Apple strategy for updating the iPhone has clearly been very successful. Yet it certainly it has become quite repetitive: new iOS announced in June, new iPhone announced in September, arriving in stores one week later. The two year cycle: in odd years a whole new design (2008: 3G, 2010: 4; 2012: 5; 2014: 6 and 6 plus); in even years (2009, 2011 and 2013 has S versions with internal improvements (actually it was “3G S”, “4S” and then “5s”, together with “5c”).
It works nice, you can replace your iPhone with something better every twelve months or something much better every 24 months.
First complain: most of the time, the latest iPhone model is always something from last year. It arrives in store after 71% of the years is thru. Most people and most countries only get to have it as the year is about to end or has already ended. The next year begins, and the latest model is from the past year and everybody (so to say) focuses on rumors of the next iPhone due later THIS year.
And what is funny is that apparently all Apple lines are having the same behavior: MacBooks, iPads, iMacs all have been updated in the very end of the year recently.
Second complain, much more relevant: This rigidity in the release pattern drastically limits Apple ability to iterate, tweak and improve the design throughout the year. People complain that the iPhone 6 is too big, too hot, or that the iPhone 6 Plus bends too easily and there is nothing we can do but wait a whole year until 6s and 6s Plus arrive to address these issues. Perhaps one year from now we will see a smaller iPhone again, or a sturdy 6c in plastic (perhaps this time with the same technology of the 6s).
Even more important: less rigidity could also mean faster development. Perhaps the “s” versions should arrive some 6 months later, and whole new designs could actually take 15 months to get ready. The full cycle then would take only 21 months instead of 24, and there would be more time (and calendar flexibility) to properly create the new design, instead of being potentially being rushed and prematurely released in a fixed september window. And since there are no calendar constrains to wait for the release of small improvements, Apple could return sooner to focus on the whole new design.
Of course it is not Apple’s way to release a new phone model every three months, but it is worth asking how useful the current rigidity really is.
One a related note, perhaps the iOS development could benefit from a more cumulative development perspective as well. Imagine if iOS 7.5 (or something even lower) was becoming very mature right now, instead of everybody waiting for 8.0.1 to fix some basic new bugs…