Commentary

Apple's newest iPhone relies on cameras to hide its lack of innovation

VIDEO13:1713:17
Apple isn't innovating with the iPhone like it used to

The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are Apple's newest phones, and both tout a triple-camera setup. But this is not new. In fact, Apple is one of the last smartphone manufacturers to include a wide-angle lens on its phones. LG added a wide-angle lens to its G5 and V20 phones in 2016, and Samsung introduced it on the Galaxy S10 and S10+ early in 2019. Besides cameras, Samsung has experimented with folding screens, mobile desktop interfaces, gesture controls, and more in the past year.

Apple, the company that created the modern-day smartphone, is relying on technology customers are already extremely familiar with, like cameras, and taking a backseat when it comes to smartphone innovation. But the company's dedication to familiar technology could be a benefit to the iPhone lineup.

Companies that make Android devices have a roster of smartphone firsts that later found their way to Apple products. Motorola built in a fingerprint sensor on its Atrix 4G phone back in 2011, two years before the iPhone 5S brought TouchID to the iPhone. Also in 2011, Samsung introduced large phones with its Note series, creating the "phablet," or phone-tablet hybrid, something Apple mimicked with its Plus and Max versions of iPhones starting with the 6 Plus in 2014.

At times, however, these innovations came at the cost of quality. Take the Samsung Galaxy Fold, for example. Though Samsung wasn't the first phone company to release a foldable smartphone, it was the largest company to do so and created the most buzz around the technology in the U.S. The phone has had its problems, however, with users reporting numerous problems with the screen and hinge mechanism.

Apple knows what its customers want. According to a recent study, the camera is one of the five most important features in a smartphone for customers. Apple ticked that box on the iPhone 11 Pro lineup. This same poll also suggested battery life, ease of use, memory, and durability are important to phone buyers. Most of these technologies were addressed with the iPhone 11. Apple's reliance on familiar technologies also allows the company to focus on new ventures, such as Apple TV+, and to explore other devices and services Apple has not made public yet.

Looking at Apple's history as the creator of the modern smartphone, it's disappointing to see a lack of innovation on the newest iPhones. It's also hard to argue with Apple's decisions when it holds a 41% market share of smartphones in the U.S. We'll just have to wait and see what Apple has in store for 2020.