There was a time when so much of the advancements that came with a new iPhone could be encapsulated in the revolutionary new A-series processor, which added CPU cores, GPUs, or special processing engines to make the model that much faster than his predecessor.
But a week after Apple’s 2022 iPhone launch event, it struck me how much the company had to shift due to the slowing pace of chip development.
Apple’s chip designs are a huge advantage for the company, and (as Apple noted last week) its competitive advantage when it comes to smartphone chips is so great that it can afford to slow the pace of development while staying miles ahead. . It’s also important to note that there have been two unrelated events in recent years that would have reasonably slowed the pace down a bit.
First of all, of course, the pandemic. I should remember that there was a lot of disruption in the workplace, both at Apple and Apple’s partners (such as TSMC, the company that makes Apple’s processors), which may have caused some speed bumps.
But second, the arrival of Apple silicon on the Mac. Over the past few years, Apple has introduced the M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra and M2, with new M2 variants likely in the very near future. That was supposed to divert some attention from the basic chip that powers new iPhones.
(I wonder if Apple is also waiting for the new 3nm process that took TSMC a while to get off the drawing board, and if it’s forced the company to drink a little water in the meantime.)
New! Kind of!
Which brings us to Apple’s conundrum. How do you market new products that are not so new?
Last year, Apple began to focus its iPhone speed claims by comparing their phones to “the competition” rather than the previous year’s iPhone models. From a marketing point of view, this was a brilliant move. Why compete with yourself if you don’t have to? Apple’s processors are years ahead of the competition, so disqualifying older iPhone processors gives Apple much bigger numbers to crow about.
The announcement of this year’s iPhone 14 was extra tricky because there wasn’t a “last year’s model” to compare it to. The iPhone 14 uses the same A15 processor that Apple used in the iPhone 13, albeit the variant of the iPhone 13 Pro with an additional GPU core. A casual observer would assume the announcement was normal, but it was anything but — instead, Apple had to do a lot of sleight of hand to make it look like the iPhone 14 overhaul was “business as usual.”
Now, next year things will resume their normal pattern. The iPhone 15 will probably get the A16 processor this year and the iPhone 15 Pro will get the A17 next year. This year Apple will have to make up for it, but it won’t welcome comparisons to last year’s iPhone if it can avoid it.
The pace of progress on the Apple Watch has also slowed down. While the system-in-package has been updated to the S8, including some nice new sensors, the CPU at the core of the latest watch models hasn’t changed in three generations. So instead of claiming speed boosts, Apple is targeting other areas.
Most interesting to me was the Apple Watch promotional video that Apple showed during its event video last week. In recent years, it seems like Apple’s ads have focused on all the new features in this year’s models, but Apple Watch video has spent quite a bit of runtime promoting features introduced in older versions. models – or be available for older models as part of watchOS 9.
Is this a scandal? Not really, after all, most people buy an iPhone or Apple Watch are not to replace a device they bought last year. For the vast majority of Apple device buyers, they compare the latest model with the model they bought several years ago. And even as the pace of progress slows, there are some big differences between an iPhone 11 and an iPhone 14.
But it used to be easier for Apple to show off the coolness of its latest device updates. When the pace of progress is fast, you don’t have to work so hard to blow people away with the latest and greatest. When things slow down, you need to be creative and put in a lot more work to get your sales pitch across. And last week, Apple worked its hardest in a long time.