Alternate Reality: I Decide Apple’s iPhone Line-up

(A quick content note: There will never be a part two to my previous post. Sorry.)


For years now Apple related press has been inundated with rumors about The Next iPhone. Due to the overall popularity of Apple’s products, this game is now played by the mainstream. This year is only different in that everyone has a little longer to play the game, as Apple did not announce the new model at WWDC back in June as has been tradition.

Most speculation points to a September announcement–the traditional time of year for iPod announcements. This makes a certain amount of sense, as the PMP market is no longer very interesting. The iPod shuffle and iPod nano will get tweaks, or even redesigns, and the iPod touch will have its guts updated to whatever is inside the newest iPhone, but this is no longer enough to plan an event around (and Apple sure does love its events).

So what is the new iPhone line-up going to look like? Rumors are mixed on if we’re going to see a physical redesign or not. I like the mock-ups I’ve seen of a MacBook Air/iPad inspired design, but the current design (possibly with a metal back instead of glass) still has life in it. Most expect the CPU to be bumped to match the iPad 2, the rear camera to be bumped to 8MP, but not much more. It looks like the general consensus is this years update will be much like what we saw with iPhone 3g -> iPhone 3gs, and that makes a lot of sense.

Also traditionally, last years model has been reduced to “entry level” status, given a $100 (subsidized) price point with only 8GB of RAM. I see no reason for Apple to not continue with this tradition. By now they should have gotten the iPhone 4’s production costs low enough to be able to do so.

The new rumors this year is that Apple is going to keep not just the “current -1” model around, but also the “current -2” model to compete with the onslaught of “free with contract” (mostly Android) smartphones. While it’d be nice to see Apple compete here, I don’t think the iPhone 3gs is their best bet. It certainly would be cost-effective in some respects, but it’s a lazy approach which would encourage people to expect that the next couple of iOS version will support the hardware.

Somewhere out there is an alternate reality where I’m in charge of Apple’s iPhone line-up this fall. Through methods which I am not at liberty to discuss, I’ve gotten in contact with this particular iteration of my alternate self, and was able to get some details on what that line up looks like.

  • High-end: iPhone 4S – Basically the current iPhone 4, with following updates: A5 chip with 1GB memory; slightly larger (3.7-inch) edge-to-edge screen; metal back; 8MP rear camera; .7MP front camera; very thin, nearly invisible anti-conductive coating over the antennas; slightly thinner and lighter; slightly longer battery life; 32GB and 64GB models. This years model is a solid, incremental upgrade to keep the phone competitive, look for a more radical upgrade/redesign next year. Contract pricing starting at $200, off contract pricing starting at $650.
  • Mid-level: iPhone 4 as it is today, 16GB. 8GB is no longer enough at this price point. Contract pricing $100, off contract pricing $450.
  • Low-end: iPhone 3x – A new device. This is basically the 4th generation iPod touch with the phone part put back in. It looks like the iPod touch, has the 800 Mhz A4 with 256MB RAM, and 8GB of storage. It does not have the retina display, rather a higher quality version of the 320×480 display. It does have a 3MP camera, though the quality of the sensor is higher then that of the 3gs. The front facing camera is the same .3 MP as most other models. Rated battery life is similar to the 3gs. Contract price is free, off contract price is $300.

The components of this new, low-end model have a good economy of scale. For example, the A4 chip used is still that of the iPhone 4, AppleTV 2 (which my alternate reality self said is not getting an A5 update at this time), and 4th-gen iPod touch (which will become the new low end touch model, with the new 5th-gen models getting the A5 according to my alternate reality self). In fact, all these devices share a wide variety of components. It’s not called a variation of the iPhone 4 brand as consumers would likely expect a retina display and better camera on such a device. Also it looks more like an iPhone 3g/3gs, though it’s aluminum back makes it feel better.

As a bonus, my alternate reality self assures me rumors of any kind of an iPad release this fall are complete bunk, put out there so everyone inside Apple can have a good laugh at the press going wild about such things.



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