Apple has its flattest ever iPhone launch

Incremental component tweaks and a spot of light compliance meant Apple’s big product launch event struggled to emerge from the shadow of more interesting stories.

As has now become the norm, Apple launched a range of four models: the iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, starting at £799, £899, £999 and £1,199 respectively. The Pro ones tend to have the very latest component upgrades while the specs of the vanilla ones tend to be more in line with last year’s Pro ones.

To be fair to Apple, apart from the questionable utility of foldy phones, there has been little true innovation in the smartphone space for years, with most launches amounting to little more than incremental spec upgrades. But through its premium pricing and liberal historical use of superlatives to describe everything it produces, the bar is set higher for the US gadget giant, from which even the canned quotes felt flat this time.

“This is the most pro lineup we have ever created, with a state-of-the-art titanium design, the best iPhone camera system yet that enables game-changing new workflows, and the A17 Pro chip, which ushers in a new chapter of performance and games never before seen on iPhone,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing. “iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max represent the best of Apple design and industry-first innovations to help enrich the everyday experiences of our users, while enabling them to unleash their creativity.”

“iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus represent a huge leap forward with exciting camera innovations that inspire creativity, the intuitive Dynamic Island, and the A16 Bionic chip for proven powerful performance,” said Kaiann Drance, Apple’s VP of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing. “We’re also pushing the power of computational photography to new levels this year with a 48MP Main camera featuring a new 24MP default for super-high-resolution photos, a new 2x Telephoto option, and next-generation portraits.”

Having been forced into it by the EU, Apple has switched its charging port format from Lightning to USB-C, which makes sense anyway. Of course, that means a bunch of Apple peripherals will now require an adapter to work with the new phones. A company less margin-obsessed might have chucked one into the box as a gesture of goodwill but instead Apple expects you to shell out 29 quid on a branded one. The fact that there are plenty on Amazon for under a tenner indicates how much margin Apple has built into that price.

The press releases featured nods to ‘the environment’, reiterating an Apple pledge to make all its products ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030. There does seem to be a fair bit of recycling going on, which is good, but for some reason leather is now considered naughty. That’s especially bad news for the watches, of which the latest lot are apparently already carbon neutral.

“At Apple, we have a longstanding and proven commitment to leading the fight against climate change,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. “Our focus on renewable energy and low-carbon design has already driven industry-leading emissions reductions, and we’re not slowing down. We’ve achieved an important milestone in making the world’s most popular watch carbon neutral — and we will keep innovating to meet the urgency of the moment.”

When the most noteworthy elements of a major product launch are a forced change in charging port and some ESG positioning, it’s unlikely to get pulses racing. These launches were overshadowed by Huawei’s apparent breaking of the US blockade and Apple’s admission that it hasn’t got the hang of modems yet. The flatness of the launch event probably doesn’t matter, however, as Apple’s market is proven and incremental upgrades are a formula that seems to be working just fine for its bottom line.


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