Even Steve Jobs’ Daughter Wonders What’s New About the New iPhone

This year the iPhone will look and feel slightly different than previous versions.
Even Steve Jobs’ Daughter Wonders What’s New About the New iPhone
Anadolu Agency / Contributor via Getty Images

If you held a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of the iPhones that have been released these past few years. Every year, Apple cultists scream at me for saying this, and every year Apple says—correctly but annoyingly—that this is the "most powerful / best/ fastest iPhone ever." They will point to a laundry list of specs and technical features—this one has a chip that’s 40 percent more powerful than last generation’s, this one has double the refresh rate of the cheaper tier, this camera has 48 megapixels, blah blah. 


Finally, I have been vindicated by none other than Eve Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell Jobs. Shortly after Apple announced the new iPhone 14, she shared a meme mocking the "new" phone with a man gifted a shirt that's the exact same as the shirt he's already wearing. 


Eve is right: Every year, millions of people faithfully adopt Apple’s new, near-identical products. Some years, a button disappears or a port changes, the sizes shift or the display material alters, the performance improves or the cameras become stronger, but the phone remains basically the same?

This is a big deal, because, despite some recent changes to its policies by Apple, the company has largely tried to make sure that people use their iPhones for as short a time as possible. The company is famous for "Throttlegate," a finding that Apple was hindering the performance of its phones once its batteries started depleting. Apple admitted that repairing phones means people buy fewer new phones. So new iPhones that are basically the same as the old iPhone but pitched as something completely new and exciting are a symbol of planned obsolescence and consumerism.

But then again, it is a consumer product—designed and marketed as something that in theory might change your life but in reality isn’t meant to change anyone’s lives. That Apple keeps each iPhone largely identical to the previous generation serves as a guarantee for reliable revenues, as do changes at the edges and further entrenchment of the ecosystem.

The things that don’t change are precisely the most useful (and profitable) for Apple. It’s not just the features that don't change, but the grueling labor and environmental destruction used to extracts its minerals, assemble its phones, and power the digital products and services that populate the phone, after all. Those remain the same year in and year out, so no matter what, you really are getting the same phone each year.