From the WSJ:
Apple Inc. is working on a lower-end iPhone, according to people briefed on the matter, a big shift in corporate strategy as its supremacy in smartphones has slipped.
Did Apple ever have supremacy in the smartphone market?
Supremacy of attention, yes. But volume? No.
Apple has a decision to make: Does it want to remain an incredibly profitable and popular niche player or does it want to try and dominate the industry as it did with the iPod Mini/Nano?
If it’s the latter, then it’s quite clear that an iPhone “Mini” has been required. I’ve been banging on about this for ages. Indeed it’s been something of a nightmare scenario for a lot of companies in the industry. There is no flipping way that your average chappy in any developing economy is going to spunk $600 on an iPhone. No way. Hence a cheaper one is required. And the semi tired argument that “the previous iterations are the Mini strategy” is total balls. Yes, for some parts of the market. In some countries, a $400 older generation iPhone is a bit more palatable. Or even a $350 iPhone. The mass market needs something around the $100 mark.
The iPhone Mini scenario of yesteryear — the one I wrote about often about 2 years ago — has, I think, passed.
There was a time when absolutely everybody couldn’t get enough of Apple handsets. Apple was sensibly reaping stupendous margins from those who could afford their devices.
Had they launched a (competitively priced) Nano or Mini alongside the 3GS, the 4 and the 4S, I think we’d have seen Apple seriously challenge Nokia then Samsung as one of the largest (smart)phone handset makers on the planet.
There’s definitely mileage — substantial mileage — with a Mini strategy on-going though. It’s just a completely different world than a few years ago when Apple was ultra hot.
The company is no longer hot. Heavily profitable, yes. Hot? No. They’ve ceded the innovation ground and run for the hills of certainty with careful and safe incremental evolution nowadays. Again there’s nothing wrong with that — it’s the best way to ensure nothing major screws up and you keep on delivering short term results for shareholders.
I’d like to see an iPhone Mini. I’d like to see their technology in the hands of more and more people. There’s no doubting the connectivity watershed precipitated by the introduction of the iPhone. It’s simply brilliant to think of how so many people who were previously disenfranchised with a piece-of-shit calls-n-texts phone have now been shown the light, thanks to Apple.
What I’d really like to see is how Apple handles the back-against-the-wall moment that a lot of other companies have had to deal with over the years — Nokia, RIM and so on.
I think it’s fair to say that the company has lost a lot of the support from influencers and the media that it previously enjoyed. It’s been a slow erosion — the Emperor’s New Clothes moment was iOS Maps. Scott Forstall’s words to the effect of “this is the best mapping service out there ever, bar none, period” were swallowed in full by the iPhone-toting influencer community… who were shocked out of their distorted reality by the horror of actual experience.
I’d like to see how Apple deals with seriously smart, agile and sustained competition alongside a semi hostile (or at least, pretty neutral) media community.
The Mini — should it arrive — will be excellent for the marketplace. More competition please.