Apple analyst Gene Munster, who is leaving Piper Jaffray to enter the world of venture capital, released his final research note on Friday, and in it he predicts the end of the iPhone.
"The smartphone remains the world's window to augmented reality today," writes Munster, as reported by Recode. "While this will change driven by augmented and mixed reality hardware in the future, we would expect the next five years of AR innovation will happen mainly through the device in our pockets."
But over a longer period he sees bigger change:
"Apple could develop some type of AR or MR wearable that ultimately replaces the smartphone."
Since it's the holidays and the season of good cheer, let us not dwell on how long Munster predicted an Apple-branded TV that never materialized, and let's also ignore the fact that Munster said pretty much the same thing back in February. Instead, let's just focus on the idea of Apple transitioning from the iPhone to some AR/MR wearable in, say ten years.
- Ten years is a long time in tech. Does the iPhone have another ten years in it? I mean, look how quickly the bottom fell out of iPad sales, or how rapidly PC sales hit the rocks.
- Ten years is also just a blink of an eye, even in tech, and things don't necessarily change that much in that time. Next year the iPhone will be ten years old, but visually -- and in many ways, functionally -- it's not changed that much from the device that debuted in 2007.
- Consumers seem wary -- and possibly weary -- of wearables. Even Apple Watch sales aren't substantial enough for Apple to disclose them (and Apple is a firm that just loves to talk about how awesome it is and how many things it sells). Even taking the most optimistic sales estimates, their revenue is a tiny drop in the ocean compared to the iPhone.
- Look at the social backlash that there was to Google Glass, ranging from privacy issues to just looking plain dorky. People just don't seem ready to wear tech on their faces.
- Also consider the legal backlash, and how laws and rules sprung up about how and when you could and couldn't wear Google Glass. While it's easy to pop a smartphone into a pocket when in a cinema or restroom, something on your face is a lot more difficult to stow.
- In this scenario, is the AR/MR wearable a standalone bit of kit or a second screen for the iPhone? All that face-mounted processing would require a lot more miniaturization if we're talking standalone here.
That said, never say never. Go back a decade and you'd have probably been laughed at if you'd said that the smartphone was going to wipe the floor with PCs and that they'd become as influential and disruptive as they did.
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