Friday, 31 December 2010

Where next for iPhone?


With the new year approaching, Cult of Mac invited me to speculate on what 2011 might mean for iPhone. Here's the article, originally published on Cult of Mac on 30th December, 2010.

Just six months have passed since the iPhone 4 launch, so it may seems a little premature to be speculating about its successor. But given the long lead times involved, you can bet that Steve Jobs’ A-team is already hard at it, toiling away in a maximum security lab, under his close personal supervision.

But where next for the iPhone? What can you add to the smartphone that has everything? With the growing competitive threat from Android, I think that Apple’s roadmap for iPhone in 2011 will switch from adding new features to product diversification, targeting multiple consumer segments and price points.

Instead of the iPhone 5, Apple will launch the iPhone Play and the iPhone Air. Here’s why…


The Android platform has two key advantages over iPhone: it offers consumers choice, and it offers handsets at entry-level prices. This gives Apple’s competitors a “price umbrella,” because the iPhone 4 is currently only competing at the high end, leaving the market for budget smart phones wide open. Apple attempts to address this by offering last year’s model, the iPhone 3GS, at a knockdown price. But who wants last year’s model? And besides, it doesn’t make you feel very good to buy a phone that Apple can hardly bring itself to promote on its own website.

Apple’s main advantage over Android is that the iOS platform is not fractured, with different screen sizes, processor speeds, UIs, etc. This benefits both consumers and app developers, who can be confident that their apps will run on pretty much any device. Therefore the way for Apple to differentiate its hardware is not in terms of system specs – these should be identical. Instead, I think Apple will focus on physical dimensions.

Adopting a super-slim wedge shape for the top-end model, in the style of the new MacBook Air, would create a phone that slips seamlessly into the pocket of a fancy suit, (albeit, this is hardly a sartorial consideration for Steve Jobs). Meanwhile, the entry-level model could focus on adopting the fun styling of the new iPod nano, bringing a choice of colors for the first time to the iPhone line.

For the mockup, I’ve called them “iPhone air” and “iPhone play”, because it feels like time to move away from the numbering scheme – especially since the two lines will need to differentiate. In terms of timings, my guess is it’s more likely that the iPhone play will launch in 2011, alongside the current iPhone 4. We might need to wait till 2012 for something like iPhone air.

Hope you like the mockups. Please note this is all just speculation, and is not based upon any sources or even rumors!