Dec 14

That was fast: Apple is doomed again

I woke up yesterday to a Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt with this opening thought: “Apple was doomed at the start of the year. Now it can do no wrong. What the hell happened?”

Funny how all that talk of doom dissipated overnight when Apple unveiled iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Now iPhone sales are through the roof. Samsung profits are plummeting. AAPL stock is in record territory. And Wall Street analysts continue to raise their target prices.

But Philip isn’t entirely correct. Refusing to accept defeat, a small band of rebels has fled to the hills, from where they still lob an occasional grenade in Apple’s direction.

For sheer entertainment value, let us marvel at two recent articles.

On December 22nd, Market Watch ran a story by Quentin Fottrell entitled 10 Things Apple Won’t Say. Trust me, you won’t find insight like this anywhere else.

Things Apple Won’t Say #1: We’re running out of ideas.

Just three months after that September mass unveiling, I think we can all agree Apple won’t say that.

But of course, Quentin’s point is quite the opposite. He starts with a positive quote from Morningstar analyst Brian Colello about the record-setting performance of iPhone 6. Then he drops that horrifying other shoe: “There’s just one problem: Colello doesn’t see the company developing another blockbuster product anytime soon — and neither do a lot of other industry experts.”

Even by doomsayer standards, this is a remarkable leap. One potential blockbuster, Apple Pay, has barely launched. Another potential blockbuster, Apple Watch, is still three months away. Yet Quentin and his expert witness smell disaster because they don’t see a next blockbuster product. Good grief.

Two juicy quotes from this section will give you a sense of this fellow’s credibility:

“The much-anticipated Apple Watch is also a riff on existing smartwatches, such as Samsung’s Gear S.”

“Samsung is killing it on the wearable devices. It’s integrating hardware and software, which used to be Apple’s domain.”

No further comment necessary.

Things Apple Won’t Say #2: Our customers have upgrade fatigue.

Here, Quentin notes the tremendous surge in iPhone 5 and 5s trade-ins by those anxious to get a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. While you or I, or an average chimpanzee, might see this as an indication of excitement over the new iPhones, Quentin sees the dark side. There is a huge market for those second-hand phones because they’re cheaper and they do quite enough.

Damn Apple and its incessant innovating!

Of course, Quentin fingers Apple as the prime offender when it comes to upgrade overload. The number of new Samsung devices released in the past two years, which dwarfs Apple’s output, seems to have eluded him.

I’m afraid to look into Quentin’s mind, but I do wonder what advice he would offer Apple in this regard. Perhaps eliminate the annual updates? Surely that would convince the world that Apple isn’t running out of ideas.

Quentin’s “10 Things” list goes on and on, getting sillier with each number.

Apple is ruining our sex lives because its products are addictive. Apple users spend more money online than Android users. Apple reels us in with a “soft sell” in the Apple Stores. Apple is hooking us for life with its well-developed ecosystem.

In other words, he sees each of Apple’s areas of excellence as a danger sign.

As the coup de grâce, Quentin reminds us that the smartwatch phase “feels like a passing trend,” and that Samsung will “continue to put heat on Apple” in the coming months — even though it’s Samsung that has been publicly wilting under the heat for the last year.

For another burst of insight, we turn to PYMTS.com, where, on December 5th, one David Evans contributed an analysis of Apple Pay.

David says that after Apple Pay was announced, he was skeptical because few merchants would accept Apple Pay and few people would have the required iPhone 6.

Now, he says, “I’m ready to call it, and much earlier than I thought I would.”

So, in bold type, he calls it: “Apple Pay is fizzling. And unless it drastically changes course, Apple Pay will follow the hundreds of other attempts made around the world in the last seven years that have sputtered along at low levels of use or, much more frequently, have just flat-out died.”

David reaches his conclusion based on a Black Friday survey of 400 people who could have used Apple Pay, but only 5% actually did. If that small sample of shoppers was leery of Apple Pay, there’s a serious problem with the concept, right?

Well, on December 19th — just two weeks after David published his article — far more substantial numbers were published by the research firm ITG. Their research was based on the first full month in which Apple Pay was enabled, during which 60% of Apple Pay users made multiple purchases. Their report also said that Apple Pay customers would be using the service for more than 5% of future purchases.

In just that first month, Apple Pay took 1% of the total digital retail purchases. Google Wallet, after being marketed for three full years, and being widely available in tens of millions of NFC-equipped Android phones during that time, accounted for only 4%. Yet in David’s world, Apple Pay is a fizzle.

For the last couple of years, the Quentins and Davids of the world were on a roll. Without Steve Jobs, and without any new product revolutions, the negative stories were easier to swallow.

These days, it just takes a lot more imagination to write negative stories about Apple. Which is why we’re seeing so few of them.


  • Jm

    Fix the operating systems!!!!!!

  • jamesdbailey

    Is this non-sequitor tuesday? No one told me.

  • Jurassic

    Non-sequitor Tuesday follows Moronic Monday. He could be celebrating both “special” days.

    (͡° ͜ʖ°)

  • “But Philip isn’t entirely correct.” He rarely is. After all, this is the guy who couldn’t understand why Apple didn’t stream The Interview until December 28th. For some reason, for a guy who is supposed to be “connected to Apple”, he didn’t know THEY WERE CLOSED for the week….

  • Thank you, Shawn. ;)

  • Anthony

    I am a huge fans of Apple.
    I love my iPhone 4s & ready to buy a new MacBook.
    But, I regret to admit that , in the view of aesthetic, Apple is really less as addictive as before.
    The back of iPhone 6 and both the outlook and the UI of the Apple Watch really make me disappointed.
    Still, the functional side of Apple products are really great.
    But, without a beautiful outlook, is it still Apple?
    Anyone got the same feeling?

  • Anthony

    I am a huge fans of Apple.
    I love my iPhone 4s & ready to buy a new MacBook.
    But, I regret to admit that , in the view of aesthetic, Apple is really less as addictive as before.
    The back of iPhone 6 and both the outlook and the UI of the Apple Watch really make me disappointed.
    Still, the functional side of Apple products are really great.
    But, without a beautiful outlook, is it still Apple?
    Anyone got the same feeling?

  • “Another potential blockbuster, Apple Watch, is still three months away”

    Huh? When did Apple announce march?

  • Herding_sheep

    Nope. The Apple Watch UI looks great and pure Apple. Nothing’s changed about that. Visually, I think it’s some of the best and most thought through things Apples software teams have done in many years. In terms of real design, can’t really say until it ships and we all get to play with one. But purely on a visual design level, the Watch UI looks to have just as much flair and beauty as we’ve come to expect from Apple.

    While the back of the iPhone 6 is not as sexy as the 5, it has a purpose. That design is there for a reason. Apple chose functional design over aesthetics, and tried to make that functional design look as good as possible. It has a different antennas architecture than any other smartphone, even the ones that copied the “frame is the antenna” approach that they all mocked when the iPhone 4 launched. The 6 has dual cellular antennas, and they also somehow incorporated a completely unheard of NFC antenna design through some sort of wizardry in the top external antenna. I find this to be highly encouraging that Apple chose something more functional over pure aesthetics this time. Sometimes Apple treads too far towards aesthetics at the cost of function, but this time they didn’t.

  • ksegall

    Wasn’t being literal. All we know is “early next year,” which in Apple time means at least three months into the year.

  • Damnit.

  • Anyone got the same feeling?

    No. No I don’t.

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