So at Apple's Gather round event, we saw the iPhone X split into a triple-X threat...XR, XS and XS Max. The Cupertino company appears to be extending its portfolio to give consumers a wider range of options. In this, it appears to be borrowing a little from the Android universe...but does it show a company running out of ideas?
In the mobile world, Android devices have stood out as offering consumers a wide variety of options to choose from. Cheap phones under $300 to $1,000-busting luxury status symbols. Compact powerhouses and big screen phablets. Ingenious innovations such as the mechanical camera or snap-on mods. The price of this variety? Fragmentation of hardware and software, unreliable updates and the difficulty of finding the 'perfect' all-round package in the crowd.
In contrast, the iPhones, controlled by a single company, didn't offer much in terms of variety, but what was offered was presented with a lot of care and confidence, and without compromise. You knew exactly what you were getting with an iPhone, and could expect good long-term support for your device. I could always respect that about Apple even if I preferred Android's more interesting variety and unpredictability.
In the last few years, if you wanted a modern iPhone, your only choice was between the standard and slightly larger better specced 'Plus' model. You'd have around three colors, that's it. But that's all changed now. Last year, the iPhone X showed us Apple's design vision for the future, and now it no longer stands alone. With the new three-pronged strategy, Apple may have realized that they must offer a greater variety to customers.
An iPhone for the budget-conscious, try not to laugh
For a start, Apple seems to have realized that the steadily increasing prices of the iPhone leading up to its historic $1,000 iPhone X may have been too much for wealthy Apple enthusiasts. So now we see a new 'cheap' iPhone, the iPhone XR....starting from $749. Yes, it sounds like a joke, but at $250 dollars down from the iPhone XS, don't think that Apple hasn't considered the exact price point it needs to retain consumers put off by its sky-high prices, while at the same time ensuring that it profits handsomely.
So where have costs have been cut? Mainly on the display, which is an LCD panel and lower-res compared to its brethren. Then we have aluminum instead of steel, and a single camera. Is Apple trying to capture bargain hunters? We're looking forward to comparing the iPhone to much cheaper Androids such as the Pocophone F1 or OnePlus 6 by the numbers to see if it can really outclass them. Yet for an Apple fan becoming frustrated with rising prices, it may ease the pain juuust enough.
Another interesting aspect of the iPhone XR is its variety of color options, with six variants on the table. The lower price combined with more options suggests that if there was ever Apple's answer to Android, it's this one. Of course, Android phones with comparable specs will be available for a better price, but Apple doesn't need to capture too many from the other side. It's about preventing the faithful from straying.
It's XL and Xs at the same time
Then we come to the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max. The first isn't, as the name suggests, a tiny phone, but rather an upgrade to the X, just as the iPhone 6S followed the 6, and so on. The Max, on the other hand, is exactly what it says on the tin. It's the same, but bigger. So we've got Max instead of Plus, but the song remains the same. Once more, just three colors for these premium iPhones.
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Larger phones are getting more popular, with ever increasing screen diagonals emerging on flagship 'phablet' phones that would be marketed as straight-up tablets in the days of yore. Here too, Apple has to offer something to be competitive in this class. A "just make the iPhone XS, but bigger" approach speaks to Apple's familiar confidence in design, but is hardly exciting.
The Apple should fall farther from the tree
In the end, the 'three new iPhones' miss an opportunity to introduce true diversity to the iPhone. Apple is sticking with only slight deviations from the One True Path as trailblazed by the iPhone X. Cupertino remains confident and no doubt continues to be profitable but as younger companies, particularly Chinese brands that were once dismissed as 'always copying the iPhone', now innovate and develop in a variety of different price points, device models and new technologies, will Apple regret staying the course?
Do you think Apple should become more adventurous with its iPhones? What should the Cupertino company do to make its phones more interesting?