The End of the “Plus”

Every year, as summer comes to an end, the hype for the next iPhone becomes palpable. Rumors and speculation swirl, and leaks begin to reveal what Apple might be doing at their early fall event.

This year is like every other in some regards, but is also very different in many ways. A summer of leaks and speculation has most people predicting an iPhone with slimmer bezels, a repositioned home button1, and a $1000+ price tag2. What is harder to predict is the other device that will make an appearance in 2017.

In the history of the iPhone, every other year, we get an “S” model phone, which subtly iterates on the previous years device. The iPhone 4S was essentially the iPhone 4, with an improved camera and the addition of Siri. The 5S was the iPhone 5 with added TouchID. The 6S was the 6 with a first generation Taptic motor and the introduction of 3D Touch.

In 2016, with the iPhone 7, for the first time in Apple’s history, the new phone was almost akin to an SS device. Instead of being a new design AND new features, it further iterated on the 6 and 6S design, with only a few notable new features and a familiar size and shape.

Most rumors to date suggest that in addition to the fancy new iPhone (I’m calling it iPhone Pro), there will be an iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. Others suggest that they will skip the 7S moniker and jump to iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Either way, the general assumption is that there will be a total of 3 iPhone models this year.

I think that’s wrong.

In 2014, 2015, and 2016, it was easy (or easier) to decide which new device you wanted to purchase. If you wanted a smaller, more hand and pocket friendly device, you picked the 6, 6S, or 7. If you wanted the cooler camera features (OIS, Depth Effect, 2X zoom), or wanted a giant screen and more battery, you picked the Plus model.

In 2017, if the iPhone Pro is roughly the same physical size as the iPhone 7, but packs all the camera features and a bigger screen than the Plus, why would anyone buy the 2017 Plus. As it is, differentiating 2 devices is a challenge, aside from screen size, trying to extend that to 3 seems impossibly complex for consumers AND Apple’s marketing team.

This year, I firmly believe Apple will FINALLY fix the naming of their iPhone lineup (much like the rest of their product lines), and will stick with just 2 devices. iPhone and iPhone Pro. No more generation numbers, no more S years, just an iPhone with good specs, and an iPhone with great specs. Selling a good phone to people doesn’t seem to be a challenge for Apple, and selling a great phone seems to come naturally as well. Selling a phone that is good, but not significantly better, but also isn’t great seems much less practical.

Between getting a Plus or Pro, who would pick the Plus? I know I wouldn’t. And I think Apple knows that, too.

  1. Some rumors say the home button/Touch ID are going away. Others say it’s moving to the back. I’d wager that the home button is virtual and Touch ID goes into the power button on the side of the device – similar to the Nextbit Robin.
  2. This seems steep to me, but Wouldn’t surprise me. Although $999 is more like an Apple price.

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