Apple no longer sells iPhones

iPhone planet

Almost a quarter of people think iPhone is the most significant tech since the 90’s

Listening to Tim Cook speak to EU privacy commissioners, (transcript here), it struck me that the tone of what he is saying shows the company’s growing feeling that it has a responsibility, part of which must include delivering a private smartphone.

For the rest of us

We have two iPhone models right now. Neither is called iPhone. One is the iPhone XR, another the iPhone XS.

That means we have the souped-up models, but we cannot actually choose a basic model that they are better than. Isn’t it a little sad that over a decade since the launch of the iPhone, Apple no longer sells an iPhone?

Look at iPhone SE. We know it is still popular. People like it. It’s small, portable, light, does what you want it to do, handles Apple Pay, pairs with Apple Watch. It’s robust. I’ve seen them dropped and survive, and it even fits inside small pockets, comfortably.

iPhone XS is the best on the planet

Promising less

I believe that Apple has defined expectation of what a high-end smartphone should be. iPhone XS is streets ahead of the competition, to the extent that even its highest-end competitors are actually competing with the slightly more affordable iPhone XR device, which is still better than most of the alternatives.

That still leaves a lot of untapped space in the market.

There’s a common belief that Apple is all about the money, and a consensus that it doesn’t want to play in that mid-tier sector because it can’t make as much of it.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE. People still love the 4-inch iPhone

Services are everything

Apple has been developing its services income for years. Horace Dediu at Asymco tells me he thinks Apple makes between 10-15-cents per customer per day, with the device adding another dollar each day.

Apple next year is expected to launch a video service people are already calling a “Netflix-killer” and it has a bunch of other projects in the pipeline.

Still, Apple won’t have missed that consumers are purchasing devices a little less often, and are choosing to purchase non-iPhones not because they don’t like Apple’s smartphones but because in an environment of economic and political instability they are becoming a little more risk averse.

(That’s not bothering Apple too much – it makes good money on those high-end iPhones, even at its current prices the market is still strong, and they really are the best smartphones that money can buy).

Tim and Jony

The return of the iPhone

But what if Apple just wanted to make the best phones in any category?

After all, while it has the high-end iPhone XS range that no one else can match; and the iPhone XR others almost compete with, there still must be an opportunity to build another profitable tier.

I still think there is space for a 4-inch device. It could be powerful, robust, well-made, but slower and smaller than the other devices, albeit with an excellent camera. It might feature a slightly older A11 processor, use the ‘classic’ iPhone design, carry a smaller version of the XR’s display, ship with perhaps 64GB storage, and have a camera that’s just as good as the one inside the iPhone X (because I think Apple cares about photography).

You’d also be able to access those Apple services on your device.

Equipped with iOS, this would be the basic smartphone for the many, a device that does everything you need it to do without forcing you to use platforms that don’t respect your privacy. It makes sense for Apple to deliver on such a mission — it says the industry isn’t delivering it already.

What might this be called?

To me it’s obvious. Apple has two upper-tier vehicles in its range, now it needs to build the basic model everyone can afford to aspire to, a people’s smartphone. Made in India. Not cheap, but accessible.

Let’s call it “iPhone”.

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Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

5 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    I second that. Would love to have a successor of the iPhone SE. I love the physical size, but the screen could be larger for some use cases. Camera is ok, but could be better. I think iPhone 8 internals for an SE2 would be good enough… Qi charging isn’t necessary…

  2. Ron says:

    Just purchased one of the SE 128GB for $299 on the Apple clearance. I missed out the first few times they offered them. Going from a 6+. Tired of the big form factor, don’t play games or read much on iPhone (I have and iPad Pro for reading and creating). Will generally use for phone, messaging, Facetime, music, casual photography, and social media.

  3. Robert Mork says:

    I want the best camera money can buy, at least 128 GB of storage, waterproofing, and an edge-to-edge screen. And I’m happy to pay whatever the going rate is for all that. But none of that matters unless the phone is iPhone SE sized. Hey, I love big screens for consuming/creating content, but that’s why I have one of the new iPad Pros and a MacBook. I’m an active guy, and I’ve tried carrying around my kid’s iPhone 7. I *hate*hate*hate* how honking big it is, and I’ll be darned if the price of having an iPhone is toting around something that doesn’t easily fit in my pockets when I’m active outdoors, running around with the kids, etc. Please bring out an iPhone SE 2 soon!!!

  4. Jamy says:

    They will have to pry my SE out of my cold dead hands. I waited to upgrade my 5 because I didn’t want a bigger phone and I was delighted when the SE came out. I have small hands, and small pockets. I work outside and use my phone for streaming radio and podcasts, so having something that fits in my pocket is essential. I also like being able to hold my phone and text with one hand. That isn’t possible for me with the bigger models. All of my devices are apple products, but if I can’t get something in a similar size when I need to replace my phone, I’ll be looking at androids too. Not everyone wants to be carrying around a small iPad in their pocket. I have an iPad already. I don’t understand why they won’t upgrade it. I didn’t buy it because it was cheap, I bought it because it fits my needs better than any other phone on the market. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

  5. Rory says:

    I love my SE, except for when the display freezes up. It’s all I need, fits my pockets, and it has a real headphone jack!

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