There have been several rumors and speculations that the 10th anniversary iPhone will cost more than $1,000. Apple blogger John Grubber created a bit of a stir when he suggested the 2017 OLED iPhone will start at $1,500.
In a follow-up post, he revised the price and argued that the price of the next flagship iPhone is quite likely to start at $1200, with the high-end model at $1,300 or $1,400.
Let’s call it iPhone Pro
Let us get the name out of the way. If Apple will release an iPhone that will be more expensive and better than the $649 and $769 iPhone models, then Apple will most likely call it the iPhone Pro, just like the iPad Pro and the MacBook Pro.
I expect it to be a major change in strategy, rather than just launching an expensive iPhone for the 10th anniversary.
Why will we pay $1200 – $1400 for an iPhone Pro?
Gruber makes some great points. According to him, when it comes to iPhone pricing, Apple also has to think of scale.
The iPhone’s scale — particularly the incredible popularity of the new high-end models each year — is Apple’s biggest financial strength but simultaneously its biggest potential strategic weakness. It prevents Apple from using any components in new iPhones that can’t be produced at a rate of 20-25 million per month, or roughly a rate of 1 million per day. The differences between regular and Plus models complicate this a little — only the Plus models need the dual camera systems, for example — but to date, even considering the Plus models, it has been true that all new iPhones need to be able to be produced in sufficient quantity to meet massive demand.
If Apple wants to make the best iPhone then it cannot be restricted by the scale at which it can produce a component, it needs to get out of this trap. So if an OLED screen will help in achieving the objective of making the best iPhone, Apple may not need to compromise on the scale aspect. Reports have suggested that Samsung can make only 10 million OLED displays for Apple per quarter. So there is no way Apple will be able to meet the demand of 20-25 million iPhone units. The problem of compromising on the scale is that it ends up increasing the cost of the device. So Gruber says that Apple has no choice but to charge a lot more for the iPhone Pro.
What Will Convince us to buy the iPhone Pro?
While this seems logical, the OLED screen is not going to convince people to buy a more expensive iPhone Pro. Samsung is already selling an OLED Galaxy S8, which looks quite stunning with its edge-to-edge display and almost bezel-less design for the same price as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple also won’t be able to justify such a steep price for just an OLED screen. Apple will need to offer something more than just an OLED display to convince people to buy the costlier iPhone Pro, instead of buying the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, or more importantly from switching to the Galaxy S8.
So the question is what will convince you to buy the iPhone Pro?
Here are some of the rumored features:
Opinion: As I have mentioned earlier, just the OLED screen won’t convince people to pay more.
Wireless Inductive Charging
There have been rumors that the 2017 iPhone models will support wireless inductive charging. But it won’t be groundbreaking as a true wireless charging solution, and a big differentiator from the wireless charging solution that has been available in flagship Android devices. It also looks like Apple may ship the wireless inductive charger late as the company has been hitting some software problems with it.
Opinion: So it is unlikely to convince people to pay more for it.
There are rumors that Apple will replace Touch ID with face recognition feature along with iris scanning as it is apparently having problems embedding the fingerprint scanner in the display, which would have been an ideal solution. The current facial recognition systems are also slower than the fingerprint scanner and you have to hold the device at a particular angle to get it to work, which can be quite annoying. It remains to be seen if Apple can address these drawbacks. When we asked our readers their preferred method to unlock iPhone 8, facial recognition was the least popular method.
Opinion: So it is unlikely to get people excited to pay more for it.
Faster Processor and Higher RAM
If the iPhone Pro has to live up to the “Pro” moniker then it probably needs to come with a faster processor and probably more RAM than the rumored 3GB RAM. However, we are yet to hear any rumors that have indicated that Apple plans to launch iPhone Pro with a faster processor than the other 2017 iPhone models.
Opinion: Even if iPhone Pro comes with a faster processor and more RAM, it is unlikely to convince people to pay more as processor and RAM don’t play such an important role like in the case of laptops.
Extra Storage Capacity
There have been rumors that the top-end iPhone Pro will come with 256GB storage capacity. I only have 15GB left on my 128GB iPhone 7 Plus, so you can never have enough storage space. So it would be nice to be able to get 256GB storage for the same price difference. But if Apple ends up charging $200 premium for the 256GB, that would make it expensive.
Opinion: Nice to have, but not a convincing factor.
Significantly Improved Camera With Groundbreaking AR Features
There have been rumors that iPhone Pro may feature a rear-facing 3D laser system that will enable better depth detection to provide a groundbreaking augmented reality experience. Apple could use the VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) system to offer faster and more accurate depth measurements for augmented reality purposes, along with speedier autofocusing when taking a photograph.
Opinion: My favorite iPhone 7 Plus feature of the iPhone 7 Plus is the portrait mode. We have already seen the potential of ARKit, so it will be interesting to see how the 3D laser system will enhance the experience even further. An edge-to-edge OLED screen will make it even better. So a significantly improved camera system could be a major factor along with rest of the features mentioned above in convincing some people to buy the $1200 iPhone Pro.
One More Thing
It is possible that iPhone Pro includes a feature that hasn’t been rumored yet, a top-secret feature I can’t even think of and that will blow us away, and make the $1200 iPhone Pro worth it for many of us.
Apple may be able to convince some of us this time, but it remains to be seen how Apple will be able to deliver the Pro experience every year. Apple would be competing with itself. It would be as if Apple’s iPhone Pro team is competing with the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus team, which seems like a tough ask every year.
It will be interesting to see if this move helps Apple to introduce more innovative features if it doesn’t have to worry about scale to a great extent for the iPhone Pro. It is an exciting prospect.
The biggest problem with the iPhone Pro strategy is that it means that people who can’t afford the iPhone Pro will have to settle for the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus. But people won’t be as excited about buying them as they would be an incremental upgrade from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and they know it is not the best iPhone in the market, which could end up hurting sales.
What do you think? Which feature will convince you to buy the iPhone Pro? Will you settle for the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, if iPhone Pro is too expensive? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Martin Hajek]