Apple started this whole tick-tock thing way back when the iPhone 3G debuted in 2008. That was the so-called ‘tick’ model; a vast improvement over the previous original iPhone, and it set the stage for annual iPhone upgrades.
Apple didn’t originate the tick-tock model. It was adopted by Intel back in 2007 as a way to lay down a predictable product launch course, but it was embraced by Apple starting with the iPhone 3G and then 3GS models, and has been around every year since. If Apple stays on the tick-tock course, iPhone 7 should be introduced as a tick model later this year.
The Sad iPhone 6s
iPhone 6s has been the most disappointing of all iPhone models, and not because of the tock year. Every iPhone in a tock year outsold the previous tick year, but the iPhone 6 was a gargantuan leap over the much loved iPhone 5s.
The bigger screens. Both iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ended Apple’s drought of a large screen device to compete with Samsung and others who differentiated their wares from Apple by going to a bigger screen. When Apple followed there was plenty of pent up demand for a new tick model, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
It’s easy to see why Apple does a tick tock; with seemingly major component upgrades in the tick year, with seemingly lesser updated components during tock years. That hasn’t always been the case, of course, but it’s the appearance because the case design of tock years remains much the same as tick years.
iPhone 6s models suffer by comparison. It looks and feels and performs much like last year’s model, so why bother to upgrade? Again, if history is a guide, iPhone 7 will be a tick year, a different physical design from iPhone 6 models, with improved everything else.
Based upon the iPhone 6s line’s falling sales, falling average selling price, falling gross margins, and failure to exit the customer base or switchers sufficiently to outsell its predecessor (so far), Apple’s next iPhone model needs to be a special breed. A tick, vs. a tick-tock-tock.
7 Is Next, 8 Is Lucky
In China the lucky number is 8. In Japan, it’s 7, though in both cultures both 7 and 8 are better than 4, which is related to death. China has a problem with the number 7 that western culture does not, but that might be sufficient cause for Apple to skip 7 altogether and go straight to number 8. 8 is better than 7.
What does any of that have to do with the tick-tock of technology?
More than you might think. Smartphones are mostly mature products these days. At the premium end of the spectrum, where Apple thrives and others strive to compete, all smartphones have vivid, colorful, crisp screens. They all have good cameras. They all have day long battery life. Apple and Samsung have been leapfrogging one another in naming convention and features so this might be a good time to skip 7 and go straight to 8. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 would then follow Apple’s iPhone 8, instead of leading numerically.
Regardless of the naming convention or the reasons for tick-tock, Apple’s next model must be a tick. Already the company’s flagship design has fallen behind Samsung’s latest on several key indicators; screen resolution, battery life, storage capacity, waterproofing, and camera.
Historically, Apple tends to create disruptive innovations every so many years, followed by a longer number of years where annual improvements are merely incremental innovations, but lately the company is less the disruptive innovator than it is the annual innovator just to keep up with technology progress from the competition.
iPhone 7 must be a tick model, and merely naming it iPhone 8 won’t be sufficient.