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Apple is shifting from pricey to palatable, and the iPhone is next

by Justin Herrick | March 28, 2018March 28, 2018 6:00 am PST

The unthinkable could happen. Maybe not this year, but in 2019 there could be a ‘cheap’ iPhone. It wouldn’t be one that’s oddly small, either. This iPhone would have some cutting-edge specifications to gain our attention but dial back in certain areas to remain affordable. Just talking about it seems exciting, and believe it or not it’s very likely we see such an iPhone.

Apple’s products are getting cheaper. As the company realizes people don’t always want to drop an exorbitant amount of money on stuff, we could see more affordable products from a brand known for never leaving the premium segment. Times have changed, both for Apple and the industry.

Few have noticed, but this shift has been in motion for the last 18 months. Apple has been lowering prices but continues hitting record-high sales.

Let’s have a look at Apple’s path from pricey to palatable and how that impacts the iPhone.

When Beats was acquired by Apple in 2014, we knew the inevitable was approaching. The company would not only set out to develop a music streaming service but also implement a collection of patents for best-in-class audio equipment.

It took a bit of time, but Apple rolled out the AirPods using a chip also found in select Beats products. Apple now sells what are widely viewed as the best wireless earbuds.

The interesting thing about the AirPods, at least to me, isn’t the wireless design or magical setup. What impressed me (and still does today) is that Apple shipped a product of that caliber for under $200. You can purchase the AirPods for $159, which seems like a bargain coming from Apple.

Prior to their announcement, you would’ve expected these wireless earbuds to cost a pretty penny. I would’ve guessed Apple would put the AirPods out for $250. But Apple shocked us by making them affordable. Somehow you can get Apple-branded wireless earbuds with the W1 chip and a charging case at a steal of a price. Wild to think about in hindsight, folks.

Tablet sales have been shrinking, and only Apple seems capable of combatting that. The iPad Pro came about in 2015. No, it’s not budget-friendly by any stretch of the imagination. But the iPad Pro sparked an interest in Apple’s tablets again. And that made the company reconsider the regular models.

The iPad, referring the standard model here, was refreshed in mid-2017. Along with improved specs, Apple quietly lowered the price. It simply said the best tablet got better… and cheaper.

People always viewed the iPad as an expensive, revolutionary machine that was unattainable unless you had deep pockets. That’s no longer the case. Apple makes its iPad accessible to everyone with a $329 starting price, and then individual consumers can go for an iPad Pro if their needs demand more horsepower. The new iPad, which launched alongside education-focused software, actually raises the bar for low-cost tablets since it features Apple Pencil support.

Expect an entry-level MacBook to launch in June at WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference. The MacBook Air is a stale product that’s received minimal attention ever since the MacBook debuted. A number of reports suggest the company wants its upcoming MacBook to be sold for as low as $799, and that’s despite high-end qualities being present.

Apple once again will bring down its pricing but continue serving different segments.

Not everyone wants or needs a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar or even an ultra-thin MacBook, so the entry-level replacement for the MacBook Air can rake in consumers who’d otherwise shop for a Windows or Chrome OS device.

All eyes are then on Apple’s iPhone. Google and its partners have shown non-flagships have a place in this world; therefore, the countdown for a low-cost iPhone is on.

We’ve already heard chatter regarding the iPhone SE 2. While I agree that there’s a small iPhone in development, I wouldn’t count on it being nearly as small as the iPhone SE from 2016. Apple had the right idea to make a less expensive iPhone, but it didn’t seem to care much about design. Releasing an iPhone with a 4-inch display these days would be embarrassing and very bizarre.

This is the way Apple is going, though. There will be a cheaper iPhone. And I don’t mean one that’s on store shelves for $650. Apple is paying close attention to what the market is doing. Most of Samsung’s sales come from mid-range and low-end devices, and brands like OnePlus have discovered a voice by sitting around $450.

Even if Apple is forced to take thinner margins on every unit it sells, the company would hypothetically increase sales. Ponder the idea of an iPhone that costs $400. It has an edge-to-edge display measuring 5.5 inches, the processor is on par with the most advanced iPhone or maybe a year behind, and the camera boasts the company’s secret sauce.

The masses would flock to an iPhone that doesn’t beg for a monthly payment plan. Apple would be able to use it as a mid-year announcement, keeping its name in the news year-round much like Samsung’s is.

More important than anything else, a cheap iPhone would raise Apple’s profile in emerging markets. The current lineup is far too expensive. Bring down the iPhone’s price, and suddenly Android isn’t so safe in countries like India. Then Apple truly becomes a brand for everyone.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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