Coming to their senses: It’s always just over the horizon


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We need a unit to define the amount of time we are perpetually away from people summarily deciding Apple products cost too much and that they should instead just buy commodity goods. Pundits agree that it’s coming! Next year for sure. (Repeat every year.)

Writing for MarketWatch, Jennifer Booton says “Apple faces decade of uncertainty after next year’s iPhone.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Joel Teitelbaum.)

Yes, this is the same Jennifer Booton who tried to tell us why Samsung’s exploding phones should terrify Apple. Please update your character sheets to reflect “frequently throws lightning bolt that delivers zero damage”.

Apple Inc. is the world’s most valuable company and has a massive cash stash…

And, yet, at the same time, it is a tiny kitten in a toy boat in the middle of the ocean during a typhoon. It’s very strange.

…but some analysts fear a prolonged period of weak innovation has set the company up for a “decade-long malaise.”

How “prolonged” has this period of “weak innovation” been? It’s been six years since the iPad, the last Apple device pundits look at as “innovative”, came out. That’s the same amount of time between the introduction of the iPod and the introduction of the iPhone.

In those six years, Apple has released the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, the new Apple TV, Apple Pay, Siri, Apple Music, and the Apple Watch, a device that would be considered a tremendous hit if it had been released by any other company. How do we know this? Because the Apple Watch has sold something like 15 million units and is considered a flop. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Echo has sold just a few million units and is considered a tremendous success that Apple should chase, which would be like a greyhound running after a child on a Big Wheel.

iPhone sales are expected to peak with the release of Apple’s AAPL, -0.07%  10th anniversary iPhone next year, according to models from Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz…

Analysts who can only see 12 months out see nothing past 12 months. This is the same problem Wall Street has had with Apple forever. Apple generally doesn’t telegraph its punches, so Wall Street perennially thinks there are no punches coming. And, hey, maybe they don’t currently have any market-defining devices like the iPod or iPhone in the pipeline. But maybe they still have some nice stuff anyway.

However, Uerkwitz believes next year’s iPhone cycle will present “one last growth hurrah” before consumers begin to drift away from the high prices Apple commands for it smartphones.

Saying “an Uerkwitz” to reflect that amount of time it will take people to come to their senses and buy cheaper devices that are “just as good” seems like a bit of a mouthful, but it also sounds somehow scientific.

The problem with Apple’s sales isn’t that people are switching to cheaper phones, it’s just that there are fewer growth opportunities because the market — particularly the market for high-end smartphones — has become saturated.

Apple certainly has challenges. But simply expecting they have nothing in the pipeline at all seems less prophetic and more apathetic.

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