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Apple celebrates the iPhone’s tenth birthday and braces itself for those difficult teen years


Apple CEO, Tim Cook via Flickr © igrec (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • The iPhone's' tenth birthday (can it be so long?)
  • Cook says the best is yet to come
  • Apple's iPhone numbers suggest its best days are behind it

There’s at least two ways of viewing an important anniversary. First as a ‘still standing after all these years’ moment and a sign that somebody must be doing the right thing. Alternatively as a reminder that everything has a half life and that the long trudge down the hill to oblivion has possibly started.

So, on the occasion of its tenth birthday, into which bucket should we shove the iPhone?

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple has no doubts. “iPhone is an essential part of our customers' lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” Apple’s publicity machine has him saying in celebration of the launch day.  “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

Certainly ‘the’ iPhone (to drop the definite article as Apple does is like speaking of yourself in the third person - nasty) has maintained a dedicated cadre of followers who wouldn’t be seen dead pecking into anything else. But it’s also the case that  the competition has caught up. I write as a long-term Apple fan and (until Christmas time) iPhone user. Now I’ve broken ranks to take my calls on a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge - just to see how the other half live.  

My new phone is just fine - fast, well thought-out and reassuringly expensive. The difference between it and the latest iPhone in terms of ‘which is best?’ I’d estimate is now down to personal preference rather than objective comparison.

And that is probably the reason why - for the time being at least - the competitive excitement seems to have gone out of the smartphone market. The front-running smartphones are astoundingly good (as long as they’re not bursting into flames) and their manufacturers are finding it difficult to find some compelling new features against which to market them.

Apple’s latest iPhone was a relative damp squib and, as a result, even Apple with its famously high margins has underperformed this year, failing to meet its own revenue targets.

Of course its numbers are still fantastic, but a good performance in one year always mandates an even better performance in the next.

So this year’s sales shortfall has meant chief executive Tim Cook kissing goodbye to a million dollars or so of his remuneration package according to the company’s SEC filings.

Cook was supposed to deliver  $223.6 billion last year but only managed $215.6 billion, a shortfall of  3.7 per cent. So his total payout of $8.75m in 2016 was down 15 per cent from $10.3 million in 2015 and also down on 2014’s $9.2 million. Other apple execs faced similar pain.

Happy tenth birthday, iPhone.

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