Siri, does X hit the spot for Apple shares?
The launch of the tech group’s new iPhones poses a range of new questions, says James Titcomb
Can a new iPhone reignite sales – or is the party over?
The iPhone has catapulted Apple to becoming the world’s biggest company, with breakneck sales and profits growth repeatedly defying expectations. But in the last two years, growth has been less spectacular and iPhone sales declined for the first time in 2016.
Sales growth slowing down may have been an inevitable consequence of a maturing smartphone market, but analysts also suggest that a lack of must-have features in newer iPhones may have something to do with it. Some are predicting that the new iPhones could trigger a “super-cycle” of upgrades that sets sales racing again. This year’s handsets could answer whether the iPhone just needed an overhaul – or if there isn’t any growth left.
How far can you stretch the limits of what a phone will cost?
The high-end iPhone X revealed last night will cost as much as £1,149, making it the most expensive mass market smartphone in history. Apple’s products have never come cheap, but the psychological threshold of paying more than a thousand pounds or dollars is something else, even for the most loyal of fans.
The super-premium phone also raises questions about where the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus sit. They will cost less, be available in greater quantities, and be available earlier than the iPhone X.
A new iPhone has always been the pinnacle of smartphones; but from day one the iPhone 8 will be in the shadow of the iPhone X. Will that diminish its value in the eyes of consumers? This is a tricky play from Apple that isn’t easy to get right.
What about China?
China is one of Apple’s most important markets, and a crucial one if the company is to start growing again, but things have not been going well there in recent months: sales fell 10pc year on year in the most recent quarter.
WeChat, the Asian messaging application, is the most dominant force in the market, and since it works across iPhones and rival Android devices, analysts have questioned whether Apple can command the loyalty and kudos it does elsewhere.
Tim Cook, the Apple chief executive, has said he is still confident about China, and one feature of the iPhone 8 may help: its name.
Eight is a lucky number in the country, and is associated with prosperity.
Can augmented reality go mainstream?
Virtual reality’s younger sibling, augmented reality (AR), involves computer generated items that interact with the real world via your phone camera’s viewfinder.
AR is one of Cook’s big bets, and the company spent time last night demonstrating its capabilities on stage, from a baseball app that shows players’ details over their heads for fans attending a game to a game showing robots fighting in the middle of a local playground.
Some people think AR could set off a new app boom, just as the introduction of the App Store in 2008 ultimately led to huge businesses like Uber, Snapchat and WhatsApp. But while demos look very impressive, we will have to wait to see how the technology catches on in the real world.
Can the Apple Watch push on?
It’s been three years since the Apple Watch was first unveiled, and while sales have been better than those of its rivals, it has not set the world alight compared to some of Apple’s other products.
New gadgets often take a little time to find their feet, but the new Apple Watch unveiled last night was its third generation. This is typically the point at which a product starts to mature and any early teething troubles are ironed out, so this generation of Apple Watch could determine whether it will become a smash hit or a niche product.
The new model unveiled last night will be able to connect to mobile networks independently, without being wirelessly tethered to an iPhone, allowing owners to make calls and stream music.
Can the HomePod outsmart Alexa?
Apple’s latest product, first unveiled in June and set to be released in December, is the HomePod, a wireless home speaker controlled by its artificial intelligence, Siri. The device is the answer to Amazon’s Echo, which has been a surprise hit and caught other tech companies on the back foot.
Whereas the Echo is known for the capabilities of its voice assistant Alexa, Apple has chosen to focus on the HomePod’s sound quality instead of the power of Siri. Sceptics say this is because Apple has fallen behind in artificial intelligence compared to Amazon and Google.
Last night, the HomePod did not get a mention, but its release is fast approaching. When it goes on sale, the speaker will be more expensive than rivals, at $349. It’s a gamble, and Apple is coming late to this game. It is rarely the first mover in markets, but in this instance, investors may worry it has waited too late.
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, speaks about the Apple Watch during the company’s latest launch at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, yesterday