Popular interest in technology is declining, but tech giants aren't going anywhere

in General Discussion
Overall interest in Apple products and the technology industry at large have been on a downturn for years. While there is no obvious short-term impact, big tech has already begun shifting away some of its financial power and focus away from hardware and onto greener pastures.

Credit: zhang kaiyv/Unsplash
Credit: zhang kaiyv/Unsplash

According to Google's own data, searches for technology companies like Apple and others have been on an overall downward trajectory since 2016. Although that doesn't prove anything on its own, it and other data points suggest an overall decline in interest in the technology sphere from the populace as a whole.

It isn't possible to point at one specific reason behind the general downturn. Of course, if you take a look at the state of the world between 2016 and 2022, it's easy to see why there might be a declining interest in technology, generally.

External factors

The general search downturn for consumer product companies like Apple and Google has been on the decline since 2016. It doesn't take a good memory to realize what else happened that year.

A lot has happened in the last four years, both in the U.S. and across the globe. Even people who aren't plugged into the daily news cycle probably had more of their bandwidth taken up by controversies and catastrophes than normal.

Between political scandals, European ground wars, and global pandemics, there's no doubt that we are living in interesting times. When you only have so much time in a day to "doom scroll" and Google obscure political processes, you have less time to devote to searching for the latest trend in technology.

It doesn't take a psychologist to realize that many people are likely burned out. We only have so much brainpower to devote to ideas and concepts on a daily basis. Since the 2016 election and the global pandemic, many people's reserves of caring about less significant thoughts are likely expended.

More than that, the devolution of political discourse has almost undoubtedly bled into other areas. You're much more likely to Google something -- and possibly provide a hot take -- when it's bad or controversial than when it's working just fine.

Take a lot at the times when technology dominated the news cycle since 2016. In almost every case, it was because of a controversial feature or a whistleblower report. Apple's CSAM detection system gained much more ground in the popular press than its Self Service Repair program, which represented a significant reversal in policy.

That brings us to another important fact to keep in mind. Technology has been working "just fine" for the vast majority of the populace for years.

Technology isn't exciting anymore

If you look at the kind of technology that has been released since 2016, the vast majority of it feels iterative rather than innovative.

Although AirPods are a runaway success, they haven't had the same kind of revolutionary effect as the iPod. The edge-to-edge display and Face ID on the iPhone X felt more like natural evolution after the revolutionary first four years of the iPhone starting in 2007.

Most recent technology releases these days feel expected. Some new innovations, like the introduction of Apple Silicon, may even go relatively unnoticed by lay consumers who just buy whatever MacBook Air is available without too much concern about the specifications.

In other words, the last few years have been a period of evolution and refinement for the technology industry rather than revolution. There's been a cooling-off of innovation and a greater focus on fixing things. Ultimately, that's a positive shift.

We all became intimately familiar with our devices during the pandemic.
We all became intimately familiar with our devices during the pandemic.

The pandemic also played a part. Even the least technically savvy of workers were thrust into a technology-dependent situation. When lockdowns went into effect, technology was our only real connection to the outside world.

During the pandemic, we all became incredibly familiar with our devices. Our laptops, TVs, and smartphones enabled us to work, stay informed, relax, and communicate. They became essential -- but boring.

However, despite the fact that technology rarely wows us anymore, the data proves that technology companies aren't going anywhere. The essentiality of our consumer electronics has cemented them into our daily lives -- and the tech industry is benefiting from that.

Doing more with less

There's also a case to be made that the latest and greatest technology isn't providing substantial enough benefits to justify upgrading every year or every couple of years. Between tougher economic conditions and the more incremental nature of iPhone flagships, many consumers are holding onto their devices for longer.

Apple stopped providing individual unit sales for many of its products, including the iPhone, in 2018. That came just a few years after iPhone sales volumes reached an all-time high. Based on revenue, sales have remained more or less stable when measured on an annual basis over the last seven years -- but outside of Apple, there isn't a clear picture of actual unit sales.

However, current iPhone devices have become more expensive, contributing to a higher average sale price. The high-end iPhone 6s Plus, for example, started at $749, compared to the high-end iPhone 13 Pro Max starting at $1,099. The most premium devices are also selling the best, explaining why Apple's revenues have grown despite a likely drop in overall sales volume.

Apple saw the writing on the wall early, which is why it chose to not report iPhone sales volume any more. In the wake of the iPhone's sales volume peak, Apple shifted much of its focus to recurring streams of revenue like Services.

Since the iPhone's peak, services and software revenue have seen tremendous growth that doesn't appear to be slowing down. Services is seeing consistent double-digit year-over-year growth. In the three years leading up to October 2021, Services revenue nearly tripled.

That bodes well for Apple since there appears to be an increasingly smaller number of users who need the latest and greatest hardware to carry out their normal day-to-day tasks. Most users will do fine with hardware released in the last several years, meaning frequent upgrading isn't as much of a necessity as it once was.

The upgrade cycle appeared to slow to four years back in 2018, and seems to have remained relatively stable since then. Even the launch of a program like Self Service Repair is unlikely to have a material effect on those upgrade times.

Other data proves FAANG are okay

Since 2017, Apple shares have risen around 399%. And during the period, the company reached a $1 trillion market capitalization, a $2 trillion market capitalization, and -- briefly -- a $3 trillion market value. That doesn't happen to a company that's dying on the vine.

Most recent quarters for Apple, including the second quarter of 2022, have been record-breaking. The company is still seeing growth across every single product, except those that are constrained by ongoing supply issues and macroeconomic conditions.

Alphabet, Meta, Netflix, and Amazon all have similar data points and massive piles of cash to swim through and use as they see fit to survive any downturn in consumer sentiment. But given that we're AppleInsider, we won't be breaking those down.

As mentioned earlier, Apple isn't burning out on innovation either. AirPods may not have been as exciting as the iPhone or iPod, but they command the wireless earbud market. The impact and engineering of Apple Silicon is forcing Intel to make headway on the relatively staid evolution of the x86 architecture.

Apple is also thought to have a plethora of innovative products in the pipeline, including a pair of augmented reality "glasses" and a mixed-reality headset that could help usher in a new era of computing. It may soon break into the automotive industry as well.

The next iPhone-like groundbreaking product could be on the horizon.
The next iPhone-like groundbreaking product could be on the horizon.

More than that, Apple's services and software will more than make up for what the iPhone provided. Since 2015, Apple Services revenue has grown from just shy of $5 billion per square to $19.8 in the second quarter of 2022.

In a world connected by technology, both hardware and software are important. But when hardware sales are stagnant, it's the software that will provide long-term stability to tech firms. Of course, there are warning signs of App Store regulations and antitrust rule changes. Some analysts still believe antitrust rules won't have a company-breaking impact on Apple or other firms.

Even if hardware sales slump, or the App Store takes a hit from regulation, Apple still has an ace up its sleeve in terms of other services including a growing Apple TV+ service. That's also not accounting for the fact that hardware sales -- and then Services revenue -- could pick back up when the next "big thing," such as a wearable AR device, hits the market.

Maybe the tech industry and its products are more familiar and less novel, but every other data point beyond search interest points toward a market segment that's here for the long haul. It's the smaller tech companies that are in for a rough road.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 22
    That stuff is just consumer product technology. It doesn’t compare to the cutting edge tech being developed in research labs.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    henryfhenryf Posts: 1member
    Apple silicon make me exited again , I buy a MacBook Air , my previous Mac was a 1,1 Mac Pro from 2006!
  • Reply 3 of 22
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 820member
    The thing is most of today’s consumer technology products is good enough for most people. Compared to 8-10 years ago, these products is powerful enough for majority of tasks people need. 

    The iPhone for the past 3 years don’t change much except a little faster A chip and a little better camera. Same thing for PC based CPU/memory tech/ more or less for GPU, but M1 is a big game changer for Mac.  

    Do people need new smart phone/ computer every year like fast fashion? I guess not. 
  • Reply 4 of 22
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,036member
    Cars were really hot, there were ads for this or that motor additive or product on TV, and everyone was into them, back in the 50’s and 60’s. Nowadays they are a commodity. Setting aside a few outliers, most of them perform about the same and most people just see them as a tool to get a job done, not a sign of status. 
    Computers have followed the same arc. Having lived through the exciting years when there WAS a noticeable jump in performance for each model, 486, Pentium, Pentium 2, G3, G4, G5, I know how it was. I felt I had to update my system every couple of years. My gosh the Lombard PowerBook put my old Wallstreet to shame. Yes I have a Blue and White G3 PowerMac, but the G4 PM is out and it’s a screamer. I could count on a doubling of specs, processor speed, RAM, etc., every couple of years. Nowadays, there’s better be a bloody good reason to upgrade, or a lot of people will just keep running what they have. I know I do. My household has a mix of Macs, 2013, 2015, and 2016. The two iMacs are booting off of USB-C drives because the internal ones started to get flaky. It’s a bit slower off the line, but it gets the job done. We’ll probably wait until one of them actually dies before we replace it. Why? Because systems are so powerful, so fast, so capable, that even a decade old Mac can do what we need.
    Computers are commodity items now. People get them for a job, and as long as they work really don’t care about anything else. Like their toaster or refrigerator. 
  • Reply 5 of 22
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,450member
    Interest may have faded in the hardware yet nobody on Earth can imagine getting through life without a cel phone. The minimalist design of Apple's products have reduced the iPhone ( including Samsung) to I will get a new phone when this one gets lost of dies. People do find other things to spend money on when they get bored. The promise of a better world due to technology may be true if you remove the damage it has done society itself. People have never been more isolated and alienated from each other as simple social skills have nearly vanished. 

  • Reply 6 of 22
    red oakred oak Posts: 934member
    And here I was, thinking that Apple had a blockbuster, best-year ever in 2021.   And, it's surpassing even that this year.  And that the M1 launch has upended the whole PC market.   And that Apple surpassed 800 million subscribers  

    Silly me for looking at actual Apple metrics and data 
  • Reply 7 of 22
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,937member
    It always surprises me when I hear random people, young or old, in a restaurant or shopping mall talking about computers, phones, or other aspects of high tech. Sometimes I want to correct them, but I can't be bothered fixing the whole world when this website is enough for me to handle.
    edited May 16 gregoriusmdewmeFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 8 of 22
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,223member
    Interest is not declining it’s just no longer novel. 

    Market saturation is in effect. 

    Everyone is already into something and now it’s all about upgrade cycles. 

    But… as long as babies are born, there will be entire generations who discover tech for the first time - and thus, new folks getting infatuated and buying in. 

    It does seem though, that the advent of Apple Silicon has renewed interest in high performance tech and made it exciting again. 
    edited May 16 FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 22
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,245member
    Ideally, the primary role of technology should be to improve the human condition. Technology for humanity's sake should be what we value, not technology for technology's sake. It's perfectly fine and a sign of broad acceptance, adoption, and normalization if some things get to the point of just being "normal" and unexciting. The new normal serves to set the bar a little higher for what future innovations must achieve to get our attention.

    This exciting-new-thing to same-old-same-old-thing lifecycle is generally a good thing, but it's never perfect. We always need to direct a certain amount of our current attention towards dealing with the ramifications, unintended side effects, and flat out bugs/defects that already-normalized technologies have unleashed on humanity, with social media being a prime example. It's not all rainbows and butterflies, so having some flattening and slack in the cycle to temper our enthusiasm is probably a stabilizing influence over the long run, both for us and for our wallets.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    This article is complete bullshit. Just my opinion.
    baconstangjdwFileMakerFellerred oak
  • Reply 11 of 22
    digitoldigitol Posts: 268member
    I dunno. I always have said that we were heading toward the digital dark ages when Steve Jobs died, true apple innovation also died. Now all we have left is pretenders and wannabees; tech that doesn't really work. M series and Apple Silicone is pretty exciting though, but it's plagued by horrible DRM, TPM. Tesla and SpaceX tech is pretty amazing. Ultimately, and big speculation here, when the previous single term administration of the USA took office, 2016-2020 I feel like EVERyTHING became politicized. Between that and Google with Ads based business bombarding us with ads everywhere... it's been pretty off-putting to be online. Curious to know if anyone else feels that.

  • Reply 12 of 22
    Since 2017, Apple shares have risen around 399%

    strange rounding choice but you do you, AI  :)

  • Reply 13 of 22
    lkrupp said:
    This article is complete bullshit. Just my opinion.
    so it's much like your...
  • Reply 14 of 22
    I believe one of the many factors is we are in a lil between the smartphone and AR/VR. 
  • Reply 15 of 22
    lkrupp said:
    This article is complete bullshit. Just my opinion.
    That is exactly what I was thinking as I was reading it. I can’t really relate to the ideas put forth in this article. I felt like the MagSafe connection of the 12 Pro was a game changer in my opinion. And then the 13 Pro came out with significantly larger cameras and finally 3X optical zoom. So now my phone camera equals the technical specifications of the point and shoot I was using for several years. So now I can toss out that camera. Maybe these changes aren’t revolutionary but they are pretty big changes in my opinion. If the rumors are true about the 14 Pro, then the changes to the notch would not be a reason to upgrade in my opinion, but the even larger cameras and 48MP sensor would be a good reason to upgrade. 
  • Reply 16 of 22
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,143member

    According to Google's own data, searches for technology companies like Apple and others have been on an overall downward trajectory since 2016. Although that doesn't prove anything on its own, it and other data points suggest an overall decline in interest in the technology sphere from the populace as a whole.
    What are these other data points?
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Fidonet127Fidonet127 Posts: 358member
    We are basing things on Google searches? It has been years since I’ve used Google for searching. Just don’t trust them. The other potential problem is maybe people aren’t searching for tech as knowledge is generally higher, so searching isn’t needed. 
  • Reply 18 of 22
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,741member
    Being someone who, as a teenager, paid dollars for a single transistor - my condolences to those who can still remember the BC108 and BC109 transistors (that I have such fond memories of) and as someone who witnessed the revolutionary transition from TTL technology to CMOS, I still find tech exciting. I look at my iPhone though and it feels so natural, as if I grew up with it, in fact, to make a long distance call in my childhood my parents had to book a phone call with the local general post office. However, while Mac hardware is on a steep upward trajectory and the OS provides brilliant api's, both Apple and third party software are lagging. I am fortunate that the software that is of most importance to me and that began on a Mac, Mathematica, is version equal to those running under Linux and windows. However, other powerful software that also saw first light on the Mac, such as National Instruments Labview today pay only lip-service to the Mac. I cannot fathom Apple's approach to its own software. Each of Apple's productivity apps, Pages, Numbers and Keynote have stagnated whereas others such as iWeb have simply gone away (sure - iWeb, who cares but its utility in the day was remarkable).

    My concerns though are likely moot, or soon will be. A whole new way of computing is coming and whomever gets there first will devour the market. The distinction between the operating system, apps and commerce will blur possibly into indistinguishability. I am not referring to meta, this new-age of computing will require intellectual resources far beyond those Facebook/meta could offer. Alphabet on the other hand... hoping Apple gets there first!
  • Reply 19 of 22
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 879member
    BC 109 brings fond memories.
    Though these days it's BC 441 & 461 that catch my eye.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,370member
    We are basing things on Google searches? It has been years since I’ve used Google for searching. Just don’t trust them. The other potential problem is maybe people aren’t searching for tech as knowledge is generally higher, so searching isn’t needed. 
    Exactly. Who needs to look for tech on a search engine when most people simply bookmark their favorite sites and go directly there for news, reviews, and rumor fixes, thereby bypassing the search engines completely? Other resources like Apple News and YouTube can also be used to find the information that Google used to provide. The story here isn’t that people are searching for tech less, it’s that they’re finding what they need elsewhere. 
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