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!

10 comments:

  1. Bagsy the iPhone Air!
    Great mockups, yet again, however I can't see Apple going down this route. One device is the way forward.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also see Apple keeping the one device route. They do have a range of products in this area though, they're the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad. These days $199 is a pretty competitive price, any decent smartphone costs about the same on contract.

    Maybe they could do something where the $99 phone gets a colorful case refresh or something when it gets demoted. Keep the same last-years components but give it a slight facelift so that people don't feel like they're buying something that just got pushed into obsoleteness.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Graham, you're right that selling last year's model for a lower price, while economical, is not a great marketing scheme.

    Now we know one thing about Apple based on the rest of their product line: they will not sell an underpowered product, because that just leaves customers disappointed. So I don't see Apple trying to compete in the "practically free" market at all.

    If Apple were to expand the iPhone line they'd have three possible avenues to differentiate:
    1. Screen size - one today's size and the other larger;
    2. Power and feature set - one always cutting edge and the other less so;
    3. Design elements such as new shapes and colors, which they could do at any time, and are not really tied to a market niche based on price.

    As someone who bought iPhone 1 on Day 1, I've always wanted a larger screen. Surely there must be many people with older eyes like me who feel that way ;) But would that be the on the cheaper or the more expensive phone? Logically, it wouldn't cost less to produce.

    I agree with your idea that Apple will someday soon offer two phones, and hope that a larger screen size will be the primary difference. But I think a lower cost iPhone will come later when the differentiator can be the number of cores, in combination with storage.

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  4. iPhone 4 was launched last year in June and from that time onwards it has been sold throughout the world. Now Apple will launch the new iPhone 5 this June and I am definitely sure it will sell more with the latest 3G technology.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I noticed that the verizon iphone has a universal chip in it. Maybe the next gen iphone will have a universal chip in both the att and verizon. If you took both phones apart they are completely different on the internsl side. I must say when i saw the "iphone air" i almost flipped out. That is the coolest iphone i have ever seen and that would be my choice for a new phone. I love everything about it and it looks just like my ipad. I wizh apple could see this mockup and design the next one after this.

    ReplyDelete
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