Where was the innovation at Apple’s iPhone 11 ‘By innovation only’ event?

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New Delhi | Updated: September 12, 2019 3:23:08 PM

Apple's innovation was absent from the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 5

At Apple’s ‘By innovation only’ event on Tuesday, September 10, CEO Tim Cook made some of his platitudinous claims, including that the iPhone model from the previous year was the company’s best-selling device. Undoubtedly, iPhones bring brand equity with them, which everyone desires to possess. But while some of them do manage to possess the latest iPhone models, only to later realise there is a huge assortment of smartphones offering much more than even the latest iPhone models. This year, we have three iPhone models – the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max – replacing last year’s iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, only in a few departments.

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One thing that makes the 2018 models look dated is the camera. The iPhone 11 series has one camera more than what its prequel had, which comes down to iPhone 11 having two cameras now, and iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max having three cameras now. Of course, there is a new chipset – the Apple A13 Bionic – powering the latest iPhone models. Apple claims A13 Bionic is its “most ambitious chip”, delivering much higher power than last year’s A12 Fusion chip that powers the iPhone XS and iPhone XR phones. There is also a new neural signalling processor to render better photographs than the ones produced by last year’s iPhones. One interesting addition to the cameras this year is Slofie, which is a cheeky name given to slow-motion selfie videos.

Now, let us go through everything we mentioned above. Does any feature or piece of hardware on iPhone particularly entice you enough to believe it is actually an innovation?

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Three cameras? Well, major flagships, mid-range, and even budget phones today have three camera sensors. While the number of megapixels on the camera doesn’t necessarily determine how good and well-detailed a photograph is going to turn out, many OEMs have emphasised the otherwise, which is why we will soon be witnessing the launch of a 64-megapixel camera phone, and some weeks later, the one with a whopping 108-megapixel camera.

Specifically talking about the iPhone, its cameras have been one of the best in the smartphone industry. But Apple missed out on the innovation it screamed about so loud in the teasers for the event. There are two things, give or take, that make the cameras on iPhone 11 series better than the ones on Galaxy Note 10+ or Huawei P30 Pro, in terms of utility. Performance of the cameras on the iPhone 11 series is yet to be tested in reviews, so that jury is still out on that.

Now, the A13 Bionic chip. Well, Apple’s System-on-Chips have outperformed Qualcomm’s flagship processors multiple times. The benchmark scores are still to come for the A13 Bionic. Maybe it outshines the Snapdragon 855 Plus but there is a huge component missing on the chipset – the 5G modem. After Qualcomm launches its Snapdragon X50 modem for 5G networks, Huawei and Samsung introduced their own versions of chipset powered by 5G network modems, the Kirin 990 5G and Exynos 980, respectively. This year’s iPhone models do not support 5G because Apple is holding out on the implementation of its 5G technology.

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The holding pattern that Apple is currently employing to enter the 5G market could prove to be advantageous for the company but, at the same time, it cascades down Cupertino-based company’s position in the race against the rivals. And the innovation will, maybe, arrive with next year’s iPhone models.

Everything aside, at least for once, Apple did not even mention one thing that is actually a harbinger for good news in the technology world so overwhelmed with AI and ML – Siri. Siri was no where to be found at the event, it’s like Apple hit a pause on it.

Now, Apple Watch Series 5 had one thing that everyone cheered for – the Always-On Display. Well, it seems rosy that Apple Watch models may finally be able to tell the user the time and other notifications all the time, without requiring them to hit the button every time. But isn’t it something WearOS and Galaxy Watch already have? Apple’s innovation in Always-On Display on Watch Series 5 seems far-fetched anyway.

With Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade, even Apple is admitting the onset of slump in the sales of smartphones, let alone its exorbitant iPhones. App subscriptions is the new revenue stream that even Apple wants to row its boat into. Particularly in India, Apple is offering both Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade services at Rs 99 per month each – the former being dramatically cheaper than what its rival from the homeland offer here, in addition to the homegrown ones. It’s almost a breakthrough pricing, coming from Apple that has adamantly disregarded the concept of predatory pricing in sensitive markets such as India.

Apple may still have a way out of the increasing saturation in the smartphone market with the services it is delving into. But it simultaneously does not need to rebuff the very product that made it one of the most-valued companies globally – the iPhone. And it can only be achieved if there is actually some innovation in them, maybe as outlandish enough to make its nemesis roll their eyes.

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