking longer to roll out those changes.
Apple debuted the current bezel-lite iPad Pro design back in late 2018, and it’s taken three years for the plan to work its way down to the iPad mini while the entry-level iPad is still lying in wait. The shift from M1 Macs will likely take years, as the company has already detailed. Most of Apple’s substantial updates rely on upgrades to the chipsets that they build, something that increasingly makes them look and feel like a consumer chipset company.
This isn’t a new trend or even a new take, it’s been written lots of times, but it’s fascinating as the company bulks up the number of employees dedicated to future efforts like augmented reality, which will one day soon likely replace the iPhone.
It’s an evolution pushing them into a similar design territory as action camera darling GoPro, which has struggled repeatedly with getting their core loyalists to upgrade their hardware frequently. These are on laughably different scales, with Apple now worth some $2.41 trillion and GoPro still fighting for a $1.5 billion market cap. The situations are obviously different, yet they face similar end-of-life innovation questions for categories that they both have mastered.
This week GoPro debuted its HERO10 Black camera, which brings higher frame rates and a better performing processor as it looks to push more of its user audience to subscription services. Sound familiar? This week, Apple debuted its new flagship, the iPhone 13 Pro, with a faster processor and better frame rates (for the display, not the camera here, though). They also spent a healthy amount of time pushing users to embrace new services ecosystems.
Apple’s devices are getting so good that they’re starting to reach a critical feature plateau. The company has still managed to churn out the machine after device and expand its audience to billions while significantly expanding its average revenue per user. Things are clearly going pretty well for the most valuable company on earth. Still, while the stock has nearly quadrupled since the iPhone X launch, the consumer iPhone experience feels pretty consistent. That’s clearly not a bad thing, but it is — for lack of a better term — boring. Among 2.4 trillion others, the apparent difference is that GoPro doesn’t seem to have a clear escape route from its action camera vertical.