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Apple Searches For Signs Of Spring

In most of America, winter is giving way to spring this week; though, in New England, it looks like the winter season will be enjoying its final curtain call this weekend. This means residents of the Northeast will have something in common with the team in Cupertino this week as Team Apple is also hoping the winter of its discontent will soon pass into a more temperate spring.

Which is not to say winter is quite over yet. Despite hinting at greener pastures with a big new redesign for the Apple Watch and the buzz over the scaled down in size (and price) iPhone SE, some of the harder figures reported for the week indicate that Apple is seeing softness in the chip orders from its Chinese supplier. An indication, according to some analysts, that Apple device sales remain in the cooler and are likely to remain sluggish until the summer quarter is up and running and its next-generation line of devices is on the horizon.

 

Chip Shipments Down

So, just how slow are those chip shipments?

According to unnamed “industry sources” quoted by DIGITIMES, pretty drastically slow. Reports said that Apple’s overall chip orders will be only slightly above what they were during Q1, despite the fact that the upcoming release of both the iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro should drive more demand.

That news came accompanied by statements from sources at analog IC suppliers that the latest round of Apple devices have been a disappointment from a sales perspective and that chip shipments in Q2 will likely clock out at around half of what they were in Q1.

The falloff will not be entirely even. The new SE model has pushed an uptick but not enough of one to offset the declining sales figures for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as Q2 comes into focus. All in, 4 million to 5 million units of the SE are on target to ship in the second quarter.

Despite the falling figures in the present and those forecasted for the foreseeable future, watchers are still predicting that Apple chip orders will rise again in time for the third financial quarter of 2016 but that those increases likely won’t be apparent until the next generation of iPhones, iPads and Mac computers hits the market.

 

The Big Apple Watch Redesign

Depending on who you ask — and when you ask them — the relative success level of the Apple Watch is a matter of some debate, as it has been for nearly six months. Some are saying it’s a hit — or, at least, on the verge of being one. Others have taken to calling it Apple’s biggest blunder since the Newton. In the absence of hard figures from Apple, it will remain a matter for debate and speculation, though the fact that it remains such is an indication that the truth lies somewhere between the two opinion polls.

Strikeouts and home runs are both pretty apparent; if something is not clearly one or the other, it is probably neither.

Still, one can not help but wonder if perhaps the Apple Watch is not quite living up to its great expectations, considering that Apple is contemplating a pretty major redesign for both the look and the concept of its signature wearable device pretty early in its life cycle.

And it has done something that Apple never does — discount it.

According to a patent filed by Apple, the big innovation is not to the watch body itself but rather to the band.

The new patent outlines how, going forward, the Apple Watch’s band could be used as a piece of the tech itself and add functionality to the watch.

The strap is designed to be an interchangeable module. So, one strap might increase battery life, and another could up the number of fitness sensors the watch uses. The basic idea is that Apple Watch users can buy and then swap out various hardware modules as they go to better customize their wearable’s performance. As Forbes noted:

“The possibilities are only limited by Apple’s imagination.”

Well, Apple’s imagination and consumers’ enthusiasm for spending Apple prices to buy an ever-increasing number of hardware modules to make their $250 Apple Watch function optimally.

Apple is not the only swimmer in the sea of modular wearables. Pebble sells smartstraps, and LG offers a modular phone, although Pebble just announced that it is laying off 25 percent of its workforce. Apple’s dalliance with modular tech for its Watch is still theoretical — it is only a patent application after all. But it’s one worth watching since where Apple starts to look, the rest of tech often likes to follow.

 

The SE’s Bumpy Start

As we noted before, the release of the smaller, cheaper iPhone seems to have had some effect on Apple’s sliding iPhone sales. But not enough to set the ship right in advance of the release of the iPhone 7.

And reports emerging today indicate that at least some of that disappointment might be rooted in a launch process that has been less than … eventful.

One disappointed CNET reporter went live to the scene of Apple’s main NYC store to find that he was the only media representative, there were no lines, no masses gathered for the latest gadget and there were plenty of SEs available for purchase.

“At the company’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan on Thursday morning, there were no lines of customers anxiously waiting to give their tithes to Tim Cook, no Apple retail employees cheerleading the event and no Apple press representatives telling me I couldn’t stand in that spot. Heck, there was no other media, which made me wonder what I was even doing there.”

“But Thursday’s scene marks the first time that an Apple iPhone launch was just like every other phone launch: completely pedestrian.”

Ouch.

The problem CNET and many, many other publications noted is that the SE is just not much to get excited about — unless one happens to be really, really into the smaller screens of days gone by. Other than that, the reviewers have mostly written the phone off as a smaller, cheaper iPhone, an iPhone 5 redux with some slight soup-ups, and not much of anything to get excited about.

A smaller, cheaper road that it has gone down before — with similar results. Remember the iPhone 5c? Could it be that Apple users don’t want a cheaper phone? That part of the appeal is that it is more expensive?

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