This story is part ofCNET’s collection of news, tips, and advice on Apple’s most popular products.
When Apple executives take to the stage at the company’s Steve Jobs Theater in California next week to parade the iPhone 14, as widely expected, you probably won’t notice many changes to the phone. Rumors suggest that the notch for the selfie camera may be smaller, and Apple is likely to make improvements to the newer camera or always-on display technology. But the feature the company will bet on to attract customers will be the one that was introduced two years ago: 5G wireless.
Sure, for some people, 5G is yesterday’s news. For others, it’sthat came before. But increasingly, data is accumulating indicating that 5G has become almost important in today’s iPhones The two features that people pay more attention to when buying their phones. The current wireless standard, which has been available for several years now from all the major US carriers, is also the second most cited reason people tell researchers at consulting firm Deloitte they’ve switched mobile providers, behind “better value for money.”
This is a far cry from how 5G was viewed at launch and in the early years, when the service was launched with so much fanfare.. But carriers have poured billions of dollars into the infrastructure and airwaves to support it, resulting in better service in many places.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of the biggest boosters of 5G, citing it almost every time he’s discussed iPhones in public since he first introduced the technology with. “5G was an acceleration,” When discussing the future prospects for his company’s phone, though and . “I think there is cause for optimism.”
Each year seems to be a test of the iPhone’s continued popularity, and it will continue for good reason this year as well. The iPhone is the company’s single most important product by almost every measure. Apple generated more than $191.97 billion in iPhone sales last year, which is more than half of its total revenue. A lot of iPhone technology has seeped into the rest of her business as well, with related products likeAnd the headphones and They became billion-dollar companies for themselves.
It also helped propel Apple’s value to more than $2.5 trillion, up from the $60.7 billion Wall Street valued the company before the device was first announced 15 years ago. Now, Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, followed by oil giant Saudi Aramco, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, and electric car maker Tesla.
The Big Picture
This year, though, iPhone success won’t just be a measure of sales adding to Apple’s earnings. It would also pioneer the larger economy, giving some sense of whether people are willing to spend at a time when our collective confidence in the economy has fallen to its lowest level in decades. Companies large and small have slowed new hiring or started laying off employees, as Facebook’s smaller social networking rival Snap, did last week.
However, 5G, as yawn-worthy as it is in the tech industry, may be Apple’s key to successfully navigating the faltering economy we all seem to be facing. Wedbush Securities estimates that about 240 million of the 1 billion iPhones used worldwide have not been upgraded in the past three and a half years, and therefore do not run on 5G networks.
Owners of older iPhones will likely upgrade at some point, especially since wireless carriers pack perks likeTo entice people to upgrade. “The iPhone upgrade cycle continues to be underestimated,” Wedbush analysts wrote in a letter to investors earlier this summer. “This continues to maintain Apple’s unique advantage over other powerful companies in technology.”
Dream a little dream about 5G networks
The odd aspect of the 5G upgrade cycle may be that while people buy — as in, they don’t want to buy new non-5G phones — 73% of respondents to Deloitte surveys said they wanted a “better understanding” of what 5G had to offer, and 30% said they Frustrated by the “notable lack of innovative applications and services that take advantage of 5G.”
When carriers started promoting 5G several years ago, they talked about the next generation of wireless technology that could herald a new future filled with science fiction. The promise of 5G has appeared everywhere, fromto me to me .
So far, 5G has largely lived up to its promisesbut that’s about it.
Meanwhile, carriers have convinced people that 5G is necessary in part by turning off legacy 3G service, effectively prompting some people to upgrade and indirectly notifying 4G users that they will eventually be next.
Now, with economic uncertainty looming, people have to think more carefully about purchasing devices that they may not upgrade again for several years.
“If you are going to buy a smartphone, you are going to buy the best you can at a certain price point,” Maribel Lopez, a longtime industry observer and president of Lopez Research. “People have to make serious choices when they are looking at a 30% increase in food costs and a doubling in gasoline prices.”
“No one will buy a 4G phone today unless you need a value phone,” she added.
All of these trends don’t mean Apple’s iPhone is a guaranteed success, with or without worldwide economic disaster.
To improve the introduction of iPhone 14, Apple teams are working hard to deliver software updates to itsuch as new ‘tools’ to add info to the lock screen, undo sending in Mail and .
They are also rumored to be polishing new features like the always-on display, which would allow iPhones to display limited information on the screen even when it’s normally turned off, andwhich can come in handy if you are stranded on a desert highway or in the middle of the ocean.
To some people, all of this may seem like unnecessary features just to get something new on the box this year. But Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, said Apple should be careful to offer important features to early adopters and premium buyers, who are “crucial to brand awareness.”
“You can’t let this super user feel left out or forgotten,” she said. And for everyone else, it expects carriers to provide subsidies and other grants to convince people that the real big changes will be the value they get from the phone.
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