Would you rather have cheaper iPhones or an improved iOS?Anna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
It’s no secret that Apple has to change something in order to get back on track with where any company wants to be - on top. With the last major thing to come to the iPhone being LTE featured in the iPhone 5 (2 years after major US carrier Verizon launched the first large-scale public LTE network), it's hard to argue with the statement that some say when they claim that the iPhone is "somewhat behind". With that being said, what changes is Apple willing to make to convince us, the consumers, that the iPhone is still a relevant phone to purchase?
Rumors are flying everywhere about what Apple plans to do. My initial hope was that Apple had something up their sleeve. Surely Apple saw the disappointment many people expressed after the release of the iPhone 5. I understand that Apple saw we wanted bigger phones with 4G capabilities - but other than that there's not much that the iPhone 5 had that other phones didn't already feature long before the iPhone 5 was released. Even the 200+ changes that were supposed to take place with iOS 6 were minimal and for the most part cosmetic within the software. Then you compare it to the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II that people raved about all day, plus the updated versions Galaxy S 4 and the (presumable) Galaxy Note III that I presume will be released around the same time or shortly after any new iPhone. It's a lot to catch up to, but surely Apple will deliver, right?
Maybe not so much. Not in the way I had predicted, anyway, because according to several news reports SVP of iOS Jony Ive has stated that he plans to make iOS flat and simple. While this could be taken several ways into what it really means, anyone can see that this "new" direction iOS is supposedly going in probably isn’t the "new" direction that people like me were hoping to see. I was hoping to see more features and more customization while still embracing the simplicity and beauty that iOS already is. I was not expecting the company to take two steps back to make it even more simple than it already is. I mean, I'm not saying this move won't work. It might. After all, they are the experts. I'm just a lowly spectator who buys the products. But after hearing about this move, I can't help but feel that my initial prediction will certainly not hold up to what I had hoped.
Other rumors flying around go back to an old rumor that's resurfaced with a fresher perspective: perhaps Apple is planning to sell cheaper iPhones with a more colorful selection. I could actually see this being an option, mostly because of two things Apple has already started doing. The new iPod Touch now comes in several vibrant colors, and they released a cheaper and smaller iPad Mini. So, combine the two and you could probably come up with the prediction that they'd make cheaper iPhones with more colors to choose from.
I'm still not sure exactly what Apple could do to make iPhones any cheaper though, at least from a subsidizing standpoint. I still feel that their current model works decently. When a new iPhone comes out, the preceding models get knocked down by about a hundred bucks until you eventually hit one that's free. Even the iPhone 4 works better than a lot of "new" smartphones that hit the market today (I'm talking lower end Android here). It might not have the best specs, but if you handed me an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 4 and asked me to tell you which one was which just by looking at the home screen I would't be able to tell you.
Now if "cheaper iPhones" means creating more affordable iPhones for prepaid carriers like Virgin Mobile or Straight Talk then I can maybe see where that could be a good move for Apple in its current situation. The stigma around prepaid carriers being the only place where people with bad credit can go is slowly fading and newer, more up-to-date phones are steadily showing up in prepaid carrier inventories. Even though the two prepaid carriers I just mentioned already allow iPhones on their network, you're most likely going to have to pay a hefty full price in order to make that happen (which most of us have been taught not to do with subsidized prices). If Apple creates a cheaper iPhone (maybe $300-$350 full price) then people might be more willing to use an iPhone on those networks.
Between the two options, I'd have to say that I would much rather have a refreshed version of iOS be released instead of cheaper iPhones. I think it's become evident that people are willing to pay whatever it takes to have an iPhone in many cases, but lately the "elite" status that follows having an iPhone is fading. While the handsets still look and feel premium, they don't act premium. They act like 2007, and I think that the software needs refreshing more than the price of the devices.
Readers, what do you think? Would you rather purchase an iOS device that has a more refreshed interface or would you rather see cheaper, more colorful iPhones on the market? Let me know your thoughts!