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James McQuarrie is a London (UK) based User Experience Consultant who designs and helps build digital products & services that delight their users.

Will today mark the beginning of the end for the iPhone?

As you probably know today Apple will hold their special September event.

Rumour has it that Tim Cook and Co will unveil their latest iPhone, probably named the iPhone 6. Possibly it will come in two sizes.

Rumours are also circling that Apple’s long fabled iWatch (or iBand, or iBracelet, or maybe iWear?) will also be shown to the World for the first time.

What this wrist-worn device will do and which features it has are the subject of much debate and prediction.

As we eagerly await the live stream to find out for sure, I thought I’d throw in a prediction of my own, just for fun :)

I think there’s a very good chance that we will look back on today’s announcements in years to come and see that today marked the beginning of the end for the iPhone.

It may not be immediately obvious; announcing two new versions of the famous device is not exactly ringing the death knell, but let me explain…

I think today could be the beginning of the end for the iPhone in the same way the announcement of the first iPhone was the beginning of the (very drawn out) end for the iPod. For two reasons:

The future is about the ecosystem, not devices

Firstly having helped take smartphones mainstream with the launch of the original iPhone, Apple has paved the way for getting more connected devices and web (or cloud) based services into the hands of many, many people. The iPhone was their gateway drug used to get customers hooked on being connected and to the ecosystem of apps, media and services that always-on connectivity allows.

Services like homekit and healthkit are signs they are preparing to make the device you use a less important part of the the Apple ecosystem mix. Subscribe to the services and use any of the different devices; iPads, iPods, iPhones, iWatches, Apple TVs, etc you might have to access and use them. You don’t need an Apple computer any more to use and benefit from all of Apple’s offerings. I’d bet that over the next few years you won’t need an iPhone either. As long as you have at least one device, and are a customer, Apple won’t care which device you have. (Though, by subscribing the more devices you have, the more you benefit from the overall service…)

We’ve reached peak phone

Secondly if you follow the tech press at all you’ll have seen that pretty much every review you read of any new offering in the phone market reads like every other review you’ve read about every other phone. One is much the same as the next. Some have better cameras than others. Some have longer lasting batteries, some higher resolution screens, some more memory, or better processors, but ultimately there’s little to differentiate one from the next. It’s getting harder and harder for Apple to make the iPhone stand out from the crowd, so I’d argue it makes sense to start cannibalising its sales by introducing a new product line or service that can replace it.

Admittedly, it might also make more sense to make the iPhone an important component of their future product / service mix, so that in order to fully benefit from their ecosystem of apps, media, services, etc you must have an iPhone, thus differentiating by association rather than by hardware or features.

Either way, I think what Apple have planned is bigger than an iPhone, and bigger than one product line.