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iPhone is no longer the superstar of Apple’s ecosystem (but Tim Cook is doing everything right)

by Contributor

I’m immersed in Apple’s ecosystem of products but the main reason for that might surprise you…

The iPhone’s been the undisputed superstar of Apple’s universe for nearly 15 years, and that’s thanks to a combination of factors. For one, the iPhone is one of the most accessible Apple products, and apart from the $400 starting price of the rapidly ageing iPhone SE, the resale/refurbished smartphone market has a big role to play in that, making the famous Jobs-Wozniak invention more attainable for more people.

That being said, the iPhone is also (by far) the most ubiquitous product Apple makes and sells. Not everyone needs a MacBook, an iPad, AirPods, or an Apple Watch, but everyone needs/has a smartphone nowadays, since it replaces so many legacy devices like a computer, a camera, a multimedia device, and even things like a calculator, a calendar, and… your wallet.

So, there’s no room for comparison there – the iPhone is the Swiss Army knife of Apple’s product portfolio but that’s where Android comes into the picture, offering countless alternatives to what the iPhone is and does, often for a fraction of the price.

And this brings me to the focal point of today’s story, which is that Android’s progress in combination with Apple’s own advancement in different product categories mean I probably wouldn’t be using an iPhone if it wasn’t for my MacBook Air and AirPods Pro. Not the other way around…

The iPhone is no longer the biggest star of Apple’s ecosystem for me, because Apple’s other products are “too good” now

Although the iPhone is still the most important piece of the puzzle within the Apple ecosystem, a few things Apple did in the past few years have changed the way I perceive the iPhone.

The launch of products like the AirPods Pro, and more importantly, the M1 series of MacBooks, mean these products now offer something more special than the iPhone that’d you’d struggle to find anywhere else.

In the case of the AirPods, it’s the class-leading tech that makes them the most balanced pair of wireless earbuds for me. And in the case of the MacBook, Apple literally delivered the biggest shift in consumer grade computers in years, challenging the likes of Intel and Microsoft big time.

While your personal experience might vary, the AirPods Pro and M1 MacBook Air very quickly turned into the “must-have” Apple products in my “daily carry”, and ones I truly believe are the best in their category, and hard to replace (with something better).

PhoneArena might not be the best place to discuss the MacBook but those who’ve used one of Apple’s M-series machines will know how game-changing the performance, battery life, and overall package the M-series Macs offer. I don’t think there’s ever been a better $1,000 (now cheaper) laptop than the M1 MacBook Air, while I can’t say the same about the iPhone.

Meanwhile, today, virtually any Android flagship phone can compete with the iPhone, making what used to be Apple’s superstar product feel a bit less special within Apple’s own world. And yes, this means I can switch from the iPhone to something like a Pixel 8 Pro (which I really like) but I’d probably struggle to find a replacement for my M1 MacBook Air, unless it’s a better MacBook.

Sure, I’d miss practical features I use almost daily, such as AirDrop and the universal copy-paste across Apple devices, but the iPhone would still be the easiest Apple product to give up for me, because those aren’t game-changing features the same way the M1-series of chips have turned the Mac into a laptop that lasts multiple (working) days on a single charge – something very few (if any) Windows laptops can get close to doing.

The iPhone now feels less “essential” than the MacBook and AirPods for me, and less exciting than the Apple Vision Pro… But can Apple make the iPhone cool again?

OK, fine, the iPhone is less essential than the MacBook for me now, but is there a way Apple can bring the iPhone to a place where it feels more difficult to replace for me?

Well, the reality is that devices like earbuds and Apple’s laptops had a lot more catching up to do to become an essential, 9/10 product. Meanwhile, the iPhone was pretty good from the beginning, and this is where context/competition matters.

For example, the iPhone was always the more reliable, faster, smoother to use phone when compared to most Android devices some 5-15 years ago. Not to mention Apple’s far superior software support, which has now been pretty much matched by the likes of Samsung and Google.

This brings me to the “yes” part of the question whether Apple can make the iPhone feel cooler and more irreplaceable for me, and my “groundbreaking” idea has been a thing for a few years now. Of course, that’d be a folding iPhone.

Can Apple make the iPhone feels as “irreplaceable” like the MacBook?

And I’m not saying an iPhone that folds in half would magically become as essential as a MacBook but it’d certainly make for a more exciting phone than any other Apple flagship we’ve seen come out after the iPhone X.Plus, Apple is now trying to dip its toes into “proper” mobile gaming by bringing triple A titles to the iPhone 15 Pro. But what if Tim Cook & Co used all the power of the A17 Pro chip and its engineering expertise to turn the iPhone into a pro-grade computing machine with a feature similar to Samsung’s DeX, which lets you turn your Galaxy Z Fold 5 into a computer when plugged into a monitor?

Either way, this story is more about me putting it out there that the iPhone is no longer the reason I have a MacBook. It feels like it’s the other way around now. Does that mean Apple has something to “fix”? Not, not really. But perhaps there’s a way to make the iPhone feel more… irreplaceable… again? Of course, if “irreplaceable” means exciting/good/innovative. Not iMessage.

But I suppose no matter what part of Apple’s ecosystem holds you in the “walled garden”, Apple wins. But what happens if Intel makes a more powerful and efficient chip than the one in Apple’s MacBooks? And what happens if Sony makes a better pair of wireless earbuds than the AirPods?

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