EDITOR’S COLUMN: iThink we’ve hit a wall

It’s apple season folks. From honey crisp to fuji, to iPhone and Apple Watch, fall is here.

As we’ve come to expect over the last decade, the arrival of September means Apple will bestow upon us their latest and greatest versions of their most popular products: the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Just like every year for the last decade, I eagerly awaited the event and the tl:dr for 2022: minimal evolution in lieu of revolution.

Sure, the iPhone 14 standard now comes in a Plus version instead of the Mini of previous years, the cameras saw slight upgrades with the primary rear shooter inheriting the camera of the iPhone 13 Pro and the front getting a better selfie camera with auto-focus, plus the blue and purple colors got paler, but that’s really all that changed. 

I wish I were pulling your leg, but I’m not. The most notable lack of change? They still retain the processor of the iPhone 13 lineup.

This decision led me to reflect on where we are with technology right now, and it seems we’ve hit a wall. While Apple isn’t the only guilty party, they are a repeat offender, so I thought it appropriate to examine them to best show my point. When is the last time Apple has done something revolutionary with the iPhone? Or even something that would really drive a consumer to upgrade from last year’s model?

Looking back at the last several years of releases, less and less is changing. The last revolution we got was with the iPhone X, but ever since it’s been more or less the same. From the iPhone X, the XS and 11 Pro after it, they were minor, uninspiring upgrades that gave consumers little reason to make a change.

That cycle repeated itself with the iPhone 12. Yes, it got a new design, but the iPhone 13, and now 14, followed the same three-year “revolution cycle,” and it doesn’t stop at this product line either.

Enter the Apple Watch Series 4, the first redesign the Apple Watch has seen. It retained this design with minimal improvement for the next two generations, only gaining a millimeter in size when the Series 7 launched. Processor upgrades in the meantime were nearly non-existent as well, leaving little reason to upgrade for as many as three years.

I’m about as big of an Apple fan as they come. I’ve been using an iPhone for nearly a decade and an iPad for a true decade. I’ve been using a Mac since I got a computer, and when I decided to pick up a smartwatch, I kept up the Apple tradition. But these days I am just finding it harder and harder to justify upgrading anything at all.

My iPhone 12 Pro Max from 2020 is still running like a champ and has many of the same features as the newly released iPhone 14 Pro Max because it has iOS 16. My Apple Watch Series 5 is nearly indistinguishable from the new Series 8, and I could just keep going down the line with all the products I already own that are singing the same tune.

I find it incredibly hard to justify spending another $1,099 on a new Pro Max iPhone when so little has actually changed. While I should be rejoicing like my wallet is, I’m just left wondering why they keep this cycle up. A wall has been struck. Technology was improving so quickly a few years ago, even at Apple. The iPhone 4 to 4S was quite literally a 100% increase in CPU performance and a 900% GPU performance improvement in one year.

Then, just another year later, they doubled that again with the iPhone 5. Now they’re lucky to squeeze a 20% improvement out year over year, that is if they even upgrade it at all. While a 20% increase in performance isn’t nothing, it’s not worth a minimum of $999 this time around.

I’ll hold onto my iPhone 12 Pro Max until it makes financial sense to let it go. Same story with my Apple Watch Series 5. Gone are the days I long for the next generation. I’ll be content with what I have until Apple, or any smartphone manufacturer, really, gives me an actual reason to upgrade.