If this was the late 90s, we would be talking about how much smaller a phone can get – it’s even spoofed in the movie Zoolander. Then, of course, the iPhone came along and said, “Maybe we’re having the wrong conversation here…” The problem is that when a new product line comes along, it’s like a new genre of music: you get a creative burst early on and there’s this initial euphoria of a new class of product that wears off after a while and you move into a cycle of incremental advances.
"If this was the late 90s, we would be talking about how much smaller a phone can get"
That said, next year’s 10th-birthday iPhone is reported to have a major form-factor redesign. It’s going to have a higher-quality OLED display and will be the most significant redesign since the iPhone 6 in 2014.
The other thing to consider is Apple’s big push into AI. They’ve been criticised in the past for not investing enough in this compared to companies like Google and they’ve really started to turn it around. They’re now shifting away from hardware sales, or at least embracing the idea that Apple should be a company that is also about software. The voice-activated 'assistant' Siri was an enormously significant development when it shipped with the iPhone in 2011, but then they fell behind until this year’s iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, which have both had a real focus on AI.
One misconception is that Apple plans to replace the iPhone with the Apple Watch. As an Apple executive once told me, Apple has never been afraid to eat its own babies. At the launch of the original iPhone, Steve Jobs talked about it as being an iPod that did some other things as well – he threw the iPod under the bus.
So if sales and technology dictated, it wouldn’t cling to the idea that it had to have the iPhone as its main revenue generator or the way that people communicated with each other, but I don’t think these are products that are competing for exactly the same use cases. If anything, what people criticise is that a lot of what the Watch can do is the same as the iPhone, and what we’ll see over the next few years is the two product lines diverging rather than converging.