Force yourself to look beyond the superlatives spilled Wednesday about the new iPhones and their turbocharged software brains. There is a single relevant business question for Apple Inc.: What tricks does the company have up its sleeve to keep growing? As Apple concludes its annual circus to introduce the latest iPhone models, it’s important to note two facts: The smartphone is the most essential product for the world’s most valuable company, and smartphone sales are stuck for both Apple and the industry at large. The company has cleverly managed to deflect and offset those painful facts, but it’s not clear yet whether Apple can continue to keep reality at bay.

The broad conditions aren’t trending in Apple’s favor. Globally, the smartphone industry has stalled at about 1.5 billion devices sold each year. That’s a large and lucrative pool of potential buyers for Apple, but it is tougher for the company to keep growing if it has trouble selling more iPhones with each passing yea...

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