Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman. This post was written for the New Statesman and first published here.
We have until 6pm to wait and see – after months of rumours – the final form of Apple’s iPhone 7. You can watch the keynote speech live here, but until then speculation is soaring across social media.
Will the headphone jack really go? Is it going to be water-resistant? Just how much better will the camera be? In terms of Apple’s decline, will any of this really matter?
It’s not been a good year for the tech giant. Its iPhone sales fell for the first time ever, it had a second consecutive quarter of negative growth, not to mention that whole FBI thing, and oh, yes, there is the matter of a rather large tax bill. The European commission has ordered Apple to pay the Irish state up to €13bn in taxes.
So will the iPhone 7 be innovative enough to transform the company’s fortunes?
The rumoured removal of the headphone jack has been angering Apple fans for months and, based on this alone, it would be easy to speculate the phone will be unpopular.
But remember the iPhone 5’s smaller lightning charging port? Despite the backlash from customers, the phone became the best-selling handset in the fourth quarter of 2012, with 27.4 million sales. The smaller cable has now become commonplace.
The lack of a headphone jack might also be secret blessing, as it strengthens rumours that the phone is going to be waterproof. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has theorised that the handset will be water-resistant and be able to be submerged in up to five feet of water for about half an hour. Although this follows in the footsteps of Samsung, iPhone users are still likely to welcome the change.
Anger over the headphone jack, then, might not actually deter purchases, but a distinct lack of excitement could. It’s alleged that the handset will look and feel remarkably similar to the iPhone 6 and 6S, which could potentially dissuade even the most ardent Apple addict from upgrading. Where’s the prestige in having the latest iPhone if no one can tell the difference?
Is the rumoured dual-camera going to be exciting enough? Not if, as experts suspect, it only features on the iPhone 7 Plus, not the regular model. If the iPhone 7 continues to use the standard single-lens camera, will people feel the urge to splurge?
There are many, much more boring things Apple could offer that might tempt customers, including a bigger battery and more storage, maybe even a fair deal on tax? In fact, increasingly savvy smartphone owners might now be more interested in the company’s ongoing innovations around privacy technologies, particularly post-FBI-gate, than they are in slightly fancier gear.
It’s unclear whether Apple will prioritise public wishes (see: headphone jack) over that element of prestige it has by offering those iterative hi-tech specs.
At the end of March, the launch of the iPhone SE – a smaller, cheaper model – proved incredibly popular with the public. Instead of the larger screen of the iPhone 6, consumers favoured a less prestigious offering that still worked in much the same way.
The price of this, however, had a part to play in Apple’s declining revenue, and the company may have decided that bending to their customers’ wills isn’t the most profitable path.
It’s also recently been seen eyeing enterprise software, AI and VR more as its consumer hardware efforts have lost their shine. Maybe we should stop using iPhones as a measure of Apple’s success altogether?
By the end of the day, at least, we should know what shape the iPhone 7 will take, but we will have to wait longer to discern the true impact it will have on the (current) world’s most profitable brand.