When the Apple iPhone originally debuted back in 2007, it didn’t take long for the revolutionary device to make headlines. As the first smartphone (as we know them today) to really make an impact on the mobile industry, the term ‘iPhone’ is nothing short of iconic. Even today, the Apple iPhone continues to be one of the top selling and most in demand devices, despite the fact that there is now a substantial amount of competition in the market competing against it through three other major mobile platforms.
It’s particularly interesting to see how well the iPhone has held up given its prestigious status and high price tag, considering that rival operating systems like Windows Phone and Android have started to reshape the entry level and budget end of the market into something quite remarkable. People are now able to purchase truly decent smartphones at super affordable prices. Yet, Apple still manages to stay in the game without offering any truly “affordable” devices at all. As of right now, the current generation of available iPhones on Apple’s website starts at $450 full-price for the 8GB version of the Apple iPhone 5c, a phone that is over a year old already.
It’s not really a surprise though, because that’s just how Apple has always been: expensive, but reliable. You pretty much always know what to expect when you pick up an iPhone... except for the past couple of years, Apple has been making some subtle changes to its line-up.
Two years ago, the iPhone 5 debuted with a 4-inch display, the first change the iPhone screen had seen from the standard 3.5-inch display the iPhone had always used - the same screen size that former CEO Steve Jobs’ claimed was “the perfect size” for one-handed smartphone use. It was previously predicted and indicated that Apple would never move up from that screen size.
Last year, the iPhone 5c was introduced - the first time that Apple came out with a somewhat more affordable (not to mention an entirely polycarbonate back and more colorful) option, but more importantly the first time that Apple came out with two iterations of the iPhone during the same event. The iPhone 5s was also introduced, which, as expected, shared an identical shell as the iPhone 5 with upgraded internal specs.
This year was probably the biggest change of all, with Apple finally giving the iPhone not only gaining a significantly larger screen with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, but even bumping one version of the iPhone into official “phablet” territory with the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Again, Apple released two iterations of the iPhone at the same time.
So Apple has now taken care of one of the major issues that many people had with the iPhone, which was the complaint that the iPhone was becoming too small compared to the competition - but whatever happened to the “cheap” iPhone that was once often discussed? Or even a “cheap” iPad? Is that sort of thing ever likely to happen when it comes to Apple? Although the iPhone 5c was allegedly supposed to be the cheap iPhone, it didn’t really turn out to be that cheap at all - cheaper maybe, but not cheap.
At this point, I wouldn’t entirely put it past Apple to eventually come out with something competitive on the entry level or budget end of the market. While I have always kind of liked Apple’s ability to make their iPhones last for at least 2 or 3 years comfortably, it’s become obvious to me that the older phones really start to show their age after the second major iOS update. The iPhone 4S, which I had been carrying up until recently, responded very poorly to the iOS 8 update - so poorly that I absolutely refused to update past iOS 7, which had already taken somewhat of a toll on the performance of the phone that I so fondly remembered. The iPhone 4S is still a decent phone (and rather cheap to boot, for places that still sell them) even 3 years later - but without the ability to roll back to previous versions of iOS, it makes the phone a hard sell these days. Simply put, Apple’s old hardware and their new software don’t seem to play nicely together after the first major update or so.
Apple could solve this one of two ways: enable the ability to roll back to previous iOS versions, or perhaps just start selling cheaper iPhones and iPads. Cheaper materials, but with internals that make it compatible with Apple’s updated software. I personally don’t think that a cheaper iPad or iPhone would necessarily “tarnish” Apple’s name as many people seem to think, and in fact it might really boost their market share compared to Android. People seem really interested in the new generation of budget smartphones that aren’t slower than a turtle on sleeping pills.
Apple’s been seemingly keen on change lately, so it would seem like an appropriate time to debut a truly “cheaper” iPhone and iPad option within the next year or two. The question that remains, of course, is whether people would actually be interested in cheaper Apple products or not. I personally think that such a device would be a hit.
Readers, what are your thoughts on affordable Apple products? Do you think that this is a move that Apple should make, or do you think that Apple should stick with their current pricing models? Would you think more or less of Apple if they ended up offering a more affordable route for people? Let us know in the comments below!