What Happened to the iPhone 7?

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Many Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) customers, investors and developers were disappointed that the world’s most innovative company did not release the new iPhone 6 or iWatch. The press had figured out most of what Apple did release Monday long before the Worldwide Developers Conference. The conclusion of nearly all was that the “big” announcements about OS X and iOS were not special. The new “Healthkit” was not much more than a fancy fitness tool.

Apple observers can turn their attention back to the iPhone 6 and iWatch, which most believe have to be released soon so as to be part of the holiday sales season.

From the standpoint of Apple’s need to surprise consumers, most of this has been destroyed by what are usually accurate predictions of features. Analysts and the press continue to comb records from Apple suppliers for hints of new functions. Most have come to the conclusion that the iPhone 6 will not be a major departure from the iPhone 5 family. The period of wildly successful product innovation at Apple may be over.

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If all the iPhone 6 has as new feature advances is a better camera, faster chip and more scratch resistant screen, all packaged to weigh less than the iPhone 5, tens of millions of consumers will buy the smartphone anyway. Apple still has pull based on the need of people to have the latest of any product the company makes. But that trend will not help sales or earnings explode the way they did for a decade, which ended recently.

The moment the iPhone 6 gets released, the speculation cycle will begin again in earnest. The new focuses will include that iWatch, the next generation of iPad and the iPhone 7. Maybe the next iPhone will be the one that is a leap forward like the first iPhone was. Maybe it will replace the need to own a camera or video device of any kind — ever again. Maybe it will weigh so little as to be almost impossible to detect on a scale. Or, it might be completely unbreakable, a feature that could save the armies of iPhone owners what must be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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The iPhone 7 is Apple’s future. The iPhone 6 has already been released by almost everyone who pays attention, except by Apple.