Apple released iPhone 14, and some customers expressed the desire to buy it before the big presentation. People want to have a new version of the iPhone not knowing what to expect from it. So is it worth buying? Or is the surge of upgrading phones every year a part of social pressure?
Apple profits from the subtle social bullying that we see from the kind of lock-in.
PissedConsumer spoke with Juan Carlos Bagnell, also known as Some Gadget Guy – a tech and gadgets expert. Juan explains what to expect from iPhone 14 and future Apple products. He also shares his vision on the future of tech interactions and outlines his perspective on phone manufacture in the next ten years.
Here are the points discussed with our gadgets expert:
- Is iPhone 14 worth buying?
- New Apple regulations
- iPhone or Android?
- What happened to BlackBerry?
- Does Apple want us buy every year?
- Future gadgets
Is iPhone 14 Worth Buying?
Michael: Today we are talking to Juan Carlos Bagnell, known as Some Gadget Guy. Juan, please introduce yourself.
Juan: I'm a consumer electronics and consumer advocate. I like to review gadgets and play with new toys. At the same time, I like to talk about the politics surrounding the tech ecosystem, the tech landscape, especially broadband, right-to-repair issues, and distribution.
I think we're all very concerned about this era of streaming services and social media. So, I get around. I'm on several platforms and I write and produce editorials for different websites.
Michael: iPhone 14 is coming out. A lot of consumers are questioning, does it make sense to buy a new phone. Is the new iPhone better than the old one?
Juan: When we're looking at Apple, they're a pretty secretive company, but there are some patterns that we've seen over a decade of iPhone launches. It's pretty fair to say that this is likely going to be one of the more iterative years for the iPhone. I'm not expecting massive change.
I think what we'll be seeing is a largely aesthetic change with maybe some small improvements to things like processing power. The iPhone 14 Pro specifically, the most expensive iPhone, likely going to be getting a little bit more powerful, probably going to be getting refreshed or tweaked camera sensors.
If we're looking at the rumors, one of the major changes that might come is just the screen cut out, the notch on the front of the phone is going to be redesigned for more of the screen to be seen. It's still going to be these punch holes that cut up the interaction on the front of your phone or the front of your display.
I'll be very surprised if we see anything more drastic than that. I think the bigger changes are going to come when EU regulations dictate that iPhones need to have USB-C ports instead of Lightning connectors. I don't think that's what we're going to see on this next iPhone.
Michael: I hate the fact that we have to use different cables for iPhones and USBs. What's your opinion on that?
Juan: I completely agree. It's one of those things where Apple has held on to an older cable standard because they make more money on licensing. It has ceased being a consumer benefit, having this different cable just for the iPhone. USB-C is ubiquitous. USB-C and Thunderbolt are cable connectors that are used across the whole rest of the Apple ecosystem for iPads, for MacBooks.
We've long passed the time where it made sense for the iPhone to have this older, slower cable standard.
But Apple makes too much money on accessories to just let it go. They needed that encouragement from the EU regulators to come in and give them the nudge to finally catch up with the rest of their products and the industry.
When Will New Apple Regulations Come Into Force?
Michael: When do you expect that change to hit the next iPhone? Is it going to be iPhone 15?
Juan: We can't say for certain. Whenever these regulations come to pass, it seems like we're always willing to give Apple as much runway as they say they need. When it comes to other companies, regulators are often more apt to crack down harder. When we look at similar kinds of changes to business practices for Microsoft and Google, the window is usually much shorter.
I would expect to see that conversation, in earnest, starting up next year for the following year's devices. We might not see the practical implementation of that change until 2024, because of the way that we launch phones in one year and then the phone is designed to last for a year of distribution.
We'll need to see what the exact letter of the regulatory policy is because they might say, "Hey, if you release a phone up to this date, then it can still have this cable connector on it. And then when you cross that date, that's when the next one comes out." Unfortunately, I can't predict that kind of future, but I am hoping that we'll see iPhone 15 making that transition.
What to Choose: iPhone or Android?
Michael: Do you prefer iPhone or Android?
Juan: For my personal use I prefer Android. I am very critical of Apple's business practices. I feel they've entered into a territory of anti-consumer policy, and anti-competitive business practices. I think…
…Apple is due a regulatory or market correction on how they do business…
…not only with their customers but also with other entities like developers and repair outlets. I vote with my wallet for the companies that try to do a better job. Obviously, in the tech landscape, it's a very complicated arrangement of where parts and pieces and manufacturing and distribution happen.
There are going to be pitfalls and problems across all sections of the tech industry, especially today. But I feel the way that Apple leads the discussion with the customers, tends to harm their customers more. Then they set a bad precedent for the rest of the industry to follow.
I can still speak iPhone if we were talking about these being different languages. I can appreciate what Apple does well because I think there are several things that Apple does well. My issues with Apple tend to be more corporate and political.
The way those decisions trickle down from the top of the corporation into the products and services that we use on the ground, I feel the direction Apple is heading is unsustainable and sort of a wealth extraction or a consumer lock-in. It's created out of pain points.
They've got so much political pressure they can apply, I feel that relationship needs to be examined in the way that Apple can lobby for practices that support their profits at the expense of the consumer experience.
Michael: My kids prefer iPhones. Do you feel that the younger generation prefers more iPhones than Androids or in reverse?
Juan: I'm old enough that I might not be totally on the pulse for younger consumers. In general, as we look at the sales trends in the United States, and North America specifically, obviously this changes when we look at different regions and what companies are more competitive around the globe.
I feel Apple's presence in the market is a twofold marketing strategy that Apple has been tactically successful at. Apple is a consumer brand that has marketed a feeling on its products for generations. If you can think back to the earliest of Steve Jobs era, internet-connected iMac devices…
…we're now into the third generation of consumers that inform their family purchases through feel-good marketing.
Today, Apple exists as a pain point and consumer lock-in company. It is very easy to get into the Apple ecosystem. It is very difficult to leave it. Apple profits from the subtle social bullying that we see from the kind of lock-in.
You've been keeping up with the court case between Apple and Epic. We got court transcripts talking about how iMessage was designed to be a pain point. It was designed to disrupt family communications between iPhones and Androids. Now today, we see that social pressure, if you have the wrong color iMessage, then you're often ostracized from group chats.
Unfortunately, that's the kind of pressure we see applied. I don't see so many young consumers today passionate about the iPhone as much as they are passionate about not being excluded from their peers and their activities and those online conversations. We're overdue a more frank discussion with parents to say, "This is the kind of social manipulation that Apple encourages to make as much money per consumer interaction as they can."
What Happened to BlackBerry?
Michael: I don't know why, but it brings to mind another company that used to be very popular and their devices were a sign of wealth, great job. The name of that company is BlackBerry.
Juan: Oh yeah, BlackBerry. You'd hear that alert and you just couldn't help yourself from picking up your little keyboard-enabled phone. I still have the last couple of generations of BlackBerries.
Michael: BlackBerry is nowhere today.
Juan: They completely misread the market. This is where Apple deserves credit. At that time, we had business-grade corporate communications devices and these brilliant little pocket computers. But they had all the problems of full-sized computers that could just then fit in your pocket.
I was a big fan of the capabilities on devices from BlackBerry. Nokia would also be another good example of this kind of fall from grace. Then I was a big fan of Windows Mobile because you had a PC in something that could take phone calls. That was not the right consumer strategy. iPhone helped to usher in this relationship to simplified services and user interactions on a smarter device than most flip phones that people were carrying or most candy-barred little communicator devices.
From there, Apple deserves a lot of credit for bringing in the consumer side of this equation. BlackBerry completely misread what the next trend was going to be. That's a shame because competition would help.
If we had more competition than just Android versus iPhone, our products would probably be better for that other influence or a disruptor company.
It's a shame that BlackBerry couldn't figure out their licensing and their relationships with other manufacturers. The last generation of BlackBerries was really good messaging devices. Unfortunately, the company couldn't figure out a way to market so that consumers would find them desirable again.
A lot of people missed out on something that would have been better for what they enjoyed doing on their phones if they had maybe taken one of these last-gen BlackBerries out for a spin.
Do Apple and Samsung Want Us Buy New Phones Every Year?
Michael: iPhone or Samsung? For me, Android is better. It's not only about Samsung because there is a whole segment of phones that run on Android. You're not locked into one particular manufacturer.
What do you think about manufacturers like Apple or Samsung? What is the life expectancy of their phones?
Juan: From the manufacturer's perspective, they want consumers to buy every new product they make. It's difficult to pin down because we have these varying conversations on things like long-term software support. Apple gets a lot of credit. You will get a new number version of iOS years after your initial purchase.
What Apple is very poor at are feature upgrades. So, you get iOS 14, iOS 15, and iOS 16 for six or seven years, but only the new phones will get the new features. iPhone XS had a brilliant camera. It's one of the most powerful phones of its generation. Yet, there were cheap Androids that had camera capabilities that could outpace this flagship crown jewel phone from Apple.
Apple was falling behind at the time with things like night mode, computational photography, higher resolution, and faster frame rate video. So, while you get the operating system, you don't get everything that comes with it.
The Android ecosystem is so much more compartmentalized. Google puts out a code base, a manufacturer applies their unique changes to it. Then in North America, which often still needs to then get filtered through a carrier, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T put their own changes and customizations on top of all of that.
So, when we're trying to piece together, how long do we think these purchases should last? It's critical to look at what the most recent changes have been. The way we update and value older phones has gotten a vice squish to it.
While Samsung will claim that they are going to support their phone for four operating system updates every year and five years of security patches, the best trade-in window for Samsung is often one year.
Samsung wants you locked in on this yearly trade. I got my phone, I'm using it. The new phone comes out, I trade it in and I get this amazing trade-in value based on the MSRP of the new phone.
What was the value of having all of these years of software updates? This is a major conflict in the United States because so many consumers own phones they can't afford, but they're on payment plans and are looking at trade-in deals. They're getting zero-interest loans from their carriers. So, they're paying monthly on a device technically that they're going to own for three years, but then they're looking at every opportunity to flip that phone as aggressively as they can.
As far as I'm concerned…
…Apple and Samsung want you to buy every year.
I speak to my consumers, and my circles of family and friends, and I'm trying to find opportunities for people to push past year three. I think in around three years, you're starting to see those changes in technologies, in cameras, displays, battery, and power management, where the upgrade makes more sense.
You will feel like you got a much bigger upgrade at around three years. That takes a different conversation on maintenance, support, updating, taking care of the device, using a case, screen protector, better chargers, et cetera.
It's complicated because it all drills down into that consumer psychology of, "I feel good when I got this new shiny thing and I want that feeling every year." But then people use this new phone and they're like, "Yeah, this isn't really any different than the phone I had. And I had to set it up, transfer all of my data, and back up all of my photos and my games. The progress on Candy Crush didn't move over to my new phone and I've got to start all over again."
All of those consumer complaints are solved if you…
…give yourself a longer window to live with the tech that is perfectly functional and is meeting your needs and is handling all of your daily tasks.
When someone is compelled to look at switching from what they're familiar with, that means that there had to have been some kind of psychological or social pressure to make that kind of a change.
Often, in the United States, things like messaging have become one of the pain points for consumers, where they consider changing up apps and services. And if they're changing up apps and services, maybe it's just worth it to go to this other company, because most of the people I know use these devices and I just want to be included.
The other side of this is people on whom that psychology is working in the opposite direction. "I'm tired of what I'm familiar with. I'm looking for something more interesting. I find some entertainment in the novelty of a different experience and the company that I'm currently with has been on this path. And I just want to try another path. I want to see what another company might value instead."
That's a much smaller demographic. The people that can recognize their sense of adventure, because I think most people are very risk-averse. They don't want to take a chance on something different to satisfy their communication and messaging needs. When they do, when they are motivated to take that chance, it's far more common for that pressure to be more of outside social pressure, convincing them to make that move.
In more Western countries, in North America, specifically, we still have a reliance on SMS and MMS communications. These new chat features that people seem to enjoy with wacky little emojis and fun little animated pieces. I find that tends to be one of the massive influences.
Around the rest of the world, they are so much more adept at picking up other messaging services and other chat features through third-party apps that text messaging isn't a social pressure, convincing them to buy one phone over the other. But for some reason here in the United States, especially, and a bit in Canada, it matters what color your text messages are. That's motivating most of the purchases that we see from people who are switching.
What to Expect From Future Gadgets?
Michael: Where do you think gadgets are going in the next 5, 10 years? What's your prediction?
Juan: In the next five years, we're probably going to see market consolidation. I think we're going to see companies reining in, R&D spending on traditional slate-style phones. The changes are going to become even more iterative. I find it hard to imagine radical change for the daily driver phone experience.
Hopefully, that means that what we consider high-end technologies today aren't then commoditized and they're available and less expensive and less expensive devices. We're already seeing some of that at play. The kind of phone you can get in Android land for $300 to $400 is astounding compared to where we were five years ago.
Over the next 10 years, I hope we can see and push towards the realization of some better augmented reality solutions. This is going to take some effort from consumers and especially those of us that are fans and enthusiasts. It's going to mean some experimentation and also the potential for having our hearts broken when products don't pan out.
VR is a very hyper-specific kind of immersion for content. It's always going to have its place in entertainment and education. I hope…
…augmented reality and alternate reality services are going to be the next phase for how we interact.
If we're still looking at the glowing rectangle, what fits in our pocket in five years, I'm going to be very disappointed. And I said this five years ago. Unfortunately, we're still looking at the same glowing rectangle that fits in our pocket. We haven't seen much progress on that. The future of technology needs to live in better personalization and better customization.
That's when stuff gets expensive. It is very difficult to better incorporate technology into our personal area and network, make it more biologically compatible, and more accessible to people that aren't the general average human form if there are other considerations for accessibility issues. By accessibility issues I mean when you go into your accessibility settings. The people that aren't the same abled-ness as the mainstream consumer block that these gadgets are designed for.
I hope that we can start crossing that bridge more earnestly. I've been playing with a number of these small little boutique solutions that significantly changed my relationship with data and services. Two years ago, I was playing with a pair of glasses, the Focals by North, and the process of getting these glasses was very complicated.
You had to go and have your face scanned. They had to measure the distance from your nose to your eyes and design a lens that fits just specifically for your field of view, cornea, lens, and eye. Then I would wear these glasses and I had this simple heads-up display. But it was like having a smartwatch at eye level feeding me relevant information from notifications and alerts. It completely changed how I handled my phone.
It was incredible. That company later got bought out by Google. I'm hoping that over the next couple of years, we saw another demonstration from an augmented reality pair of glasses at the last Pixel press conference. That's a future that I want.
I want something more discreet and less distracting in my daily life. People take it for granted how often they're picking something up and stopping something in their day.
The more we move notifications, alerts, relevant context, and information to more biologically accessible interactions, the less disruptive this technology gets.
When I go from picking up a phone to glancing down at a wristwatch, that's an improvement. I know, "Was this piece of information or this notification worth my attention?" I just had a little glance at my watch and I get on with my day.
When I had those glasses and when they worked, this is an extremely rude gesture to do when you're talking to someone else. I'm talking to you right now and if I'm looking down at my watch, this is a gesture of impatience and not paying attention to you. This is not socially acceptable.
But when I had those glasses on, we'd be sitting back here like this. My wife texts me about my daughter and I can just do that. That was it. That's all I needed to do – to see a piece of information that was extremely important to me and the only interruption we had in this conversation was the simple glance that we all do just in normal interactions. Because we're not sitting there staring each other in the eyes the entire time we're talking.
That, to me, needs to be the next phase. That phase is going to be significantly more expensive and prone to these experimental failures. Until we can get more people interacting with data and services in these more biological ways, we're going to be stuck with phones.
It takes a company with a huge bankroll willing to make a risk and flop in the market for a while to make that change. Whoever does it first is going to get skewered by lazy tech reviewers on YouTube who just want to complain and it's salacious when a major company fails at a new product and we're not going to get the data to move us forward for a while.
I'm still putting that in that five to 10-year category. But that's been in my five to 10-year category for almost 10 years now. So, it seems to just perpetually be about five to 10 years away when we can start doing this. We need to reexamine our relationship with audio gear, monitors, and screens. Also, tactile. All of the data that we can generate and incorporate into our sense of touch for making this a meaningful interaction. The entire thing needs to start becoming more a part of how we just exist day to day.
Michael: Thank you, Juan! I hope to see you again soon.
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