Are you ready for the "iPhone Pro"?

I know that I've written about this a lot in the past (and other people have written about it a lot MORE in the past) but there have been some pretty pervasive rumors that Apple is developing a "low cost" plastic iPhone. Here's where I think this is headed:
Apple has always favored simplicity across its product lines. This helps avoid fragmentation, and it gives consumers an easy choice - they are able to find precisely what they are looking for.

Put simply, Apple prefers simplicity in its naming conventions. We're unlikely to see an "iPhone LX 2", and we'll never be asked to discern between an "iMac 8300" and an "iMac 8350", or an "iPad DX" vs. an "iPad Special Edition".

There are iMacs, and there are iPads. If you're buying the current model, that's what you get.  

A few years ago, Apple offered consumers a choice in MacBooks - you could have the MacBook, which was a white plastic laptop, or you could pay a bit more and buy the MacBook Pro, which was aluminum and glass.

Again - no "MacBook Pro DS", or "MacBook LXI". But the "Pro" designation has always carried some cachet within Apple's product lines, it's been used for quite a while, and it signifies that, for the current model, it's the top of the line.

iPhone has been different. Apple's strategy here has been a sequential naming system (3G-3GS-4-4S-5), with the prior year's model available at a discount, and the 2-year old model available for free on contract. 

And that has worked. But it's working a little bit less right now. 

iPhone 5 marked a pretty large departure from all prior iPhones. The screen - the single iPhone interface element - was made taller. The connector - the single iPhone charging/data syncing point - was changed.

And Apple still continued to sell iPhone 4 and 4S as though nothing had changed. In fact, they're still selling iPads that use the old connector, too.

This has caused the one thing that Apple would prefer to avoid - fragmentation. It's minor compared to the myriad forms of Android out there, but it's fragmentation nonetheless.

Suddenly, we have Apple devotees carrying 30-pin connectors for their iPads and Lightning connectors for their iPhones. We'd see families on different upgrade schedules, toting around different charging cables for their different iPhones.

And more importantly, we're seeing developers forced to compensate for 2 different screen sizes, and accessory makers required to create devices for the 30-pin connector AND the Lightning connector.

It's not the ideal Apple environment. And the neverending sequential naming system for iPhones isn't a road Apple's going to want to take, either - can you imagine a world in which the "iPhone 11" exists?

The low-cost iPhone gives Apple the chance to kill a few birds with one stone.

First and foremost, if moving to cheaper materials allows Apple to push into low-cost markets they'd previously been excluded from, so much the better.

Secondly, the low-cost iPhone - which will presumably incorporate Lightning and an iPhone 5-sized screen - will allow Apple to completely remove the iPhone 4/4S from active sales, and put all currently available iPhones on a compatible form factor.

Finally, by introducing the plastic "iPhone" and the aluminum-and-glass "iPhone Pro", Apple will be able to get away from a naming convention they've conclusively demontrated that they dislike.

If I'm right, we can expect a few years of "updates to the iPhone" and "revamped iPhone Pros".

Or maybe we should start dreaming of that iPhone 11 after all.


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