Podcast: AT&T and Verizon 5G, Google Cloud Next, HPE Container Platform, Earbuds, Apple, Tesla

This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the new 5G offerings from AT&T and Verizon, announcements from Google’s latest event covering GCP, GSuite and more, the launch of HPE’s Open Container Platform, and commenting on earbud news from Microsoft and Apple, the Tim Cook Austin factory visit, and the launch of Tesla’s CyberTruck.

Podcast: Intel Apple Modem Business Sale, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon Earnings

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the quarterly results from Intel and the sale of their modem business to Apple, discussing Facebook earnings and the state of social media, and chatting about the earnings from Google parent company Alphabet and from Amazon.

Podcast: Apple WWDC19

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Tim Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the announcements from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, including the impact of iPadOS, the details of the new Mac Pro, and the significance of the Sign In with Apple feature.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Apple Blurs Lines Across Devices

Is the iPad really a computer? Or is it a computing accessory?

That’s a question that’s triggered enormous amounts of debate and discussion for many years now, and regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s one that has never really been definitively answered. At yesterday’s WWDC, however, Apple certainly took some big steps towards an affirmative answer with the launch of iPadOS and all the latest enhancements it entails.

Most importantly, the introduction of a true file system and the Files app to access it puts the iPad in a similar class to other “full” computers. Though Steve Jobs may be rolling in his grave because of it (he was notoriously averse to anything like a visible file system for the iPad), it’s something that the iPad has desperately needed for those who want to run computer-esque productivity apps and do enterprise-like work on the device. It turns out storing, finding, and organizing files on local storage—and having easy access to external storage (like USB sticks!)—is an absolutely essential part of those types of efforts. Without it, the iPad was severely handicapped; with it, it’s time to give a fresh look to the concept of tablet computing.

In addition, though Apple didn’t talk about it, the forthcoming version of iPadOS (expected this fall along with iOS13, tvOS13, WatchOS 6 and MacOS Catalina) also includes support for Bluetooth mice. The feature is currently hidden in some accessibility settings, but it’s hard to imagine Apple keeping it there for too long, as the lack of mouse and true cursor support has been a lingering concern around iPad computing for some time as well. Now that the secret’s out, serious iPad users will be clamoring for it.

But Apple’s blurring of device lines wasn’t limited to iPads becoming more computer-like. There were also several introductions that highlighted how the iPad can become a more useful computer accessory. Most notable of these was the debut of the new Sidecar feature in MacOS Catalina that will let you use an iPad as a secondary monitor for your Mac. While there are certainly cheaper options for dedicated monitors, the ability to let you use your iPad as a secondary display on an occasional (or even regular) basis is something that many Mac users will undoubtedly find very useful. In an age of increased multitasking, there’s never enough screen real estate, so options to extend your desktop and apps across multiple screens make a great deal of sense.

Interestingly, because Sidecar also supports Apple Pencil on the connected iPad, it’s almost like bringing some level of touch-screen support to the Mac. To be clear, it only works with Mac apps that currently support stylus input (think graphics apps), but it can add a Touch Bar, even to Macs that currently don’t have them, and will likely lead to other touch-enabled features.

Another critical iPad to Mac benefit is that the company’s new Project Catalyst, which allows developers to easily move some of the 1 million apps designed for iPads over to the Mac. Apple said it used the technology to move some of its own apps, such as Apple News, Stocks, Home, etc., over to MacOS, and with Project Catalyst, they’re opening up the same capability to developers who use the company’s Xcode development tools. Given the relative dearth of new Mac applications, this is a critical step for the ongoing life of the Mac platform.

What’s interesting about all these developments is that Apple is taking a new approach to its various product categories that seems less concerned with potential overlap and more concerned with providing the best advances possible for each. In other words, in the past, Apple appeared to be very conscious of the potential confusion that could be created in understanding what an iPad could do (and how it could be done) versus what a Mac could do. Hence, there was much more separation between the iPad and the Mac in terms of capability and functionality.

As device usage trends, product category sales trends, the impact of the cloud, and several other realities of the modern digital world have evolved, however, Apple seems to be much less worried about defining the categories (and limits) of each of its devices. Instead, these new announcements suggest that they want to leverage whatever resources they can to make the iPad experience as good as it can be and the Mac experience as good as it can be. This new approach towards the realities of our multi-device world may create some confusion among some people about what device to buy, or which one to use for certain applications or in certain situations. In the long run, however, it seems to be a much healthier perspective that allows people to get the most out of whatever individual devices, or combination of devices, they happen to have access to.

From an overall perspective, these developments are particularly important for the Mac, which has certainly seemed to be Apple’s abandoned stepchild for quite some time now. In conjunction with the impressive-looking new Intel and AMD-powered Mac Pro also introduced at WWDC, however, it’s clear that Apple is providing some much-needed love to its first platform device.

If Apple really wants to get serious about letting people use their products and services across the reality of today’s complex multi-device world, they’re going to have to do a lot more work in getting some of their devices (like Apple Watch), applications, and services to work across other non-Apple platforms (as I’m sure they’ll eventually do). In the meantime, however, these new announcements show that Apple is becoming the kind of company that’s perfectly comfortable with embracing the uncertainty and blurriness of today’s digital product categories.

Podcast: Apple Services Event

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Tim Bajarin, Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing this week’s services-focused event held by Apple, including discussions around the new Apple Card credit card service, the TV+ streaming TV and content aggregation application, the News+ magazine service, and the Apple Arcade gaming service.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Apple Card Highlights Disruption Potential for Tech Industry

Well, that was a surprise…not in terms of what Apple announced at their big services event—which frankly had few, if any surprises—but about what I was most excited about afterwards.

In part because there were so few details about the pricing and extent of their highly expected streaming TV service, the thing I walked away from the Steve Jobs Theater being the most impressed with was—wait for it—Apple Card.

Yes, a physical credit card, but more importantly, the virtual credit card services that are the latest extension to Apple Pay. In multiple ways, Apple Card is a great expression of what Apple does best. They find things that create pain points in our lives and make them much simpler by essentially reinventing them and how we interact with them.

Of course, there was hope that they would do the same with TV content and services too. But, while it’s too early to say for sure, my initial take is that they weren’t quite as successful there. Sure, the new Apple TV+ app looks nice and integration with a number of partners looks good, but there are several TV content aggregators already out there. Plus, to get the kind of comprehensive package Apple promised, you have to get local news and sports from one source, movies from iTunes and/or other streaming services, and then Apple’s content as well. Oh, and if you’re a fan of content from Netflix or if you like to watch TV content on Android devices or Windows PCs, you’re out of luck. That’s a lot of work and compromises for what’s supposed to be a complete service that works across “all your screens.”

On top of that, though it went by very quickly, I could’ve sworn I briefly saw a $10.99 monthly price for the ShowTime service that was added during the demo—not the $9.99 that had been expected. So, lots of pricing questions still remain—not the least of which is how much Apple will charge for their own original content.

In the case of Apple Card, however, the value proposition was much more straightforward, and the end product much more appealing as a result. Not only did Apple promise to rid people of dreaded fees associated with credit cards—late fees, international charge fees, etc.—they also completely rethought the experience of using a credit card. The software-based app experiences enabled via Apple Card range from leveraging on-device machine learning to easily label charges, to providing practical insights on how to reduce interest charges, to logical organization of charges and trends in spending. They also integrated strong privacy and security by requiring biometric recognition for all charges (via face or fingerprint recognition), tying transactions to the secure ID inside the iPhone, and keeping everything anonymized to prevent tracking of purchases. All told, it was the best example of the old Think Different Apple philosophy that I’ve seen in some time.

Not only that, but Apple even managed to sneak in a tiny bit of hardware into Apple Card via the titanium physical credit cards that they’re making part of the offering for those locations that don’t take Apple Pay. While you can argue it was a bit over the top, it was classic Apple in the best way, with even the tiniest details done right. (Or, as I joked with others, more proof that Apple still does hardware best….) The cards have no number or expiration date—just your named etched into them. Frankly, if I was part of another credit card company, I’d be nervous, because Apple completely reset the bar on what people are going to start expecting from a credit card.

In that regard, the Apple Card launch was also a great example of another broader phenomenon that we’re starting to see play out, something I’ll call “reverse transformation.” As big companies in other non-tech industries are going through what many like to call “digital transformation” and morphing into tech-driven organizations, tech companies are starting to look the other direction. They’re observing these trends in traditional industries and recognizing that those industries are now even more ripe for disruption than ever. By applying their “digital” expertise towards problems that have plagued or limited those traditional industries, and applying a fresh perspective to those issues, tech companies are becoming very real threats in industries that, just a few years back, seemed very far removed from tech. In effect, they’re taking advantage of an opportunity that didn’t exist until these other industries started to digitize themselves.

To be clear, not all industries are necessarily subject to this reverse transformation, nor are all tech companies equipped to take advantage of these new potential opportunities. But as Apple is starting to demonstrate with Apple Card, the possibility of digital transformations creating more risks for traditional industries and companies than many originally thought are very real. These types of changes won’t happen overnight, nor will Apple Card immediately disrupt the entire credit card industry, but the possibility of dramatically new tech industry-inspired services are clearly an interesting new possibility for us all to consider.

Podcast: Nvidia GTC, Google Stadia, HP and Oculus VR, Apple

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the announcements from Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference event, discussing the potential impact of Google’s Stadia cloud-based game streaming service, talking about new VR headsets from HP and Oculus, and chatting about Apple’s new iPad, iMac and AirPod announcements.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Apple, 5G Vs. WiFi, Digital Privacy, Spotify

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing some of this week’s Apple news, debating the future of connectivity with embedded LTE or 5G vs. WiFi, discussing some news and ideas around digital privacy, and chatting about some recent developments with Spotify.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: AMD, Microsoft, Apple Earnings, FaceTime Bug, Apple-Facebook-Google Spat

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the recent earnings announcements from AMD, Microsoft and Apple, as well as discussing the implications of the group FaceTime bug Apple disclosed the week, and debating the impact of the recent spats between Apple and Facebook and Apple and Google over enterprise application certifications.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: 2018 Year in Review

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the big news developments impacting the tech industry this year, including social media and data privacy concerns, price hits to the previously soaring FAANG stocks, developments in assisted and autonomous cars, challenges to AR and VR products, changes in the smartphone and PC businesses, the reinvigoration of the semiconductor market, and the impact of artificial intelligence.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Amazon AWS reInvent, HP Inc. and Dell Earnings, Apple Music and Amazon

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing multiple announcements from Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference, including the launch of several new custom chips, discussing the impact of HP’s and Dell’s earnings and what it means for the PC market, and chatting about the new agreement that will let Apple Music work on Amazon Echo devices.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: HP PC Event, Microsoft Surface Event, BlackBerry Security Summit, SuperMicro China Server Story

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing several New York City-based industry events from the last week, including HP’s launch of their Spectre Folio convertible PC, the Microsoft Surface, Windows 10 and Office 365 updates, and the BlackBerry Security Summit, as well as analyzing the Bloomberg story on secret chips that the Chinese government supposedly put onto SuperMicro servers that ended up inside Apple, Amazon and 30 other companies.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Apple September 2018 iPhone and Watch Launch Event

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi, Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell discussing and analyzing the Apple launch event and how the new X family editions to the iPhone and the Watch Series 4 will impact the market.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Tech Congressional Hearings, Apple Event Preview, CEDIA, Sony

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Tim Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell discussing the Congressional hearings with major tech players Facebook and Twitter, previewing what they’d like to see Apple introduce at their event next week, and describing some of Sony’s announcements at the CEDIA trade show as well as new core technology developments they’ve recently introduced.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Microsoft Surface Go, Apple MacBook Pro, PC Market, Microsoft Teams

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing Microsoft’s new Surface Go mini 2-in-1 device and Apple’s updated MacBook Pros, analyzing the recent the PC market shipment numbers, and talking about the latest version of Microsoft’s chat application Teams.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Apple 2018 Worldwide Developer’s Conference

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi, Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing Apple’s WWDC event in great detail, including new announcements around iOS12, WatchOS5 and MacOS Mojave.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Siri Shortcuts Highlights Evolution of Voice-Based Interfaces

To my mind, the most intriguing announcements from this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) was the introduction of Siri Shortcuts. Available across iOS devices with iOS12 and Apple Watches with WatchOS 5, Siri Shortcuts essentially adds a new type of voice-based user interface to Apple devices.

It works by building macro-like shortcuts for basic functions across a wide variety of applications and then gets them to execute by simply saying the name of your custom-labelled function to Siri. Critically, they can be used not just with Apple apps and iPhone or iPad settings, but across applications from other vendors as well.

Early on, most digital assistant platforms, such as Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Assistant, focused on big picture issues like answering web-based queries, scheduling meetings, getting updates on quick data nuggets like traffic, weather, sports scores, etc. Most assistant platforms, however, didn’t really make your smart devices seem “smarter” or, for that matter, make them any easier to use.

With the introduction of Samsung’s Bixby, we saw the first real effort to make a device easier to use through a voice-based interaction model. Bixby’s adoption (and impact) has been limited, but arguably that’s primarily because of the execution of the concept, not because of any fundamental flaw in the idea. In fact, the idea behind a voice-based interface is a solid one, and that’s exactly what Apple is trying to do with Siri Shortcuts.

At first glance, it may seem that there’s little difference between a voice-based UI and traditional assistant, but there really is. First, at a conceptual level, voice-based interfaces are more basic than an assistant. While assistants need to do much of the effort on their own, a voice-based UI simply acts as a trigger to start actions or to allow more easy discovery or usage of features that often get buried under the increasing complexity of today’s software platforms and applications. It’s a well-known fact that most people use less than 10% of the capabilities of their tech products. Much of that limit is because people don’t know where to find certain features or how to use them. Voice-based interfaces can solve that problem by allowing people to simply say what they want the device to do and have it respond appropriately.

Given the challenges that many people have had with the accuracy of Siri’s recognition, this more simplistic approach is actually a good fit for Apple. Essentially, you’ll be able to do a lot of cool “smart” things with a much smaller vocabulary, which improves the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Another potentially interesting development is the possibility of its use with multiple digital assistants for different purposes. While I highly doubt that Apple will walk away from the ongoing digital assistant battle, they might realize that there could be a time and a place for, say, using Cortana to organize work-related activities, using Google Assistant for general data queries and using Siri for a variety of phone-specific functions—at least in the near term. Of course, a lot questions would need to be answered and API’s opened up before that could occur, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility. Don’t forget, as well, that Apple has already created a connection between IBM’s Watson voice assistant and iOS, so the idea isn’t as crazy as it may first sound.

Even within the realm of a voice UI, it makes sense to add some AI-type functions. In fact, Apple’s approach to doing on-device machine learning to help maintain data privacy makes perfect sense, with a function/application that lets you use the specific apps installed on your device and provides suggestions based on the contacts and/or other personalized data stored in your phone. This is where the line between assistant and voice UI admittedly starts to blur, but the Apple offering still makes for a more straightforward type of interaction model that its millions of users will likely find to be very useful.

As interesting as the IFTTT (If This Then That)-like macro workflows that Siri Shortcuts can bring to more advanced users, however, I am a bit concerned that mainstream users could be a bit confused and overwhelmed by the capabilities that Shortcuts offers. Yes, you can achieve a lot, but even from the brief demo onstage, it’s clear that you also have to do a lot to make it work well. By the time it’s officially released as part of iOS12 this fall (as a free upgrade, BTW), I’m hoping Apple will create a whole series of predefined Siri Shortcuts that regular users can quickly access or easily customize.

The world of voice-based interactions continues to evolve, and I expect to see a number of advancements in both full-fledged assistant models, voice-based UIs, and combinations of the two. Long-term, I believe Siri Shortcuts has the opportunity to make the biggest impact on how iOS users interact with and leverage their devices of anything announced with iOS12, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Podcast: Apple Education, NVidia Tech Conference, Microsoft Reorg, Facebook Memo

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the news from Apple’s Education event, analyzing the NVidia GPU Technology Conference, chatting about the recent Microsoft reorganization, and debating the impact of the recent Facebook memo release.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Will Apple IBM Deal Let Watson Replace Siri For Business Apps?

Even though it wasn’t the first time that Apple and IBM have announced partnerships in the enterprise space, as a long-time tech industry observer, there’s still part of me that finds it surprising to see an Apple executive speak at an IBM event.

Such was the case at last week’s IBM Think conference in Las Vegas, where the two announced that IBM’s Watson Services was going to be offered as an extension to Apple’s CoreML machine learning software. Essentially, for companies who are creating custom mobile applications for iPhones (and iPads), the new development means that enterprises can get access to IBM’s Watson AI tools in their iOS business applications.

On the surface, it’s easy to say that this is just an extension of some of the work IBM and Apple announced several years back to bring some of IBM’s industry-specific vertical applications to the iPad. In some ways, it is.

But in many other ways, this announcement is arguably more important and will generate more long-term impact than whatever new products, software and/or services that Apple announces later today at their education event in Chicago.

The reasons are several. First, the likely focus of much of this work will be on the iPhone, which has a larger and more important presence in businesses throughout the world than iPads. Depending on who you ask, iPhones have nearly 50% share in US smartphones in business, for example, which is several points higher than their share of smartphones in the overall US market.

More important than that, however, is the new dynamic between Apple’s machine learning software and the capabilities offered by IBM. At a basic level, you could argue that there may be future battles between Siri and Watson. Given all the difficulties Apple has had with Siri, versus the generally much more positive reaction to Watson, that could prove to be a significant challenge for Apple.

The details of the agreement specify that Watson Services for CoreML will allow applications created for iOS to leverage pre-trained machine learning models/algorithms created with IBM’s tools as a new option. As part of CoreML, Apple already offers machine learning models and capabilities of its own, as well as tools to convert models from popular neural network/machine learning frameworks, such as Caffe and TensorFlow, into CoreML format. The connection with IBM brings a higher level of integration with external machine learning tools than Apple has offered in the past.

Initially, the effort is being focused on the visual recognition tools that IBM has made available through its Watson services. Specifically, developers will be able to use Watson Visual Recognition to add computer vision-style capabilities to their existing apps. So, for example, you could point your iPhone’s camera at an object and have the application recognize it and provide exact details about specific characteristics, such as determining a part number, recognizing whether a piece of fruit is ripe, etc. What’s interesting about this is that Apple already has a Vision framework for letting you do similar types of things, but this new agreement essentially lets you swap in the IBM version to leverage their capabilities instead.

IBM also has voice-based recognition tools as part of Watson Services that could theoretically substitute for Apple’s Foundation Natural Language Processing tools that sit at the heart of Siri. That’s how we could end up with some situations of Siri vs. Watson in future commercial business apps. (To be clear, these efforts are only for custom business applications and are not at all a general replacement for Apple’s own services, which will continue to focus on Siri for voice-driven interactions in consumer applications.) The current announcement specifically avoids mentioning voice-based applications, but knowing that ongoing machine learning efforts between Apple and IBM are expected to grow, it’s not too hard to speculate.

If you’re wondering why Apple would agree to creating this potential internal software rivalry, the answer is simple: legacy. Despite earlier efforts between the two companies to drive the creation and adoption of custom iOS business applications, the process has moved along slowly, in large part because so much of the software that enterprises already have is in older “legacy” formats that is difficult to port to new environments. By working with IBM more closely, Apple is counting on making the process of moving from these older applications or data sets to newer AI-style machine learning apps significantly easier.

Another interesting aspect about the new Apple IBM announcement is the IBM Cloud Developer Console for Apple, which is a simple, web-based interface that lets Apple developers start experimenting with the Watson services and other cloud-based services offered by IBM. Using these tools, for example, lets you build and train your own models in Watson, and even create an ongoing training loop that lets the on-phone models get smarter over time. In fact, what’s unique about the arrangement is that it lets companies bridge between Apple’s privacy-focused policies of doing on-device inferencing—meaning any incoming data is processed on the phone without sending data to the cloud—and IBM’s focus on enterprise data security in the cloud.

Another potentially interesting side note is that, because IBM just announced a deal with Nvidia to extend the amount of GPU-driven AI training and inferencing that IBM is doing in their cloud, we could see future iOS business apps benefitting directly from Nvidia chips, as those apps connect to IBM’s Nvidia GPU-equipped cloud servers.

More than anything, what the news highlights is that in the evolution of more sophisticated tools for enterprise applications, it’s going to take many different partners to create successful mobile business applications. Gone are the days of individual companies being able to do everything on their own. Even companies as large as Apple and IBM need to leverage various skill sets, work through the legacy of existing business applications, and provide access to programming and other support services from multiple partners in order to really succeed in business—even if it does make for some friendly competition.

Podcast: Digital Assistants, AMD Chip Flaws, Apple Education Event, Fitbit

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing recent developments around digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, discussing AMD chip flaws, chatting about the upcoming Apple Education event, and talking about Fitbit’s new smartwatch.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Smartphone Market Challenges Raise Major Questions

As dynamic and exciting as the smartphone market has been for many years, it’s hard to imagine a time when it just won’t matter that much to most people. Kind of like how many people now feel about the PC market.

Don’t get me wrong, the smartphone market will still be very large and extremely important to some people for quite a while (just as the PC market still is for many—myself included). But the truth is, we’re rapidly approaching the era of smartphone market maturation, and quite possibly, the end of smartphone market growth. Along with those changes are likely to come a shift in attention and focus away from smartphones, and towards other more “interesting” product categories—in the press, on people’s minds, and, most importantly, in critical industry technologies and developments.

The signs of this impending change are all around. In fact, you could argue that this is already starting to occur. While total 2017 worldwide smartphone shipment data may end up showing a modest increase over 2016 (final numbers have yet to be released), the fact that China—the world’s largest smartphone market—showed a 4% decline in Q4 2017 is a very telling and concerning indication of where the market is headed.

Essentially, what that data point tells us is that even in rapidly-growing markets, we’ve started to hit saturation. In other words, pretty much everyone who wants a smartphone now has one, and future market growth will be nearly completely dependent on the length of replacement cycles. Adding insult to injury, we’ve also started to see the extension of smartphone lifetimes from around 2 years to around 3 years in many parts of the world.

The reasons for these extended lifetimes are several, but there can be little doubt that many people are simply content with their current phones and don’t feel a pressing need to upgrade as frequently as they used to. Now that most people have large-screen smartphones, it’s easy to understand why.

But the implications from this shift are dramatic. Individual vendors who have been benefiting from overall industry growth are starting to see a much more challenging competitive environment in many regions around the world. From India to China to the US and beyond, major smartphone vendors are finding it much harder to enjoy the kind of comfortable growth to which they’ve become accustomed.

More specifically, for a company like Apple, the widely discussed topic of another “super cycle,” where a large group of existing customers upgrade to the newest phones, may prove to be a phantom phenomenon. It’s not inconceivable to think that the previous iPhone 6-driven growth spurt was really just a single point in history inspired by the initial transition to large screen phones. Recent reports of 50% reductions in iPhone X production certainly suggest that could be the case. (To be fair, many supply chain-related rumors turn out to be nothing more than that—rumors, with little connection to reality. So, we’ll need to wait until at least the calendar Q1 and maybe even Q2 shipments are released to know for sure.)

Challenges for the iPhone X and other high-end smartphones go well beyond just the appearance (or not) of a replacement “super cycle.” Smartphone maturation has also extended to product design and innovation, with new models from almost all vendors offering little more than incremental changes versus previous generations. Plus, even with new phones that have designs or capabilities that do take an arguably larger leap versus previous generations—such as with the iPhone X—it’s not clear everyone really wants those changes. Again, it seems many consumers are relatively content with their phones as they are.

Even more concerning longer term is the question of more advanced innovations. While there is no doubt that smartphone companies will keep working to improve their products—just as PC makers continue to do, even in an era of declining sales—as product categories mature, those advancements do tend to slow down. Most of the really exciting core technology developments tend to show up in newer product categories that are perceived as having a greater opportunity for future growth.

Smartphones are obviously not going away anytime soon—just as PCs continue to play a critical role for many. But whether it’s some futuristic AR glasses, nearly invisible “ambient” computing wearables, or some other types of devices we’ve yet to even imagine—there’s no doubt that at some point in the relatively near future, smartphones maturity and stability will make them seem like “old technology.” It isn’t a question of if, but only a question of when.

Podcast: Intel Earnings, Apple HomePod, National Cyber Security Alliance

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Tim Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell discussing Intel’s blowout quarterly earnings, the announcement of Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, and Data Privacy Day sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Podcast: Apple Product Reviews, Google-HTC, Nest, Amazon Smart Glasses

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the reviews of Apple’s newly lauched products, analyzing Google’s announced acquisition of people from HTC, chatting about the Nest security product announcements, and debating the opportunity for Amazon-branded smart glasses.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

iPhone 8 Purchase Intent could only be hindered by Price

By this time next week, we will know all there is to know about the new iPhone model, including whether it will be called the iPhone 8. In a collaboration with SurveyMonkey, we, at Creative Strategies, set out to measure the level of interest in the new iPhone as well as the purchase intent. Through SurveyMonkey Audience we reached out to 1000 US consumers between the age of 18 and 65 and asked a few questions about their attitude to smartphone purchase as well as what they expect from Apple in the new iPhone release.

A Healthy Base

Before we asked about iPhone 8, we covered the basis to see what the opportunity in the market was for Apple. Sixty percent of the current Apple base has had their iPhone for at least one year or longer, 23% had their current iPhone between twelve and seven months and 17% for six months or less. This mix makes for a pretty substantial opportunity for Apple, but will it be the super-cycle some are expecting? Well, much of it depends on the upgrade habits of this base. The fact that 60% of current iPhone users have had their phone for over a year does not necessarily translate into a new purchase.

The good news for Apple is that 21% of current iPhone owners are planning to upgrade within the next six months and another 17% within the next year. When only looking at consumers who indicated they are extremely interested in the iPhone 8, intention to upgrade increases to 36% within six months and 24% within the next year. Fifteen percent of consumers who are extremely interested in the iPhone 8 said they plan to upgrade as soon as the new model is out.

iPhone owners take more control of their upgrade cycle with only 27% of users saying they only replace their phone if something breaks. This compared to the market average of 35% and 37% among current Samsung owners. The fact that only 24% of current iPhone owners are self-defined late adopters might impact the Apple numbers. Late adopters make up 38% of the overall US smartphone market and 34% of current Samsung owners.

Apple’s Biggest Opportunity

It will surprise no one that the iPhone 8’s most significant potential is with early tech adopters, 56% of which said they are either extremely or very interested in what Apple will be debuting on September 12.

Apple’s current base is the second largest source of interest with 34% of current iPhone users who said they are either extremely or very interested in the iPhone 8.

Also, good news for Apple to see that among smartphone owners planning to upgrade in the next six months a whopping 44% is either extremely or very interested in the iPhone 8

When we look at what phone models these consumers who are either extremely or very interested in the iPhone 8 currently own, it is interesting that 21% have an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, 19% have an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, and another 16% have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Interest alone, however, is not enough to gauge intent, so we went ahead and clearly asked what the likelihood of purchasing the iPhone 8 was. Fifty-seven percent of consumers who said they were extremely interested also stated they are extremely or very likely to buy. Early tech adopters remain Apple’s biggest opportunity proportionally, with 64% saying they are extremely likely or very likely to purchase or upgrade to the iPhone 8.

Finally, 32% of Apple’s current iPhone owners expressed their likelihood of buying or upgrading to the iPhone 8 as extremely likely or very likely. Close to ten percent of current iPhone owners mentioned that their likelihood to purchase would depend on the price of the iPhone. This was less of an issue with early tech adopters (4%) and among users planning to upgrade within the next six months (7%).

Interestingly, Apple sees some opportunity coming from its strongest competitor: Samsung. Seven percent of current Samsung smartphone users said they are extremely likely to upgrade to an iPhone 8 and another 15% are very likely to do so. While this is somewhat bad news for Samsung Mobile it is very good news for Samsung Display that will be providing the new OLED displays for the iPhone 8.

How Much of the Concern is Price?

Early tech adopters and consumers in the market for a new phone tend to keep up with rumors and news regarding any big upcoming product. When we listed the top rumored features and asked our panel which one they were most interested in, most gravitated around wireless charging, quick charging and improved camera sensors for improved pictures and AR. It seemed that Apple, should not be too concerned about fitting all the rumored features into the new model as consumers will buy it no matter what. When asked which single feature would be a deal breaker if missing at launch, 21% of the consumers who said they are extremely likely to purchase or upgrade to an iPhone 8 said they will be likely to buy it no matter what. Twenty percent of current iPhone users and 18% of early tech adopters felt the same way.

So if no particular feature is a deal breaker what else could influence the iPhone 8 purchase intent? Given the strong focus in the press on the price the new iPhone 8 might reach, we have been concerned that this would be the ultimate hindering factor for adoption and we wanted to validate our concern.

We first looked at early adopters, as they are usually the least price sensitive buyer. Thirty-two percent said that were excited to upgrade even if it was expensive so the price did not affect their decision much. Another 14% showed little concern as they are on an Apple upgrade plan. Finally, while maybe not ideal for Apple, not everything is lost as 18% said price did matter and they would consider another iPhone model if iPhone 8 were too expensive.

Current iPhone owners were a little more price sensitive, with 33% saying they would probably not buy if too expensive and another 33% saying they would turn to a different model, reflecting that the current base is today very diverse. There is a correlation between price and features of the new model and what perceived return on investment your current smartphone is providing. It is not so much the lack of innovation of new model as much as it is your level of contentment with the model you are currently using.

Of course, with the current installment plans, the rumored price might be more intimidating to consumers in their initial evaluation than it will actually be when the new plans are announced. In other words, thinking about an iPhone that could pass the $1000 price mark will likely put off more potential buyers than a monthly payment increase of $10.

As always, pre-orders and first weekend sales will be highly scrutinized as market watchers determine if Apple was able to pull another rabbit from the hat. Overall success, however, will be determined by sales of the new models as well as of the existing lineup becoming more affordable as our data strongly indicates.

Podcast: Samsung Note 8, Smartphones, Apple Auto Plans

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi, Jan Dawson and Bob O’Donnell discussing Samsung’s Note 8 launch event, analyzing the evolution of smartphones overall, and debating the importance of Apple’s future auto-related plans.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast