After the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra, some are suggesting that next year’s iPhone lineup may see the iPhone 15 Ultra instead of the Pro Max.
The theory is that Apple will increase the differentiation between the iPhone Pro and Ultra models, with the dual goal of raising the price of the top-of-the-range model and persuading Pro buyers to switch to Ultra …
So far there have been inconsistencies in both branding and strategy for the top-tier iPhone model. Some years you had to shell out the cash for the largest and most expensive model if you wanted all the features on offer, and other times the two top models offered pretty much the same feature at different sizes.
This year saw a new twist, as Apple made it possible for customers to choose the largest screen size without having to use the Pro Max. However, it is suggested that Apple will reverse course next year.
iPhone 15 Ultra branding
The iPhone 15 Ultra brand idea was of course inspired by the announcement of the Apple Watch Ultra. This is a premium-priced Apple Watch, with features unique to this model.
(There were, of course, similar inconsistencies here, with the watch’s top-tier rebranding from Edition to Ultra, and differentiation from premium materials to premium features.)
In terms of branding, this seems like a no-brainer to me. The Pro Max trademark may have only been two syllables, but it always sounded awkward in print, and the twin descriptions always sound comically weak to me. Like, pick a term, Apple.
For me, a lineup that looks like this would definitely be a favorite from a brand perspective:
- iPhone 15
- iPhone 15 Plus
- iPhone 15 Pro
- iPhone 15 Ultra
There is likely to be a differentiation of the features of the iPhone 15 Ultra
This branding would only make sense, though, if there were significant feature differences between the Pro and Ultra — and I think that’s likely, for three reasons.
First, previous inconsistencies aside, this is what Ultra stands for in the Watch lineup, so it would be silly if it had a different meaning for the iPhone.
Second, reports already point to one potential differentiator for next year’s four biggest models — and they’re big.
At the moment, the first feature mentioned by rumors is a periscope lens for better optical zoom. While analysts initially thought this technology would be exclusive to the 2023 Pro models, Ming-Chi Kuo now claims that the new lens is only the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max.
This would give a first class model far Better optical zoom capability than the rest of the bunch.
Third, Apple has already started in this direction by further differentiating between the basic and professional models. This is the first time Apple has kept its latest A-series chip for the Pro models, but there’s also a long list of feature differences this year:
- Dynamic Island
- Always on display
- Upgrade functional
- screen brightness
- Matte glass
- 48 MP camera
- Improved OIS by shifting the sensor
- LiDAR scanner
- Night mode photos
- macro lens
- ProRAW support
- ProRes Video
- Better battery life
- 1 terabyte storage layer
In contrast, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are basically identical in physical size, screen size, and battery life. So there’s a clear opportunity here for Apple to broaden product differentiation.
It will create a good, better, better classic lineup
If Apple did this, it would have a slight variation on the classic good, better, best lineup:
- Good: iPhone 15
- Good (but bigger): iPhone 15 Plus
- The best: iPhone 15 Pro
- The best: iPhone 15 Ultra
There are two reasons why good/better/better has become a classic marketing strategy.
First, some people always want the best, whether they actually need it or not. By clearly positioning one product as the best, you will increase sales of that model.
Second, salespeople know that if you offer people two options, most will take the cheaper one; If you show them three choices, more of them will take the middle one. Sometimes a “better” option has been introduced not because the company expects a lot of people to buy it, but because it increases the number of people who will buy what was the top model and is now the middle model.
But I think it would be a shame
I think the strategy would make sense from Apple’s perspective, but I think it would be a shame for consumers.
Not everyone who wants the best feature set also wants the biggest device. In fact, there are a large number of people who would prefer to have a more compact device without sacrificing performance or capacity.
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are great from this perspective, as buyers can choose a larger or smaller screen without compromising on what the phone can do. With the strategy I now expect Apple to adopt, those who want maximum capabilities will be forced to buy the larger size.
Like it or not, I think it will be profitable for Apple, and so we can expect that to happen.
What’s your point? Do you agree with my thinking? Will you be happy or disappointed? Please share your thoughts via your comments.
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