Apple’s Switch to USB-C Slim Pickings in a Sea of Nominal Upgrades in Latest Devices

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By David McQueen | 4Q 2023 | IN-7100

Apple unveiled its new product lineup on September 12, 2023—generally yearly updates with slightly better designs and some upgrades. The iPhone 15 series now comes with a USB-C charging port, 11 years after the Lightning port’s introduction. Apple is providing a unified experience to consumers across its product lineup, allowing users to access data from any device they choose. Apple is focusing on differentiating its products from other companies with its focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced computing.

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Apple's New Iphone Finally Gets USB-C in a List of Incremental Updates


At Apple’s annual launch event on September 12, 2023, the company unveiled its new product lineup, including the iPhone 15 series, Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, and a refreshed version of AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). As expected, the new devices were regular yearly updates of its main product lines with slightly better designs, and upgrades to chipsets, cameras, and sensors. Importantly, the iPhone 15 series now comes with a USB-C charging port for the first time after eleven years since the introduction of the Lightning connector and the new cameras on the iPhone 15 Pro can capture advanced high-resolution videos that can be played on Apple's first spatial computer, the Vision Pro. Changes to the chassis of the Pro models using grade 5 titanium makes the device lighter compared to its predecessors. It also replaced the mute switch with an “action button” on its iPhone 15 Pro models where users can choose from a host of different actions.

Apple's Latest Devices Set to Maintain the Status Quo in the Premium Sector


Apple’s latest devices unveiled at the launch event do little more than provide incremental changes with a lack of any real innovation in the updates. Digging around to find some upgraded features, the new iPhones with slightly tweaked designs are equipped with Apple’s A17 Pro chip that includes a 6-core Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) delivering support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing for realistic lighting effects. Changes have also been made to the phones’ cameras and will feature a 48-megapixel primary camera capable of improved photos, telephoto zoom, and portrait modes. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 feature a new gesture tool called Double Tap, which is exclusive to the devices, allowing users to double-tap an index figure and thumb together to perform actions or shortcuts. The high-end Apple Watch Ultra 2 also possesses an advanced S9 chip, made mostly from titanium (95%), and with up to 72 hours of battery backup time.

While not brimming with innovation, one notable step was the addition of a USB-C port to the iPhones, joining Apple’s other hardware that has already embraced the connection over the past few years. Apple has finally followed a directive from the European Union (EU) to tackle e-waste by conforming to a standard charger type, making standard USB-C mandatory on all smartphones by the end of 2024. Despite Apple now conforming to the directive, it has made good revenue from selling Lightning cables and its many related accessories, while its Made for iPhone (MFi) program certifies all leads and accessories for use on iPhones and takes a monetary cut for everyone it passes. Moving to USB-C would take away some of this level of control and potential revenue streams. Surprisingly, Apple will provide a USB-C-to-USB-C charging cable out of the box for the new iPhones, although no mention has been made as to what users should do with old Lightning cables.

These latest devices are sure to maintain the market’s status quo with Apple set to continue to dominate the premium segment with its newly launched products, focusing on differentiation and innovation to add more consumers to its ecosystem. As the market for smartphones has been contracting over the past few quarters, there is an upward trend in the share of premium segment devices, which is expected to grow to around a 20% share of total smartphone shipments in 2023. Looking at the new launches, Apple has also moved a step closer to the notion of bringing a unified and immersive experience to consumers across its product lineup through the use of seamless integration.

However, to meet this requirement in demand, Apple needs to make some fundamental changes to its production and manufacturing strategy. Apple has recently faced some supply chain issues due to lockdowns in China, which severely affected shipments of its devices. To help combat this disruption and improve its supply chain, Apple has focused on decreasing its reliance on China for production and has shifted part of its manufacturing operations to India. Indeed, Apple plans to increase is global manufacturing share in India to 25% by 2025, and to 40% by the end of 2027. Notably, iPhone 15 models made in India were, for the first time, made available in the country on the same day as its global availability, whereas it used to take months for the latest iPhone to reach countries like India from the day of its global release.

Focus on AI Is Key to Providing a Unified User Experience


Among the incremental updates to this latest set of devices, Apple is working to enhance its Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities and its commitment to Machine Learning (ML) has grown significantly. While not alone in embracing AI in the mobile devices sector, the company has used ML to provide enhanced functionality in its lineup, such as integrating Siri into most of its apps, providing live transcription of voicemail, improving predictive text recommendations, making double tap gestures available, and including on-device Siri in the Apple Watch Series 9. Moreover, with its step closer to spatial computing, iPhone 15 Pro users can now record spatial videos that can be enjoyed with Vision Pro, while the gesture control feature found in the new Apple Watch is also similar in concept.

With the global market for mobile devices contracting, Apple needs to continuously evolve and bring out products and services that can help users make the most out of the ecosystem, and its focus on AI is key to providing a unified user experience to consumers. Moreover, its development in the field of advanced computing will help the brand integrate and customize its products and services. In addition, it needs to work on an improved supply chain and tie up with different carriers and finance institutions to provide better trade-in and repayment plan options to consumers.

The company should also focus on new form factors, notably as it has yet to launch a foldable device in the industry, while its shift to USB-C may have put on hold the suggestion of hastening the transition to button/port-free smartphones using wireless charging. However, the lack of any real substantial updates in these recent launches provides the feel of the bygone “S” versions, which were just “slight” upgrades, so perhaps users will have to wait another year for a set of products that will really move the innovation needle for Apple.


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