We can draw three lessons from the arrival of Apple's two new iPhone models, the 5C and 5S.
LESSON 1: Apple may have set its own bar for innovation too high.
Year after year, Steve Jobs used to blow our minds with products we didn't know we wanted. Now, two years after his death, we still expect every new iPhone to clean our gutters, cook our popcorn and levitate. So when the hardware revisions are minor each year, we're disappointed.
And sure enough, after Apple showed off its two new iPhone models last week, its stock dropped. Analysts shrugged that they contain nothing "transformative."
The budget model, the new iPhone 5C, comes in five colors ($100 for the 16-gigabyte model with a two-year contract, $550 without). It's essentially identical to last year's iPhone 5, except that its back and sides are a single piece of plastic instead of metal and glass.
It's a terrific phone. The price is right. It will sell like hot cakes; the new iPhones go on sale Friday.
LESSON 2: The smartphone is mature.
The App Store filled a huge hole. Siri voice command answered a desperate need. And high-resolution Retina displays helped compensate for the tiny screen.
But today, every phone has that stuff; the big holes have been plugged. Maybe the age of annual mega-leaps is over.
The new 5S ($200 with contract, $650 without) looks exactly like last year's thin and gorgeous iPhone 5. You can now get it with its brushed aluminum body in dark gray (with black glass accents), silver (white accents) or a surprisingly classy-looking gold (white accents).
Apple says the 5S' chip is twice as fast as before. There's also a second chip devoted to tracking motion data from the phone's compass, gyroscope and tilt sensor.
The new camera will mean more to you. Its sensor is 15% bigger, and the individual light-detecting pixels are bigger. Take photos side-by-side with the iPhone 5S' predecessor, and the difference is immediately obvious; lowlight pictures are far better on the new phone.
The 5S also has two LED flashes — one pure white, one amber — that fire simultaneously. When mixed in the right balance, their light can match the color tone of your subject (moonlight, streetlights, fluorescents, whatever). Apple says this idea is a first in both phones and cameras. And it really works.
The most heavily promoted feature is the 5S' fingerprint sensor, which, ingeniously, is built into the Home button. You push the Home button to wake the phone, leave your finger there another half second, and boom: You've unlocked a phone that nobody else can unlock, without the hassle of inputting the password.
The 5S can also scan your fingerprint when you're buying books, music, apps and videos from Apple, saving you the password entry.
LESSON 3: If we're reaching a point of diminishing returns in hardware breakthroughs, the software breakthroughs are only just getting underway.
The new iPhones come with iOS 7, a redesigned operating system. You can also install it on recent iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch models.
This software looks nothing like the old iOS. It's all white and clean, almost barren. Its Home screen and dialogue boxes use thin fonts and a color palette of bright, light hues.
In any case, iOS 7 is more efficient to navigate.
Furthermore, Apple did an insane amount of work on features. Some are big-ticket items like Siri, which responds faster, has a more realistic voice and understands new kinds of commands (including "Make the screen brighter" and "Turn on Bluetooth").
Now, Apple's competition in the Android world is fierce and gaining. But that doesn't mean that the iPhones have been overtaken. The iPhone's ecosystem is a deal-sweetening perk — the best apps; the best-stocked online stores for music and movies; smooth synchronizing of your calendars, addresses and even photos among Apple phones, tablets and Macs; and enough cases and accessories to reach from the landfill to the moon.
David Pogue is the New York Times' tech columnist. He can be reached at davidpogue.com or @Pogue on Twitter. See full columns at fresnobee.com/pogue.