The iPhone is boring, and I'm OK with that

Despite using my iPhone more than any other device I've ever owned, I also understand why sales are falling. The iPhone has become boring. And I'm OK with that.

The iPhone is boring, and I'm OK with that

Where it all began -- the first-generation iPhone

Apple

What was once exciting soon becomes boring.

I remember the excitement that came with the launch of the first iPhone. It was a device that pivoted Apple and the entire smartphone market, forever changing the technology landscape.

But now, some nine years on, the iPhone has become boring.

Let me explain what I mean by boring. First off, it doesn't mean that I'm not using my iPhone as much as I once did. In fact, I use my iPhone more than any device I've ever owned. It's usually the first device I pick up in the morning, and the last device I handle before going to sleep.

What I mean by boring is that the iPhone has reached a point where innovation appears to have slowed down. Take a look at what the first few years of the iPhone brought to the table - on-screen keyboards, apps, iMessage, FaceTime, Touch ID and such - and compare this to what we've seen lately - things such as bigger handsets, Apple Pay, different colors, Live Photo, 3D Touch.

You've got to admit that the pace of innovation has slowed down somewhat. Moreover, the innovations that are being added are appealing to a smaller and smaller subset of users (I rarely hear or see anyone using the Live Photo or 3D Touch features).

A recent article in Wired called "Three big upgrades that'd make the iPhone exciting again" listed the following three features:

  • OLED display
  • Bigger battery
  • USB-C connector

According to that piece, what would make the iPhone exciting again is turning it into an Android smartphone.

Hmmm.

Despite not agreeing with the piece, I can't be all that hard on it either, because if you asked me for a list of things that I'd want added to the iPhone to make it "exciting" again, I don't think I could do much better.

And why should I? After all, I pay Apple big bucks to do that creative thinking for me.

But one thing's for sure, "lighter and thinner" just doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore.

I'm also not surprised that the iPhone has become boring. It's the natural order of things. There's a point that products reach - PCs, cars, TVs, cameras, vacuum cleaners... you name it - where, beyond which, we buy them not out of desire, but rather a necessity.

Combine that with fast upgrade cycles and shorter attention spans and I'm surprised the iPhone did as well as it had. It certainly outlived its larger cousin, the iPad, which went from thrilling to dreary in under six years.

But I'm also OK with the iPhone becoming boring (and as a technologist, I really shouldn't be OK with that).

Why? Because it means that we're moving away from that period of rapid change into a point where a smartphone doesn't feel totally obsolete in 12 months. In fact, I can see someone being happy with a modern smartphone for three years before actually needing to upgrade.

That might not be good for companies that are trying to sell smartphones, but it's good for consumers' pockets, not to mention the environment.

There is, after all, more to life than buying new smartphones.

Before I go, let me be clear about one thing - saying that the iPhone has become boring is not the same as saying it's doomed. Just as people still buy PCs, cars, TVs, cameras, vacuum cleaners and the like, people will be buying iPhones for years - possibly decades - to come.

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