Phil Schiller presents the new iPhone 11 Pro at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino. Photo: Reuters

CAPE TOWN – If there was a doubt that the Apple iPhone has lost its appeal the newly launched iPhone 11 has confirmed these doubts. 

On September 10, Apple launched numerous products, including the new iPhone 11. Although the new phone is powered by the A13 Bionic system-on-a-chip, the new phone is not exciting and will not do much to change the race to the bottom of the once most-loved smartphone in the world. 

No amount of bigger screens, facial recognition and sleeker designs will lead to more sales of the iPhones. 

The new version of the iPhone has focused on cameras as the key new feature of the new device. The new iPhone 11 has 3 cameras. This is proven by recent results that showed that the iPhone has brought in a little less than $26 billion (R382bn) in sales for the three months ended June. This was a drop of 12 percent from the same quarter last year.  

More significantly, with Apple reporting $53.8bn in total sales for the quarter, it means that the iPhone accounted for less than 50 percent of Apple’s quarterly revenue. The Apple iPhone hasn't seen such results in nearly seven years. 

The performance of the iPhone marks an interesting trend, which is less about devices and more about services. The leadership at Apple knows this fact, as seen in the change of strategy towards services. 

Although iPhone growth may be slowing down, sales are picking up in other segments, including services. Recent results show that Apple services jumped 13 percent for the quarter to account for nearly $11.5bn of the company's sales. 

Apple now has 420 million paid subscriptions across its services, with a goal of hitting 500 million by 2020.

What can Apple do about its iPhone sales challenge? The answer lies in the retail strategy partly mentioned by Tim Cook towards the end of his presentation. 

Apple has launched Apple Watch Studio, a way to mix and match Watch casings and Watch straps to order the exact Apple Watch Series 5 that you want.

Perhaps its time Apple designed the "last a lifetime" iPhone that can be customised whenever there's a need. Such an iPhone would enable its owner to change the chip, battery as well as the glass whenever the need arises. This approach would still enable Apple fans to continue to consume services as subscribers without the need to change an entire device for just a small change. 

The eWaste challenge is real and the current approach by device manufacturers such as Apple is not helping the situation. The world produces as much as 50 million tons of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year, weighing more than all of the commercial airliners ever made. Only 20 percent of this is formally recycled. 

Global e-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tons per year by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a report from the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy and the UN E-Waste Coalition released at Davos earlier this year. 

Apple understands this challenge. As a result, earlier this year Apple announced an investment in its recycling programmes and related e-waste efforts, which includes an expansion of its recycling programme for consumers and the announcement of a new, 9 000-square-foot (836m2) Material Recovery Lab based in Austin, Texas, focused on discovering future recycling processes. 

Consumers can bring in older iPhones and get a discount when they buy the new iPhone. The older iPhones are disassembled by Daisy, the robot responsible for recycling. 

The industrial robot is able to disassemble nine different versions of the iPhone, sorting all of their reusable components in the process. 

Apple and other device manufacturers need better strategies to deal with the e-waste challenge. They can start by not launching new products that are not necessarily new.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. You can follow him on Twitter via: @WesleyDiphoko

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