Former Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki has called out the company’s decision to prioritise sleek design ahead of addressing consumer angst about smartphone battery life, as a huge mistake by the tech giant.

Mr Kawasaki is a well-known figure from Apple’s illustrious past, having been instrumental in popularising its Macintosh computers in the 1980s, and his comments came in response to questions about Australians increasingly buying cheaper iPhone models, such as the iPhone XR or iPhone 8, instead of the latest top-tier iPhone XS or XS Max.

“If Apple introduced a phone that had double the battery life but was also thicker I’d be buying it tomorrow,” he said. “You have to charge your phone at least twice a day and God forbid you ever forget to do that.

“Maybe Tim Cook has a concierge that charges his phone for him.”

Mr Kawasaki says Millennials are not using tablets.
Mr Kawasaki says Millennials are not using tablets.

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Research released last month by phone comparison website WhistleOut revealed that Australians’ interest in older, cheaper iPhone models had outstripped interest in the latest models for the first time.

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Two years ago, 24 per cent of all “share of voice” for mobile phones (measured by people clicking to purchase or read about phones) was in the latest iPhone, compared with only 10 per cent for older models. But this year, interest in older models has leapt to 22 per cent of all interest, while that in the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Plus was down to 16 per cent.

But despite wishing his iPhone X had a better battery life, Mr Kawasaki said he remains an Apple loyalist. Speaking to The Australian Financial Review ahead of a speech in Melbourne in early December for Startup Grind Melbourne, he said he uses the iPhone X, a Macbook Pro and an 11-inch iPad Pro.

Ipads are for oldies

Mr Kawasaki said that his most used device is the iPad, but admitted they were starting to be viewed as an older person’s gadget.

“The reason I used the iPad so much is because the battery lasts longer, it’s smaller and lighter and it has a SIM card in it so I don’t have to find the Wi-Fi network or tether off a phone,” he said.

“But clearly if you look at Millennials their computing device of choice is a phone, not a tablet. I have three sons, two in the workforce who are 23 and 25, and they’ve never used an iPad. They don’t even have the biggest smartphones.

“Millennials either use a phone or a laptop right now. When you think of people using iPads they’re old people like me.”

A survey of more than 250,000 US adults by consumer researcher CivicScience, published in October, found that Millennials were responsible for a drop in tablet ownership between 2017 and 2018, with most not owning a tablet, in contrast to Baby Boomers, 55 per cent of whom owned one.

Locally, tablet sales continue to grow, with Telsyte figures for the first half of 2018 revealing there were 1.5 million devices sold in the first half of 2018, up 3.6 per cent from the previous year. Apple has a stranglehold on the market with almost 50 per cent of sales, while tablets running Windows come in second with 26 per cent.

Mr Kawasaki, who worked for Apple when it found success with its Macintosh computer model in the mid-1980s, has now taken on the title of chief evangelist once again, this time at Australian unicorn Canva, when it was still a fledgling company in 2014.

“I added the most value early on when I assisted with the credibility of Canva. This became a company that successfully recruited Guy Kawasaki to help them with their evangelism, so it was all about credibility,” he said.

“Melanie and Cliff have created a great company. I’ve never worked at a company that’s better at engineering than Canva … I really have never seen such a pursuit of perfection.”

Documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in October revealed that Canva made its first profit for the first six months of the financial year to December 31, 2017, recording $1.9 million in net profit and $25.1 million in revenue.

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