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The actual takeaways from the iPhone 15 event
Now that the dust has settled after the iPhone 15 announcement, let’s take a look at the actual takeaways from the event. After every iPhone event, the reactions are always the same:
“It looks the same”
“Apple doesn’t innovate anymore”
“Apple is nothing without Steve Jobs”
These comments focus on the wrong thing. On a device that sets the industry standard, large changes will never be made; but the small iterations that are made set the tone for the rest of the industry and beyond.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the actual meaningful (and often unnoticed) changes made to the iPhone 15 and what they mean for you: the consumer.
USB-C: One cable to rule them all.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: USB-C has won. Not only is this a win for USB-C, this is a win for all of us. Going forward, USB-C is the only standard protocol for data and power transfer on consumer devices. Gone are the days of traveling with both lightning and USB-C cables.
Now that the last major player has transitioned to USB-C, think about the impact that it will likely have on minor players that still resist switching. There’s now an expectation that one cable can charge all devices. Even though USB-C was popular in consumer devices before Apple made this shift, there wasn’t an expectation of it working with everything. What this likely means is even cheap electronics purchased on Amazon will shift toward USB-C as it gets cheaper to implement. No more having that one device you still need to hang onto you micro USB for.
Lightweight. Curved Edges. Titanium.
Durable and lightweight consumer electronics used to be just a dream. Apple’s upgrade to the Pro models brings both of these qualities to the device people use the most each day. These materials start out expensive and only available to Pro users, but show us what we can expect on cheaper devices in a few years’ time.
Imagine a world where AppleCare+ or a bulky case aren’t a necessity. Durable consumer technology could save consumers $3 billion in screen repair costs alone. Titanium is more durable than steel and it also allows Apple to curve the edges of the device to make it more comfortable to hold without sacrificing the durability of the phone.
The comfort of holding the phone is also increased due to the lightweight nature of titanium. As someone with arthritis, this boost in comfort is a huge deal. While the material itself brings the weight of the Pro models down ~10%, the titanium being around the edges of the phone reduces the moment of inertia of the phone to make the reduction in weight feel closer to 15%.
Your Move, Nintendo
This isn’t the first phone with ray tracing. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra was released with ray tracing in February; however, the Samsung Galaxy phones aren’t considered the gold standard for the industry. iPhone features are.
Compute advancements are super important, but it’s also equally important to get those advancements into a usable form factor for consumers. I remember when ray tracing was first released in high-end GPUs. It was cool, but it was unaffordable. A few years later, many people were enjoying ray tracing in their PC. Now, this graphical advancement is available in our pocket.
Ray tracing makes mobile gaming actually a thing. This is an area currently dominated by dedicated mobile gaming devices such as the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. Nintendo and Valve will have to make improvements to their devices now that anyone just needs to throw a Backbone on their phone for a better mobile gaming experience.
4nm → 3nm Processor
People are disappointed about only a 10% increase in performance for the iPhone Pro. I think this is misguided, not only because 10% is actually quite the jump, but also because the new processor isn’t focused solely on maximizing the performance—it’s focused on maximizing the performance per watt.
Apple’s new A17 Pro chip switches from a 4 nanometer processor to a 3 nanometer processor. The smaller transistors create a chip that achieves better performance per watt. This means a faster iPhone that uses less of your battery. As mentioned before, higher performing devices are great, but they need to be in a consumer-ready form factor. Better battery life is crucial for the latter.
The iPhone now contains a Thread radio.
Speaking of power consumption, the iPhone now contains a Thread radio. “Thread” is a wireless, low-power, mesh networking solution that supports communication over IP. That sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but think of it as an efficient, more secure, faster, and multi-device bluetooth.
Thread protocol is the basis of an open standard smart home setup called Matter. The goal of Matter is to create a smart home protocol that works across devices regardless of the manufacturer. It leverages Thread radios to make this communication fast, secure, and power efficient. Instead of pressing a button your phone and waiting a second or two for your lights to turn on, it can be as quick as flicking the light switch.
Apple could potentially use this protocol in place of their current bluetooth applications. Theoretically, this can be used to improve the communication between all your bluetooth devices.
Change Your Focus
At the next product launch you watch, instead of thinking solely about the incremental improvements to the product think about the technology introduced and what that means for the bigger picture.
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