How often do you buy a new Mac? How about iPhone? iPad? Watch is a bit too new to have much of a product life cycle. Even the iPad doesn’t seem to have found that sweet spot where ‘out with the old, and in with the new’ reigns. Apple’s customers hold on to their iPads because they’re built like tanks, and despite a few new features of note (Touch ID, iPad Pro Pencil, et al), they still do much the same thing as the original.
Every technology company depends on a product life cycle to generate additional ongoing revenue and profits. The technology in our iPhones improves every year– thinner, lighter, faster, better camera, enhanced graphics– and it’s arguable that iPhones get used in ways that both Mac and iPad do not, hence need to be upgraded more frequently.
Apple helps to set a product’s life cycle– that oddly defined period of time when a customer decides to abandon the old and get the new– by creating new features to attract current customers and new buyers to get the latest and greatest.
I can’t speak for the Windows PC world which seems to differentiate products on brand and price tag, but my Apple product life cycles have become rather straightforward and predictable. I have both and iMac and a recent MacBook Pro. My Mac notebooks have averaged about six years each before I cleaned them up and gave them away to deserving family members. My desktop iMacs average about three years before an upgrade (and I use the iMac more than the notebook) but I keep the older model for another three years or so as a backup, before handing it down to other family members.
So, on average, a Mac notebook in my home gets six years of use, as does the iMac. What about iPhone?
My wife and I have had a routine for a few years that is about to get broken. I would buy a new iPhone each year, and give her last year’s model. That system kept me up to date, and she obtained a free system administrator for her iPhone and iPad. So, on average again, iPhones are kept about two years before being handed off and replaced. Broken? I opted for the annual iPhone Upgrade Program to ensure having the latest and greatest. You know, for business purposes.
iPad is different. The use case to upgrade to a new model every year is hard to make, so I’m still using an iPad Air 2 which is pushing two years old. I would like to try the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the specifications are better on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so I’m likely to wait until the 12.9-inch model receives its first upgrade before making the switch. As it is, we have an older iPad Air which is packed with games for family children.
That means the iPad doesn’t have a definite product lifecycle. Yet. That might explain why iPad sales continue to drop. The iPhone is more valuable and gets used more frequently, so needs to be upgraded more often than an iPad.
That brings me to Watch. Mine is almost a year old. watchOS 2.x works fine, and I’ve filtered down to the notifications, complications, and glances apps that suit me best. Apple may have a new Watch available by fall (in time for the all important holiday shopping cycle) but the device will need some impressive hardware and software upgrades to get me to buy a new one. The average Watch lifecycle is unknown. The product is just too new to make much of a generalization.
Other Apple products have life cycles, too, and some of them are ready for a notable upgrade, and others might get an unexpected upgrade. For example, the Thunderbolt display is almost a relic, both with screen resolution and price. It needs a 5k replacement. Even the Mac Pro hasn’t received much engineering love from Apple. Apple TV is different. The latest, generation 4, does not have 4k video, and the remote, which uses Siri, cannot have a Siri always-on component. Apple might echo Amazon’s Echo and release yet another Apple TV this year.
Technology companies make their money by improving products sufficiently to entice current customers to upgrade to new models, and by securing new customers to the platform. Apple made a large fortune from the iPhone which has the shortest life cycle of all Apple products. Don’t expect that to change.