Apple’s last earnings call made it clear the spectacular iPhone growth of the past has peaked. Although Apple is still doing well in services, Macs, and even iPhones, the drop in iPhone sales has left many people asking if Apple can ever grow the iPhone market again.
In a recent Tech.pinions Insider post, I suggested one way they could significantly grow the iPhone market was to target India with a special iPhone priced more accordingly for that market. That could go a long way toward getting them into a stronger position in India and reap major benefits as more and more of the 1.2 billion people in India move up the economic scale and as the smartphone plays a more important role in their communications, commerce, and education.
However, I believe there are at least two significant technologies that could drive new iPhone Growth and its ecosystem that could, over time, significantly bring back healthy iPhone sales and help them expand their overall audience. Each one could spur growth but, together, they could really take the iPhone up a couple of notches.
Over the last three weeks, I have traveled half way around the world to China and then, after a few days home, off to New Orleans to attend the Collision Conference. At the end of the week, I did a father/son day at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. While most of this trip was business related, there was time for sightseeing and of course, listening to great music and taking pictures at JazzFest, which is a very colorful event.
On the trip, I took a high-end Sony mirrorless camera as well as my iPhone. But, since I did not carry my Sony with me all of the time, 80% of the pictures I took were with the iPhone. Given the decline in sales of DSLRs and pocket cameras due to smartphones, I suspect that, for many, a smartphone camera is also the #1 way they take pictures these days.
There are rumors Apple may be putting dual cameras on the iPhone 7. I hope this is true. If a smartphone becomes my primary camera, then I want the best camera possible and one that, in many ways, works like a DSLR. While in China, I was shown a prototype of a smartphone with dual cameras and, by using the dual cameras, it took on a lot of DSLR features, including amazing digital zoom and special effects as well as more user controls. If this is the case and Apple puts dual cameras in new iPhones and makes an iPhone more like a DSLR, interest in that new iPhone could be huge and drive significant new sales in the next cycle.
The second technology is actually a category but one that, if supported by various tweaks to an iPhone and additional hardware, it too could drive iPhone sales into new territory. As many of you know, VR is poised to make a real impact on the world of computing by delivering a whole new way to see and view images, video, and even information. Its first impact will be in gaming but its reach will be broad and key industries like travel, real estate, sports and entertainment are all beginning to embrace VR in one form or another. With the right applications, it will be a big hit with consumers too.
At the moment, Apple has been silent on their VR plans but we know they have made recent hires focused on VR. Given Tim Cook’s recent comments that VR is something Apple sees as important in the future, I have no doubt Apple will eventually deliver some type of VR solution within the iOS and Mac ecosystem.
However, Apple’s M.O. is not to be first but instead, monitor a new technology or market and, when ready, deliver a comprehensive, well thought out version of their own. They could leap frog competitors and make them the leader in a field even if they are late to the game. They did this with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad and I suspect the same thing could happen with VR.
The big question is how they approach this. Today, there are two means to delivering VR. One is using a tethered device like Oculus’ Rift, HTC’s Vive or Sony’s Playstation VR. In these early days of VR, a tethered solution is the only way to delver a high level VR experience. The other way is to use a smartphone with a Google Cardboard-like device or something like Samsung’s Gear VR that works with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones to view VR content. Our research shows consumers will eventually want to use a VR headset that is not tethered and delivers the entire VR experience in the headset itself.
To that end, we believe Samsung is working on such a headset where the smartphone technology is embedded in a new version of the Gear. While I was in China, I saw a prototype from a company called Dlodlo.com. They showed me a VR headset that looks like regular sunglasses and has all of the tech needed to deliver a VR experience.
If I had to guess what Apple is doing, I would bet Apple is working on a combination of these two ideas. Perhaps a set of goggles that have a lot of complimentary technology for enhancing an iPhone-driven VR experience. The iPhone itself could have things like a 360 degree camera and other VR/AR features that make it unique and works best with this headset to deliver a great standalone experience. I am sure it could be backward compatible with perhaps an iPhone 4S and any iPhone 6 models but I think it would make sense to create a new line of iPhone VR models that work best with some type of low-cost optimized headset.
I am just speculating on what Apple could do but, after this trip to China and New Orleans, I can see a dual camera gives an iPhone more DSLR-like features and could entice a lot of users to upgrade. I also am a big believer in VR and its potential impact on the computing market and fully expect Apple to do something in VR that gives them a strong position in this space in the not-so-distant future.
Either technologies could impact the demand for new iPhones and help them expand the market for their ecosystem and services. Together, they could deliver another blockbuster product to drive huge new sales and refresh the iPhone in the near future.
16 thoughts on “Two Technologies That Could Spur New iPhone Growth”
I know you’re a big proponent of VR. But I am still unclear how _any_ headgear, tethered or not, is going to see anything greater than elite geek adoption or outside of novel applications (like the Six Flags roller coaster ride). Outside of a theater, people don’t even want to wear simple glasses for home 3D HDTV. How is VR anything but a novelty? Has any company been talking any real applications outside of enhanced entertainment?
Yes. The cruise industry is using it to show people cabins they can book on a ship. Real Estate is all over this as are resorts and condo rentals. There are a lot of verticals that love this idea. And once 360 degree cameras get cheap enough consumers will use them to record weddings, baby’s first steps, birthday parties..Research show very high interest in consumers. I personally like the idea of its use for Arm Chair travel too.
“Real Estate is all over this as are resorts and condo rentals.”
Yep, the agents/brokers are all over this. However, the main problem is having the hardware. It’s a big problem on the spending side for the brokers.
I’m looking into it, not as a sales tool, but more as part of marketing expectations. So far, it’s been received as a cool factor. What’s really driving transactions hasn’t been the VR tech, but the speed to process the purchase agreements.
So, right now in RE, VR is mostly a “we wanna make it work” technology.
I’m really doubtful. As a customer, assuming I don’t have the hardware at home, I still got to go to the realtor’s. And that won’t get me info on the surroundings (access, transport, parking, smell, noise, neighbours…), so I’ll have to go there anyway.
That makes VR not good enough to close the purchase, by far. Does it make good enough to build the shortlist of what’s worth visitng ? Do we even need VR to do that ? Just looking at the map, the floor plan and handful of pictures is enough to weed out what needs weeding ?
Maybe it’s interesting for investors. For owner-occupiers I don’t really see the point.
Location always sells the property.
Essentially I agree. VR could be significant in gaming and in medical and industrial applications, but if the expectation is for VR to become big in the general consumer market, I think the headsets shut down interaction between people too much to be accepted.
Multiple cameras are already present on some Android phones. Several flavors:
– Huawei P9: monochrome, for better low-light shots (no light-losing color filters, 3x bigger pixels), combines with the regular camera.
– LG G5: wide-angle, for panoramic close-range shots, ideal for grouphies. Independent of the regular camera.
– HTC: regular, combines info from the 2 cameras allegedly for better shots and after-the-fact refocusing. Reviewers have been underwhelmed.
I think a RAW mode is still missing from iPhones ? And OIS from all iPhones except the Plus ? Before going fancy/complicated, maybe the basics…
Camera seems to be the one proven upgrade motivator. My iBrother got a Galaxy S7 after he shattered his iP5S last week-end, on the strength of the S7’s camera for indoor pictures of his kids.
this is an actual product ;-p
Oddly, I take indoor pictures with my 5s all the time, usually portfolio shots of my lighting. I’m always impressed with the accuracy of the color rendering and how well it handles high contrast.
Maybe they could build in a lens adaptor for iPro lenses (or similar, I just happen to use iPro lenses). Most of the time I need to either zoom in (hate the pixel loss of digital zoom) or a little extra width (but never fish eye).
The most important part of a picture is the photographer ^^
I’m bad at it, in several ways for several reasons, so I usually let others take care of the pics except when I’m with the nephews, and even then, what I’d really like was for the 10yo to do it, I’m really curious about what he’d shoot and why. Is there an app that lets you make albums of pics with voice comments ?
We’ve gotten the first Galaxy pics and Skypes… The colors might be a bit too true, those Canadians who’ve been troglodytes for 6 months do appear sickly pale (he says smirking, just back from pastis at the café bemoaning too much sun). I think the iPhone was pinkying stuff up, which might not be that bad in this case… Otherwise, I’m not seeing a difference, but we’re talking spur of the moment pics viewed on a low-end LCD.
I’m letting things settle and then conducting an in-depth with iBro. Had to bash him over the head about Widgets, and the benefits of simply copy/pasting your media to your SD: that kids’ film for the car trip just STAYS there (preferable to last year’s disappearing Frozen ^^), and music keeps playing in the metro.
Yeah, it’s like I used to try to explain the slowest part of any computer is usually the user.
If it were only “slowest”, I’d say “dumbest/buggiest” ^^
I have no doubt that adding dual cameras on iPhone will up the game together with adding VERY FANCY VR-like functionality.
I agree that both dual cameras and VR are interesting technologies that could be added to the list of iPhone’s capabilities in the short to mid term. However, to expect that they will have as large an effect as the large screen iPhone 6/6 plus did in lifting sales, is delusional. At most, they will have small incremental effects.
The reason is simple. Pent-up demand. The large screen iPhones benefited from a couple years of surging demand for larger screens.
Unless we see the same pent up demand for dual cameras and VR already in the Android world, we can’t expect a large bump in iPhone sales, unless of course Apple is years late to the party again.
The discussion of whether VR will be broadly adopted is valid and many questions are still open. The point is though, if VR is to create a noticeable bump in iPhone sales in the mid-term, it has to be popular already on Android.
Instead, I expect iPhone mid-term sales growth, if any, to come from more boring stuff like sales & marketing, financing, expansion of offerings (like the SE) and corporate solutions/sales. Stuff that Apple is already starting to do quite well.
Plus dual cameras are not a game changer per se, just the path of least resistance to ever better cameras; so just the continuation of a trend which has been happening since even before smartphones. Kind of like for CPUs, and the move to dual-core and more. Aside from straight up better pictures you might get side benefits (refocusing, wide angle) that might be a killer app for a niche, but only a small one.
Of course, since Android hardware vendors are typically quicker to adopt these technologies by a significant margin, we can wait to see if they get any traction. If they do, then Apple may see a significant bump in sales from dual cameras.