That iPhone Mini discussion is back again: Good!

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.

via Apple Working On a Less-Expensive iPhone – WSJ.com.

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.

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  • Giuseppe

    Very interesting article. I believe android has a superior technology but Apple still keeps a superior appeal, especially on “not tech-savvy” segments. I wonder how this strategic battle will continue!

  • http://twitter.com/Krizanand Krishna

    Nice article, you were spot on with emerging markets scenario. Apple’s strategy would never work in emerging/developing markets in long term. Android’s alarming success is because of variety in price range, and OEMs are making use of it. Lot of Apple fans I know rubbished this idea of ‘low cost iPhone’, but business don’t work like that, hope they wake up soon, one day Apple would be forced to make a low cost iPhone and that day is not too far away.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Indeed. There’s a lot of important folk wondering why Apple isn’t the number one handset manufacturer out there. As you point out, it’s all about the retail price.

  • maethorechannen

    The one question I have is “Mini in what way?”. Excluding the 5, iPhone screens are already a bit small by Android standards (even at the “high end of the low end” where a Mini would land). So if you don’t/can’t cut back in screen size, what do you take out and how is that different from just selling previous models at lower price points?

  • maethorechannen

    The more I think about it, the more I get feeling of Deja vu – Apple went down this road at the start of the 90s with the (post Steve Jobs) Performa range of “affordable” Macs. That wasn’t exactly Apple’s best decade.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Mini in terms of bill of materials. You make a cheaper phone. And you perhaps also sacrifice your margins too depending on the specific strategy adopted.

  • http://twitter.com/00tony tony

    DId you mean ipod mini/nano in the third sentance?

  • http://twitter.com/00tony tony

    I consider the current iphone to be the iphone Mini, as it is about the same size as the Samsung galaxy S3 Mini.S3 Mini. I want an Iphone Maxi with screen size same as Samsung galaxy S3 and others

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Very stimulating point!

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Whoops yes you’re absolutely right I’ll change that!

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    And it’s going to be really interesting to see if Apple bend to your will (and that of a lot of other people); or decide they’re fine-thank-you-very-much

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