Apple Super Cycles

The iPhone will be ten years old next year. More than a billion iPhones have been sold, making it the best-selling consumer product in history. To put that in some perspective: it took 25 years for all makers of PCs, combined, to sell a billion PCs. By any measure the iPhone has been a fantastic success. It has defined a decade of computing. The iPhone has defined a decade-long super cycle for Apple and for the broader industry.

I bought an iPhone 7 even though it’s really an iPhone 6s+. Many won’t. The iPhone’s reign is coming to an end. Its super cycle is ending. Apple is killing it.

I’d bet real money that Apple Watch Series 3 will have an Apple SIM and be able to independently connect to LTE networks. It will work seamlessly with AirPods, and it will use a hybrid of voice and visual/tactile interaction to accomplish key tasks. The small screen will be okay because it will be supplemented — and perhaps at some point supplanted — by the auditory interface. Double tapping on AirPods to interact with the world will become second nature. Or maybe you’ll speak. It won’t matter.

Over time your phone will become something you might leave at home. Like an iPad. Or a MacBook.

This is despite the fact that iPhone 8 — the tenth anniversary edition — will likely be a stunning piece of art. The platform will go out with a bang.

Computing will fade into the background. It will be accessed through ubiquitous voice interfaces and unobtrusive screens. You’ll wear some of your computing resources. Some of your computing resources will become furniture. Everything will fade away until you’re living in a new kind of future where screens are much less a part of our lives than they are now.

And during this time the iPhone will change, but not as much as it used to. The best and brightest at Apple will shift to new projects. The iPhone cycle will increasingly resemble that of the Mac.

There’ll be a revenue hiccup. There’ll be the opportunity for challengers to unseat Apple as it changes its core offering. There will be risk.

But also promise. And Apple will strive, as it always has, to disrupt itself before someone else can. It’ll move to a loose constellation of devices: Apple TV, a Siri Home device of some kind, a Watch that can act on its own and with AirPods, a phone, a home computer. All linked together and enmeshed by Apple’s new services infrastructure.

And the iPhone will fade, just as the iMac has.

One super cycle ends, another begins.