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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

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

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