What’s going on in modern technology where the gadgets we know, love, choose, and carry seem to dominate our lives? Critics say smartphones are addictive and we need Apple to help save humanity from itself.
Others say we have reached a so-called Peak iPhone where Apple can no longer grow the market, but instead continues to milk it as it has the Mac since forever. Yet, Apple– once synonymous with the Mac itself– continues to roll out new tech gadgets that come to dominate their competition. Have we reached peak iPhone? Or, have we come upon peak gadget?
Commodity vs. Premium
For many years we’ve heard the critics and market analysts point out the obvious. Apple is doomed because marketshare. Yes, marketshare is but one metric to measure a company or product’s performance, and perhaps the most lame at that, but all such measurements are guesstimates.
For the sake of the argument, let’s say Apple has reached peak iPhone. That means the company’s iPhone will not grow as it did five years ago; that iPhone has reached something of a profitable peak while competitors struggle to make a living. We’ll know things are going south and sour when Apple decides not to publish iPhone sales unit numbers each quarter, but please note that no other major manufacturer publishes such sales figures beyond Apple. No Samsung. Not Google. Not Microsoft. Not even Amazon.
So, everything that would lead to a peak of anything is a guesstimate, right?
My prognostication for the technology world falls into both camps. We have reached peak iPhone, that means iPhone growth will be, if at all, nominal for years to come because smartphone usage has hit something of a plateau, too, and with marketshare numbers mostly worthless, all that matters is revenue and profits, and for both, Apple seems to be sitting pretty. Samsung, too. Everyone else? Not so much.
What about peak gadget? For now, gadgetry is also at a plateau. Yes, new products hit the streets every day, each with their own twist on technology themes from the past, but nothing has caught the public’s fancy the way iPhone has for the past decade. No, not Amazon Echo and Alexa. No, not Apple Watch or Beats headphones or AirPods. And certainly not the highly touted, much acclaimed Essential phone or Google’s Pixel phones for which both Android founder Andy Rubin and Google refuse to say how many have been sold because the number would be too publicly embarrassing.
It’s not that there’s nothing new under the sun. There is plenty new. But nothing has skyrocketed to iPhone sales levels and mindshare because we have reached peak gadget. Nothing excites technology customers to become a must-have product. 4K HDR televisions? Bah humbug. Talking speakers with artificial intelligence over Wi-Fi? Yawn. Wearables like Watch or fitness and exercise bands? Ho hum.
Where’s the next great thing?
iPhone was a sea change of revolution and Apple is milking it for all it can; just as it did the Mac after Steve Jobs’ second coming in 1997. Peak iPhone and peak gadget simply mean we don’t have a new category of technology gadgets that will take over humanity the way the iPhone inspired smartphone has over the past decade.
Maybe we’ll see a wearable Apple Watch-like device that captures blood glucose readings in real time. Maybe we’ll see a Google Glass-like device that brings a smartphone’s screen to a pair of ordinary, unobtrusive pair of glasses with always-on, always connected technology which reads our health by scanning our eyes every few seconds. Such products might have enormous sales numbers, but perhaps an enormous price tag, too.
The original iPhone launched with 4GB of storage, a crummy pixelated screen, a crappy camera, and no third party applications– for $499 (with a two-year contract on AT&T). But look at what Jobs hath wrought a decade later. Again.
We may be at peak iPhone and peak gadget, but what we don’t know is the size and location of the next volcanic eruption in technology.
Unless we truly are at peak gadget. Forever.