Apple likely moving iPhone to a one year redesign cycle

“When the Nikkei report that Apple would move iPhone to a three year refresh cycle appeared on May 31, I found it so ludicrous that I decided to simply ignore it,” Mark Hibben writes for Seeking Alpha. “I had already written about the Nikkei’s gratuitous trashing of the iPhone 7 a couple of weeks before. I didn’t think that this latest rumor was even worth writing about.”

“Why do the rumors consistently ignore Apple’s innovation in semiconductors? This would seem to be a glaring omission, considering that Apple took the industry by surprise when it introduced the first 64 bit ARM smartphone processor in 2013 (for the iPhone 5s),” Hibben writes. “Most importantly, Apple doesn’t just license designs from ARM Holdings, but does its own ground up designs that consistently outperform its industry peers. Apple has been producing fresh SOC designs every year, regardless of whether the iPhone is an “s” generation. The next SOC for iPhone 7 will likely put Apple ahead of the pack again. With competitors such as Samsung and Huawei also scratch-designing their own SOCs, Apple couldn’t possibly put this element of the iPhone on a three year refresh cycle.”

“TSMC has all but made it an open secret that it is working on InFO for Apple’s next SOC, slated to go into iPhone 7. This will be the first ever use of InFO in a high volume mobile device. InFO will allow an overall reduction in the size and thickness of the current circuit card assembly in the iPhone,” Hibben writes. “Apple is already doing annual design refreshes for the critical components of iPhone: the operating system and processor. So why is Apple supposed to fall back to a three year cycle? Because it can’t afford a one year cycle? Come on. The sensible conclusion is that Apple is moving to a one year cycle.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Death to the S!

Apple should strive to execute annual iPhone updates, in three display sizes if the SE is successful (which we think it will be), and drop the off-year “S” model concept. Apple is certainly big enough and rich enough to do a new iPhone family each and every year. Apple should have killed the tock year “S” model idea years ago.

What’s happened with iPhone is painfully obvious: Apple was at least a year (more likely two years) late with properly-sized iPhones. When iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus finally, blessedly materialized, buyers quite literally stampeded to get them. Then, when faced with such a “tough compare” this year, Apple was still sticking with their ill-conceived “S” model concept – making the tough compare much, much tougher.

The “iPhone 7” family – three models with the same case design and all with 3D Touch — comprised of the 4-inch iPhone 7 SE, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus — should have debuted last September. That would have taken care of the current tough compare with iPhone 6/Plus. Then, this year, the iPhone 8 family, again with a new case design, but now waterproof, with dual cameras, etc. would debut this September. In 2017, perhaps Liquidmetal and AMOLED will be ready go for the iPhone 9. Etcetera. No more “S” years, Apple. Duh.

Had Apple done as we’ve just described, they’d have sold millions more iPhone units this year and millions upon millions more each year going forward.

Apple’s raison d’être is to delight customers. “S” model “tock” year iPhones do not delight customers in the same way as new “tick” year models. Obviously. They’re still the best smartphones on the planet, but they’re just okay. A bit of a meh. We all know that “S” models exist so Apple can wring out nice margins from existing designs and tooling, not expressly to delight customers. When Apple strays from its main goal is when things get wobbly. Just delight customers, Apple, and the world will beat a path to your door.

If we didn’t work for MacDailyNews, we’d have skipped the iPhone 6s Plus and held onto our iPhone 6 Plus units with no qualms – and we’re the most rabid Day One iPhone buyers you’ll ever find.

Why have an annual iPhone upgrade program, if you’re not going to wow us annually with new iPhones? — MacDailyNews, April 12, 2016

Apple, enough with the stupid iPhone ‘S’ naming already.

iPhone “S” years usher in hugely significant features, such as oleophobic displays, significant GPU improvements, world phone capability, Siri personal assistant, video stabilization, panorama photos, 64-bit processors, TD-LTE support, Touch ID, and 3D Touch, among other improvements and additions. Each year’s iPhone deserves its own number. By not doing so, Apple is shooting itself in the foot; handicapping iPhones with an “S” every other year. Why Tim Cook or Phil Schiller haven’t put an end to this stupid – yes, stupid – “S” naming is inexplicable. Why don’t you just name it “iPhone No Big Deal This Year,” Tim and Phil?

Here’s what you say onstage and in the press release when there’s no “iPhone 7s” and you jump directly from iPhone 7 to iPhone 8: “The improvements are such that the new iPhone deserves its own number.” Period. Done. Mission accomplished. It’s your naming convention, Apple, and you can correct your stupid mistake at any time.MacDailyNews, September 16, 2015


  1. What nonsense. It’s always been on a one year design cycle. Too many are concerned with changes hardware cosmetics, as if that had anything to do with increasing functionality and capability each year. Personally, I love exterior design of the 5, 5s, and 5SE better than the 6 models and I wouldn’t mind if they stuck with that exterior design for a few years.

      1. Only those suffering from Tech ADHD. How many hard “forms” do you think cell phones can even ergonomically take that aren’t future projected floating 3D holograms, and even that is far too public to be practical. People like private devices that huddle close.

        Even cars have been the same for about a hundred years with mostly changes in technology & safety but 4 wheels and body proportions, gas/brake pedals the same. Maybe the Dymaxion car with it’s 3 wheels tried but also failed.

        Current device cosmetics are damn nice. Not much will change there except colors, touch screen and displays. And with Force Touch Apple is actually ahead of the pack.

        1. Very short sighted imo.
          How can you even come close to comparing cosmetics of cars from the past to now..( not talking about what you prefer.. But rather change)
          One of the biggest changes and efforts on cars is the cosmetic design.. Inside and out.
          And one of the biggest hooks … I might add.

          Cosmetics in most consumer products is of critical value.

          1. Cell phone form is pretty much settled and other than software and a few superficial improvements there is precious little wow factor left. Not since 2007 has that happened to the extent people seem to think it can happen today again.

            1. I guess in your book creativity amd imagination have been exhausted right?…. Nope … there is no limit to imagination and design.
              Keep this in mind when you look back 5 years from now.

            2. Once again when I loll at the car most of the improvements are merely maki g the same essential design function better. With Tesla it’s “merely” replacing the means of powering the vehicle which is STILL essentially the same design. Most of these improvements are “under the hood.” So while I agree creativity and imagination are limitless with certain form factors they are limited to the desired form and innovations are mostly in or outside of the same form.

      2. I’ll chime in here again. I love good high quality design inside and out. I hold an undergraduate and masters degree in industrial design from two very well respected universities and for much of my career I was a designer in the trenches doing detailed design work.

        But changing the exterior of the iPhone just for the sake of a cosmetic design change strikes me as disingenuous and unworthy. It’s similar to putting tail fins on cars in the 50s and 60s, something most designers today think was cool for its time but also abhorrent by today’s much higher standards. Cosmetic change without being driven by functional change just doesn’t sit well and I’ll bet you a dollar Sir Jony feels he same way.

        Which is why Apple has been pushing in to fashion. Witness the plethora of AppleWatch bands and iPhone cases. As an industrial designer, Sir Jony probably will never be totally at ease with fashion. But he recognizes that fashion will play an increasingly important role in differentiating various Apple products. You are right in that people want something different each year so they can say I have something new and unique, something that will identify them and broadcast who they are and what they value.

    1. kinda reminds me of detroit, all through the 50’s 60’s and maybe early 70’s, constantly expending capital on yearly restyles, like bigger fins or flashier chrome bumpers when in the long run they would have better spent that money on more efficient engines rather than bigger ones, etc.

      it often amazes me that so many designers seem to disregard frank lloyd wrights famous and proven dictum : form follows function.

      functionality and capability rules, but when it is wrapped in an appealing and stylish package, so much the better, you get the best of both worlds.

      otherwise all you get is candybar.

      1. The commies had that plan for cars… and our engineers have been making constant making upgrades to efficiency. There has never been any “engine stagnancy.” Compare the engines of the 1912 Brush, a 1927 Oakland, a 40 Ford V-8, a 55 Buick 8, a 1965 Hemi, an ’85 Ford 5.0, a ’95 Northstar, 2015 Ford 2.7 liter v6 that is put into the F-150.

  2. I think that there are a lot of misunderstandings about what was meant be a three year refresh. No one was talking about a three year wait between product improvements. They were talking about a three year refresh of major case designs. With the iPhone 7, we can see that the case is barely modified from my iPhone 6+. That’s what’s being said.

    1. Help me understand. So does this mean you require Apple to not provide features that can fit in a larger model but not in a smaller one? Or does that mean that they shouldn’t make a phone so small it can’t hold all the features they can fit in a larger model?

  3. The iPhone is on multiple schedules as technology becomes ready. CPU/GPU tends to be every year, but other changes can occur in longer periods, such as display technology and component parts. What’s really being referenced is exterior design. Ornamentation was largely stripped from cellphone design with the first iPhone and really, the current iPhone is not very different from the first. Therefore, to expect radical design changes for the iPhone is not understanding Apple.

  4. I don’t see any economic value in a 1-year refresh cycle that requires a change in form every year. From economies of scale, to a healthy accessory market, it makes sense to NOT change the form factor any more often than necessary (not to mention the fact that if you have to change it too often, you end up being forced to get rid of things that work just so people can feel like it’s different on the outside). So many companies are victims of this thinking (Samsung is a prime example of this dilemma) that their profits suffer because their R&D spending gets increased, their production lines are constantly being retooled, quality suffers, and innovation becomes confused. The auto industry is another example – constantly taking things that work and making them worse just to call it new. And if there’s no change in the form factor, why should it be designated with a new number, rather than just the “S”? It’s not like you’re fooling anyone. That’s like saying you should only use even numbers, or that it should go from the iPhone 6S to the iPhone 20, so people think even more things have changed inside.

    There’s just no sense in picking on the S designation. It’s a just a windmill – it just does what its supposed to do, and it will never be an evil giant (Don Quixote reference, for you younglings). Find something useful to rail about. The S isn’t hurting Apple (or AAPL) in any meaningful way.

    1. But myriad observers (e.g. MDN and adman Ken Segal) have argued that they might be giants, in the sense that names DO matter to people, enough to move the needle on sales. Perception is reality, at least part of the time, because our brains are wired that way, and admen know this and exploit the psychology of it all the time.

      You seem to be saying that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but Shakespeare wasn’t into mass merchandising.

  5. No they are not. This is one of the most insane things repeated in the Apple blogosphere. It’s simply an insane notion.
    What’s happening is that people are conflating the need to keep the 6 around for another year because their new design was not ready, to having the so-called iPhone 7 on a one year cycle. Which is not the case. It’s the 6 hanging around for another year, not the 7 being a one off and a trend.

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