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15 years later, Apple still hasn’t beaten the iPhone

15 years later, Apple still hasn’t beaten the iPhone

And probably never will.

Last week, the iPhone turned 15, and Apple fans around the world were reminiscing about their earliest memories. June 2007 seems like an eternity. The world is a different place now, and a small part of that is due to the iPhone itself, a product that has truly changed the rules of the game.

Apple has also changed. What was once considered the company of the Macs is actually the company of the iPhone for a long time, or at least undoubtedly in terms of revenue and user base.

Whether it’s selling millions and millions of phones, cashing in on app sales, or (as part of a clever reinvention) selling subscription services to wealthy iPhone owners, Apple would be lost without its miracle product.

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The company has tried to repeat the miracle, of course, as would anyone who suddenly realized they can turn water into wine.

For a while, some hoped the iPad would outperform its predecessor. In fact, it sold much faster than the iPhone in the beginning, taking just under a month to sell a million units when the iPhone had taken 74 days.

But the comparison was misleading and sales never reached the same dizzying heights, simply because tablets haven’t found a way to integrate into our lives and pockets the way smartphones do.

The Apple Watch, when it launched a few years later, failed to catch up with sales or visibility, while the HomePod barely plays in the same league.

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AirPods have done well, but no one is going to upgrade their wireless earbuds every year, or pay a thousand dollars each time. Customers wouldn’t even agree to pay half that for high-quality headphones. And more importantly, you don’t build your life around your headphones.

It sounds melodramatic, but the iPhone really becomes the center of a person’s daily existence. It wakes you up in the morning, guides you through your work schedule, keeps you in touch with your loved ones, and entertains or torments you through social media.

The iPhone is so compulsive, so ubiquitous, that even Apple started adding features to help you kick it. When the bookmaker no longer accepts your money, you know you have a problem.

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Once the centrality of the smartphone is understood, it is no longer surprising that no other Apple product has been able to match the iPhone. The happiness or usefulness that a product can confer is equal to its quality multiplied by the slice of a person’s life it will occupy.

You can launch the best smartwatch in the history of the planet, but it’s still a smartwatch. How much can your life improve?

The other factor is the surprise itself. Apple will never again be able to launch a product as amazing as the iPhone because its fans expect something just as good at every event. And leaks are also a problem in that sense.

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When augmented reality goggles arrive, chances are that half of the public will already know the details from leaks, while the other will have conjured up impossible expectations and will complain bitterly when they aren’t met.

So it’s unlikely that Apple will release another device in the near future that matches the impact of the iPhone. By dominating our lives and raising expectations for each subsequent release, the iPhone created a world in which its success could not be repeated. It’s hard to see that as a failure.

And it is not that the iPhone has disappeared. In fact, four new models will arrive in a few months. Tell that to the people of 2007 and see who envies whom.

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Original article published on Macworld.com.