2018 was a historic year for tech stocks. Netflix, the beloved entertainment upstart, somehow managed to pass both Disney and Comcast to become the highest valued media company in the world, at least, for a short period. We had not one, but two different companies cross the never-before seen marker of 1 trillion USD in market capitalization. Even the fan-beloved AMD made a storybook resurgence. But, perhaps the most shocking development came from Apple.
If there’s one universal truth that every reader of tech news is aware of, it’s that Apple products, iPhones especially, will sell incredibly well regardless of what hap- pens. Even the Homepod, likely Apple’s worst product in the last decade, sold out on its first day open to orders. Even when products are incessantly mocked on launch like Airpods or derided for inflated prices like the iPhone X they become staples shortly after. But in 2018 the pattern broke. The biggest tech news of 2018, at least for me, is that people finally saw an iPhone come out and decided it wasn’t worth it.
It didn’t take long for tech writers to revel in Apple’s woes. Over the years Apple’s apparent indelible dominance combined with frequent anti-consumer policies have built up a fair amount of resentment from tech fanatics, even those who love Apple products. It’s easy to see why people would’ve been eager to proclaim the end of Apple’s reign, or that Apple was dying. It’s not entirely knee-jerk either. Even the stocks back it up, with Apple having its worst year perhaps since 2012, its first full year after the passing of Steve Jobs. But while this certainly marks the end of an era of invulnerability, it certainly doesn’t mark Apple’s demise.
I’m not here to make an argument based on economics. I’m far from an expert on stocks; there’s already plenty of those writing on Apple over at Forbes. But more importantly, evaluating Apple on purely economic terms is a gross simplification of what the company truly represents. Apple products like the MacBook and the iPhone are at the absolute forefront of 2010s culture. The death of Apple would necessitate a thorough rethinking of what it means to be a tech and internet consumer in 2019. And while the numbers on Yahoo finance may signal Apple’s demise, the actual day-to-day reality couldn’t be more different.
I’m an Android user, so I’m forced to think about what iPhones mean to people culturally and socially more often than most people. The frequency with which I’m met with contempt for not being able to use FaceTime or iMessage hasn’t changed. The slightly curious yet simultaneously incredulous tone in people’s voices when they question why I could possibly own a Google phone hasn’t changed. The perception that buying a Mac or an iPhone is just what you do if you’re an American, and that Windows machines or Androids are just for nonconformists and cheapskates hasn’t changed.
People may not be lining up to buy the new iPhones, but that’s not because perceptions of Apple have changed: it’s because they’re already plenty happy with the iPhone or Mac they already have. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said it himself in a report to shareholders, placing significant blame on the new battery replacement policy for hurting demand for the newer models.
It’s absurd to think that Apple is dying. Their place in people’s minds as the premium tier of tech hasn’t changed, and it’s not going to anytime soon. Sure, people may not be willing to buy a new iPhone every year, but they certainly aren’t going to risk the hit in social capital that comes with switching to Android. Until alternatives to Apple can become cooler, and not just better, Apple will continue to live on.
Contact Caio Brighenti at [email protected]