That was clear this week with the debut of the iPhone X, Apple’s forthcoming flagship phone featuring a sleek edge-to-edge screen, a glass back, higher resolution and energy efficiency thanks to an OLED display, 3-D touch technology, facial recognition sensors, and wireless charging.
Combined with the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone 10”) will likely stave off the wholesale commodification of smartphones, and secure Apple’s biggest source of revenue for years to come.
Of course, the stakes couldn’t be higher for the company that Steve Jobs built. “Given how dependent it has become on the success of its iPhone, Apple has no choice but to successfully launch a redesigned smartphone raising the bar in technology innovation,” according to Thomas Husson, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
“Apple must demonstrate that smartphones are only entering their teen years and that their role -- while evolving -- will continue to power new disruptive technologies blending the physical and digital worlds,” Husson believes.
In the short term, meanwhile, the tech giant may have a problem of its own making.
How’s that? Well, after getting everyone all worked up about OLED technology, this week Apple informed us hat the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus won’t feature the extra colorful displays until perhaps next year, while the OLED-equipped X won’t ship until November.
That could leave a lot of smartphone shoppers sitting on the sidelines for the time being, analysts suggest. “Mainstream iPhone users might consider pushing out their purchases to next year when they can get greater innovation at a lower price," Mizuho analyst Abhey Lamba warned in a client note this week.
What about Apple’s latest Watch, which was also unveiled this week, and boasts built-in LTE connectivity so users can call and text friends and play music without their iPhones?
Unfortunately, analysts still don’t foresee consumers embracing the Apple Watch as a must-have accessory any time soon. “Wearables or smartwatches are still not essential to consumers in the U.S.,” says Forrester analyst Julie Ask.
Today, roughly 20% of consumers own a wearable -- about a third of whom own a smartwatch -- by Forrester’s estimate. By 2021, the research firm only expects the share of U.S. wearable owners to reach 29%.
The problem, according to Ask, is that smartwatches have yet to truly distinguish themselves from less costly wearables and fitness trackers. Also, according to Ask: “Smartwatches lack a killer app.”