Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook will take the stage for the first time today in the Steve Jobs Theater at its new campus. Apple plans to unveil three phones—another first—including a premium model that could cast a halo over the rest of the line, and perhaps even the rest of the smartphone industry.
The hoopla Apple has generated around the iPhone’s 10th anniversary is a reminder of how much the company relies on its iconic gadget, which still represents about two-thirds of sales despite Cook’s concerted push into services. In fact, Apple’s entire business is built on the back of the iPhone: It’s a remote control for the Apple TV and upcoming HomePod speaker; it’s currently tied to the Apple Watch, syncs with the iPad and Mac, and is home to services like Siri, Maps, and Apple Music.
In recent years, Apple has experimented with cheaper models in a bid to sell more phones in emerging markets where it’s often an also-ran. The gambit has had mixed results, and Apple now mostly positions its smartphone as a near-luxury product. That strategy is being tested as never before because the premium iPhone X will for the first time break the $1,000 price barrier, which could be too rich for many consumers.
There’s little question the new trio of phones will sell briskly, but competition is increasing at home and abroad. According to Counterpoint Research, Chinese phone maker Huawei has surpassed Apple as the second largest smartphone brand after Samsung.
For its part, the South Korean company has launched its own trio of well-received phones this year, the Note 8, Galaxy S8, and Galaxy S8+. Google is expected to announce new versions of its Pixel phones in October, while Chinese phone maker Xiaomi announced its Mix Mi 2 smartphone this week with an all-screen design that shares some characteristics with the iPhone X.