It’s a story that now happens around September every year: Apple introduces new iPhones with slightly larger screens, faster speeds, and better cameras – but without major new advancements.
In a pre-recorded commercial, Apple executives considered the improvements in the new iPhone 13 to be significant improvements, but they resulted in a device that looked and acted like the original iPhones. iPhone that Apple advertised last year.
Apple says the new iPhones have brighter screens, longer battery life, and more powerful cameras and computer processors. Having pushed the screen closer to the edge of the device, Apple has slightly increased its size by reducing the small notch at the top of the screen. Apple has kept the flat edge design of the phone that it has used in other recent phone models.
Apple hopes that by adding new features and making slight improvements to the design, customers will continue to spend more money. It’s a strategy that has worked for a long time. The iPhone, now 14 years old, remains one of the world’s best-selling products and the heart of Apple’s business. In the first half of the year, the closest period available, Apple said iPhone sales jumped 58 percent to $87.5 billion year-over-year.
That success is partly because Apple has built a loyal following of customers and also because it has designed its products in a way that makes it difficult for customers to switch to competitors like Samsung and Google. The iPhone also remains one of the best smartphones on the market in a number of areas, including camera technology and screen resolution.
Apple has spent much of its advertising touting the iPhone’s new “cinema mode,” a camera technology that can automatically track and focus on subjects, creating videos that more closely resemble professional movies.
Apple’s focus on advanced camera technology on its iPhone is a reflection of its heavy investment in artificial intelligence to compete with Google.
A few years ago, Google’s Pixel smartphone used the search giant’s artificial intelligence powers to get ahead of the iPhone’s camera capabilities. But over the past few years, Apple has made some aggressive moves to catch up, acquiring several AI startups and hiring a top AI executive from Google, John Giannandrea. As a result, its newer iPhone camera has received higher ratings than the Pixel’s.
As in previous years, Apple announced two separate versions of the new iPhone: the low-end iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, and the more expensive and higher-end iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple has mostly kept the price unchanged from last year’s models.
The dominance of the iPhone has also prompted Apple to increase scrutiny and criticism from app developers, regulators, and lawmakers. Having an iPhone app has become a necessity for many companies, which has allowed Apple to build a huge business by charging commissions of up to 30% on some app sales.
But that practice has been at the heart of legal and regulatory challenges in recent years. Last week, a federal judge ordered Apple to let app developers direct customers to other payment methods in their apps, which could help them avoid Apple’s commission. Regulators in the US, Europe, and India are also investigating Apple’s App Store activities.
Brian X. Chen contribution report.