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  • Samuel Reifel

Why are Apple Products the Same Every Year?




As the cream-of-the-crop in the tech industry, Apple generates products that are known for being high quality, expensive, and… practically identical each year? This has been the subject of controversy year after year; the iPhone 15 was virtually the same as the previous iPhone 14 — they changed almost nothing — making it feel less like a brand-new model and more like the same phone but with a fancier name. Let's take a look at history.


Apple is not what it used to be.

The last groundbreaking change that the iPhone saw was with the release of the iPhone 10, which came out in 2017. With this new design, Apple replaced the home button with a gesture, swapped Touch ID for Face ID, and redesigned the camera module, on top of many more minor improvements. However, that was over 2,200 days ago. Recently, the biggest “improvement” with the iPhone 15 was the USB-C charging port, which only makes the average Apple customer’s life harder, as now they need to buy more cables and adaptors to replace their old ones. As one ninth-grader commented, “It’s annoying how I need to spend money to replace the chargers for my iPhone, AirPods, and iPad. I think it’s really wasteful.” 


Looking at the iPhone 14, the biggest improvement was satellite SOS, which might be lifesaving in certain situations but struggles to carry day-to-day value. Furthermore, Apple compares new iPhone and Mac chips to ones from three years ago, implying that the differences are not as great as they might seem to be.


The Apple Watch, however, proves even less innovative. In fact, there is almost no difference between the Series 7, 8, and 9. They both look and feel the same, and that double tap feature, which was the biggest difference in the Series 9, is far from a game-changer.


I could go on and on about how there have been almost no new changes to Apple products recently, but I think you get the point. Apple has over 160,000 employees and billions of dollars to spend on product development each year, and this is the best they can do? I think there is a simple reason for this.


Why so few advances?

Let’s first note that Apple is a public company, so their end goal is to maximize profit. If their products were not selling, shareholders would be upset and they would have to do something about it. Apple works on about 42 (not including accessories) different products simultaneously, while also making all the software for their devices, which means they have to patch security vulnerabilities every day, add dozens of new features for each and every iOS version, and fix hundreds of bugs, all while supporting phones they released over five years ago. 


Furthermore, the company has to review every app and update added on the App Store to ensure they meet Apple’s strict standards. Doing all of this, as well as maintaining hundreds of retail stores all across the world, some architectural feats of engineering such as the ones in Shanghai, Singapore, and their premiere store in Cupertino, make the corporation’s challenges more understandable. 


Now, for the main reason that all their products seem the same. Let’s think about the last time you got a new phone (either an Android or an iPhone). Was it two years ago? Maybe three or four? The average iPhone user upgrades their phone every 3 to 5 years. If you have kept your phone for four years, chances are that the battery has degraded a lot, the phone is dirtier than a hotel remote, and the screen is cracked. When you eventually decide to get a new phone, you will replace years worth of features, a old battery, and anything else that was outdated. 


Although the difference between, say, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 is not that big, most people are not upgrading from an iPhone 14 straight to the iPhone 15, but, rather, from an iPhone 13 or earlier model. While new iPhones are rarely going to have revolutionary new features, like what we saw with the iPhone 10 back in 2017, the upgrades will slowly add up, so when it comes time for the individual consumer to upgrade, the iPhone will constitute a significant “step up” from his or her old phone.

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