Apple will likely take three years between full-model changes of its iPhone devices, a year longer than the current cycle. In a typical two-year term, fall 2016 was supposed to see a major upgrade. But the changes on the model to be launched this autumn will be minor, such as improved camera quality.
No one can argue that smartphones need a refresh every year any more. Hardware improvements are simply not there. Apple claimed that “the only thing that changed is everything” when the iPhone 6s was released, yet that was just marketing fluff. Yes, that model did have a couple of new features: 3D Touch, an improved camera, and live photos. But aside from changes to the processor, and some other internal upgrades, it was the same phone as the iPhone 6. In fact, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
If this article is true, then Apple would have an iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and, perhaps, iPhone 6x. I’m not sure this is the change that is needed. I think Apple should simply not have a new phone every year. A two year cycle with a new phone, instead of an intermediate “s” version, makes a lot more sense.
This would also allow Apple to slow down on iOS releases, since they are tied to hardware releases, and, as a result of that, space out OS X releases as well. Apple is in a relentless rush to the future, always banking on the next new version of its software, and never letting users settle into the new features the company offers. In addition, certain features don’t really work at first, and are more or less forgotten a year later. (Think of Handoff and Continuity, which were unusable for many users when first released. Now that they work fairly consistently for most users, Apple has ignored them, and no longer talks about them.)
This is part of the post-PC era, the fact that there aren’t many hardware changes that can be made to computing devices. Companies that were used to a robust hardware release schedule will probably slow down, as it’s getting harder and harder to spin a new device and make people think it’s really new.
The tech press is partly to blame for this. We need something to write about, so when Apple said the 6s was entirely new, lots of tech writers fell for the spin and treated the phone as though it was something more than just a nudge to the iPhone 6. Sure, you can benchmark a phone, and find that it’s faster, but I don’t think anyone with a one- or even two-year old phone ever feels that it’s not fast enough.
Apple should make the release schedule for iPhones similar to that of computers. They don’t rush out a laptop upgrade every year, but wait until they have something compelling to release. And they don’t try to spin these new models as revolutionary, they just say “the fastest Apple laptop ever,” which will always be the case, since processors do get faster.