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Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro launch is proof that the smartphone industry is going through a massive change

Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro launch is proof that the smartphone industry is going through a massive change

When Apple executives took the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s campus in California on Tuesday, they spent a lot of time demonstrating how powerful the next iPhone’s camera is.

Apple not only provided a deep dive into the technical specifications — as it usually does during iPhone launches — of the iPhone 11 Pro’s new triple-lens camera system, but spent a significant portion of the presentation showing how the camera is advanced enough to be used by professional cinematographers in new ways.

Sean Baker, a filmmaker, was brought on stage to discuss how he used the iPhone 11 Pro’s triple-lens camera with the Filmic app to shoot through multiple lenses simultaneously. The company also showed a short film by the director Diego Contreras and the filmmaker Guillermo Garza to flaunt the iPhone 11 Pro’s video-recording prowess.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, also emphasized the iPhone 11 Pro’s new Deep Fusion feature, coming this fall, that processes images pixel by pixel. He called it “computational-photography mad science.”

Read more: Here are the biggest differences between Apple’s new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max

The presentation sent a specific message: Apple is appealing heavily to photography professionals, videographers, and others whose livelihood relies on their access to high-end video-shooting and -editing tools (Instagram influencers, perhaps). And that says a lot about the state of the smartphone industry, where global shipments have been declining for seven consecutive quarters, according to IHS Markit.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
Stephen Lam/Reuters

New reasons to upgrade

Part of the reason smartphone sales are declining is likely that people aren’t upgrading their phones as often. In 2018, people were waiting an average of 2.83 years to upgrade their smartphones, an increase from 2.39 two years before, according to data from HYLA Mobile cited by The Wall Street Journal.

That means companies like Apple have to come up with new reasons to encourage upgrades, likely by targeting different markets. In Apple’s case, the target audience for the iPhone 11 Pro seems to be creative professionals who would strongly benefit from having a phone that specializes in shooting and editing video.

Read more: I spent a few minutes with Apple’s 3 brand-new iPhones — here are the biggest things I noticed

Apple isn’t alone in creating pricey phones that are targeted squarely at somewhat niche audiences and enthusiasts. The same could be said of Samsung, which is set to launch its nearly $2,000 Galaxy Fold smartphone later this month after a botched first attempt in April.

That phone, which has a foldable design that opens like a book to reveal a massive 7.3-inch screen, surely isn’t for everyone either — it’s for early adopters and perhaps professionals who feel justified in spending nearly $2,000 on a phone that offers more screen space (and probably better battery life) than any other mobile phone you can buy.

This shift is reminiscent of the laptop industry, which saw steep declines around 2012 and 2013 as mobile devices like smartphones and tablets gained traction. While the laptop market continues to struggle, one of a few areas of growth it has seen in recent years also came from a niche audience: gamers. The International Data Corporation said that in the second quarter of 2018, demand for gaming systems contributed to 2.7% year-over-year growth in traditional-PC shipments.

Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro launch suggests that smartphones could be undergoing a similar shift. It’s evidence that targeting only the average person, who likely no longer upgrades their phone every two years, may not be enough for Apple to boost iPhone sales as much as it needs or wants to.


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