Has Apple Lost its Direction?

It is safe to say that, over the last decade or so, Apple has cemented itself at the forefront of the tech industry. Currently, MacBooks and iPhones are seen everywhere, and the Torero Store at the University of San Diego even sells exclusively Apple products.

Although Apple computers had always had significant market share, and continue to do, the Apple brand experienced an enormous rise in popularity with the 2007 release of the original iPhone. It was an innovation that the world had not experienced before.

By 2012, Apple reported its best quarterly earnings in company history, with 53 percent of its revenue coming from 37 million iPhone sales. With the outstanding sales of the iPhone 4 and 4s, Apple was able to take the crown for the most popular cell phone manufacturer from long-time holder, Nokia.

Apple’s recipe for success seems to have been built upon innovation and simplicity. In a time that was populated by hundreds of phone models, from the average flip phone to the businessperson’s Blackberry, the iPhone stood head and shoulders above the competition. While most phones were designed to only complete basic functions, it became hard to see what criteria to base phone selection on. With the release of the iPhone, the consumer’s’ decision changed forever.

In a sense, we’ve been living in the golden age of the iPhone. Popularity and sales have been steadily increasing since its release. In the past few years, however, Android phones have been issuing a challenge to Apple after its years of seemingly unrivaled dominance in the high-end cell phone market. Part of this is because Apple has seemingly declined in its innovative practices. Each year, the newest iteration of the iPhone appears to be largely unchanged from the previous model year. Apple has also managed to dissuade some customers from its products because of the exclusivity of the Apple ecosystem.

Apple’s thunderbolt and lightning port accessories only work with Apple’s unique port design, rather than traditional USB or Micro USB ports. If you want to buy these products directly from Apple, such as new charging cables or adapters, you can expect to pay its exorbitant prices. Apple also maintains tight control over which applications they allow into the App Store, and they have been notoriously rigid when dealing with developers.

Some consumers have grown tired of Apple’s constrictive business practices and are glad to see that Android has emerged as a real competitor to its once firm grip on the cell phone market.

Junior Cyrus Lange said that he believes Apple might be stagnating as a company.

“Apple products are pretty but overpriced,” Lange said. “They are designed using proprietary software and hardware that turns the Apple ecosystem into a captive market to which they can sell overpriced versions of everything.”

With the controversy around the iPhone 7’s release a few weeks ago, specifically concerning the most notable upgrade, the loss of a headphone jack, it is unsurprising that many are speculating that Apple is finally running out of ideas. From the iPhone 6s to the iPhone 7, Apple has improved the screen display, camera quality, battery life, made the product water resistant and added a haptic touch sensor  on the phone instead of the traditional home button.

These upgrades are a welcome progression, but it does not appear all that different from an iPhone 6s, leaving many asking where the innovation has gone. The haptic touch sensor also received mixed reviews, with some complaining that it felt odd. Many said that they preferred a traditional button because the haptic sensation can make it feel like the whole bottom of the phone is vibrating.

Unfortunately for Apple, the largest talking point about the iPhone 7 is the fact that they decided to remove the traditional headphone jack in favor of its own lightning port. It does come with a lightning to headphone adapter, but, because the regular port is omitted, it means you cannot charge your phone while listening to music without yet another adapter.

Although some are perhaps overly outraged about the missing headphone jack, it really is not a reason to pass on the iPhone 7 if you are in the market for a new phone. However, if you already own an iPhone 6 or 6s, there may not be a significant reason to buy the iPhone 7.

It is looking like the iPhone 7 is more like a rehashed, slightly upgraded version of the iPhone 6s. It is a great phone simply because it has been built upon an already successful platform. Although, for this year’s update, Apple’s customers may find themselves wondering how they can justify paying another $649 for a phone that is not incredibly different than the last version.

This could be Apple’s most underwhelming iPhone release in its history, and they could be leaving themselves vulnerable to competition. Your move, Android.

By Walker Chuppe, Arts and Culture Editor