‘The Most Important iPhone Ever’

Horace Dediu, writing at Asymco:

There are more than 1 billion iPhone users. The total number of users has been rising steadily. iPhone users make up about 26% of all smartphone users (3.8 billion is the current estimate). The share of users in the US is about 60% (or soon will be.) The share in UK is close to 50%. All these share numbers are higher than ever. Over 14% of US and 10% of UK survey respondents have switched to an iPhone in the past two years.

I was not aware that churn was so strongly in the favor of iPhone over the last two years. Pretty good for a phone that Henry Blodget declared “dead in the water” in 2012. The downside to this trend, if it continues, is Apple might start running into being deemed an actual monopolist — by which I mean holding a monopoly share of phones period, not just a monopoly on iPhones. And with its sole OS competitor increasingly showing signs of losing institutional interest in Android, that trend might continue.

Dediu on the iPhone 13 and Apple’s camera improvements over the last few years in general:

We did not ask for rack focus, post-production focus (!), night mode, macro photography and portrait bokeh. But once we have these features we begin, ever so slowly, to use them and then we start demanding them. Conversely it seems that what people mostly ask for — that is what the critics ask for — are extrapolations of existing features. The “faster horse” dilemma.

On the surface, the physics of photography are stacked against Apple. Apple’s “cameras” are pancake-thin phones that people rightfully expect to comfortably carry in a jeans pocket. The technically-best photos and videos you can create today are shot using very large, very heavy cameras. But in a very meaningful way, this severe disadvantage works in Apple’s favor. It’s good to be the underdog. It keeps you hungry. And in photography, Apple is very much the underdog — not to any competing company but to the laws of physics. They’ve been making better smartphones than their competition since the day the first iPhone went on sale. That can make a company lazy, and lose focus. The worst thing that ever happened to the Mac was Microsoft Windows going to shit after Windows XP.

But Apple will be chasing “real” cameras in image quality for at least another decade, maybe forever. Settling for nothing less than making the best cameras, period, despite the severe form factor constraints of a “phone”, is the sort of north star that keeps a company focused.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021