Will Apple make a mistake?

Tl:dr Apple should not release a budget iPhone in the UK/EU/USA. A phablet might work. WWDC will be interesting.

Every day there are more and more rumors that apple are going to release both a small, low powered, cheap iPhone and a large ‘phablet’ iPhone. This vast array of devices is one of the biggest problems android currently has, and I cant help but feel the same problems would arise if Apple went down the same multi device route. The screen sizes, dpi (any cheap phone will have a low dpi) and aspect ratio will be enough to juggle for developers, let alone the vast difference in hardware power.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about using my iPhone 4s is its ‘ just work’ ability. It is fluid and pleasant to use. The apps from the market work great and they are fluid. From a designer and developers point of view there is only one version of the app that needs to be created, and it will work on the current iPhone, since there only is one. While I am sure Apple would help with this by creating nice guidelines the fact that the high end normal iPhone market numbers would shrink to make way for the budget and phablet options, would limit the market size for developers to aim at. Smalled audiences = less profit = less people making great apps (that are hardware intensive). I’d expect both the budget and normal iPhones to be 16:9, but the phablet may not be. It then gets into the very chunky range. It would most likely have the same internal hardware as the current normal iPhone allowing apps to work on both, but the biggest problem would be on the budget iPhone.

If Apple wanted to keep the features the same on all models they would almost certainly need to hold some features back so the older budget hardware could support it. Or they would have to have 2 separate lines of code, that would not go with Apple’s very optimized procedures. The high end model may then suffer as a result. It has become apparent in the most recent iterations of the iPhone that Apple can’t keep adding great new features every year, how would their consumer base feel if they started adding even less features?! They would then have the huge issue of having to educate end users that the cheap iPhone is not as good as the best one (sounds obvious, but try telling a Samsung Galaxy s3 mini user their phone isnt the same as a normal s3, despite the adverts saying the are the same). A large number of Apple’s users will buy an iPhone for the status attached. If they offer a cheaper version, that will be bought for the same status, then users will get annoyed when it doesnt work as well as the expensive one. It happens with Android due to the mass diversity of the hardware ecosystem, even from within OEM’s such as Samsung. It will happen to Apple as well. This is something I am convinced would never have happened with Steve Jobs at the helm. He would never have sacrificed quality for cost. But now shareholders are getting annoyed and the shareprice is falling. They need something to stop people defecting to an Android phablet or budget phone (although I think the latter would only be for 1 contract life cycle).

The flip side to this is that the budget iPhone only gets released in emerging markets where Apple is taking a beating. I think a phablet from Apple could survive in the same world as the normal iPhone. Same hardware and possibly resolution would make development for both of them simple. I guess what I am really trying to get it is once again budget smartphones trying to imitate high end smart phones is not a good idea. Now where is that Nokia Lumia 620…