Apple tries its best to distract us from the iPhone

Apple are never going to build another iPhone, and that scares them.

Apple are never going to build another iPhone, and that scares them.

From where I'm currently sitting in my office, I can see three different people using an iPhone. 

One is putting on music to listen to while they eat lunch. Another is checking something while the coffee machine heats up. The third is taking a quick break from work to swipe away at something. They are all smiling.

This sounds like an Apple ad. If it weren't for all the Windows laptops on every desk it probably could be. 

Nobody I have seen today is using an iPad, or running OS X on a MacBook, or using an Apple Watch. It's just the iPhone.

Apple spent a lot of time at its big press event this week trying to convince the world that it had a lot more to offer than the iPhone. 

New Apple Watch straps. A gigantic iPad Pro, with two new Apple accessories, including a stylus that charges in 15 seconds. Another attempt at taking on the television. 

But the world was waiting for the iPhone. That's what people were asking about in the comments section of every live blog, that's what editors around the world will focus on, and Apple hates that.

The iPhone is a wildly successful device. In terms of total devices sold it loses out to Android, but in terms of revenue it isn't even close. The iPhone makes more money than some countries do.

But that success is a big part of its problem. It's catapulted Apple into the stratosphere with just one side of its ladder built.

Ad Feedback

Just look at how Apple's overall revenue follows their iPhone revenue. Chart credit: Fairfax Australia.

What do I mean? Well, the iPhone represents close to 70 per cent of the company's revenue. It sells around 34,000 of them every hour. Its other products are often wildly successful in their own right, yes, but nothing comes close to the iPhone.

Now, there are definitely worse problems to have than one crazy successful product. But if you want an answer to Apple's share price volatility - this is it. Investors get worried about a company built on a single product - a product that could simply flop at any point.

That isn't even accounting for growth, which has got to have Apple worried. There are only so many people in the world that can afford an iPhone every year. It has pinned its hopes on China's rise into affluence, but that isn't exactly guaranteed.

So, of course, Apple tries out one of the oldest business strategies in the world. Diversify, diversify, diversify. If you can afford a new iPhone, you can probably afford an iPad too! And an Apple Watch! And an Apple TV!

Hence why so much time was spent on non-iPhone products at their launch. Apple is doing its best to distract us from the iPhone, throwing flashy new iPads and watch straps at us as fast as possible. But none of these devices excite me - or, it seems, much of the rest of the world - like the iPhone does. They are nifty; the iPhone is essential.

Its problems are likely internal as well as external. If you were an amazing engineer working at Apple, wouldn't you rather be working on the iPhone than anything else? (This incredible Bloomberg piece about 3D Touch gives you some idea of the design work that goes into an iPhone feature.)

Apple's work outside of the iPhone feels increasingly desperate, increasingly like the company is throwing features and devices at the wall to see what sticks. Want an iPad stylus? Why not! Want a slower version of your iPhone on your wrist? Be my guest!

These devices are still meticulously designed and often very popular, but when you compare them to the kind of care that seems to go into something like the new "Live Photos" feature on the iPhone 6S they feel silly. Things on the iPhone are there because they are ready.

Which isn't to say that the rest of Apple is unimportant. 3D Touch on the iPhone is clearly inherited from Force Touch on the Apple Watch. The MacBook Air changed the way the world thinks about laptops. Its move into subscription services (recurring revenue) has been bumpy, but Apple Music seems to be doing well. You need a farm league to train up players for their big break. 

But the Apple onstage on Thursday felt like two different companies. One incredibly confident company showed off the iPhone. Another, much less secure company, attempted to sell us on a giant iPad with a stylus. We'll find out soon whether they got the job done. 

* Comments on this story are now closed.

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback