Apple is about to sell a feature phone
Forget the iCloud Phone, and all that other crap; I’ve got the goods on Apple’s next move. I have it from a trusted source* that, contrary to really idiotic reports that Apple’s working on a “cheap” phone that will simply cost less upfront, with no change in the monthly costs, Apple will be unveiling what can only be referred to as a feature phone.
What, exactly, will it be?
This new iPhone — which I’ll refer to as the iPhone Nano, for sake of convenience — won’t simply be a smaller or less memory-laden version of an existing iPhone, because that would be idiotic and wouldn’t meet the goals of “cheaper.” No. No! It will be something completely different. It will be a whole new product, for a whole new market.
The iPhone Nano will be physically smaller, in line with the Candybar iPod Nano. It will have a less powerful processor than the iPhone 4, and probably even than the 3GS, but that’s okay, because it won’t run custom apps. It will be Apple’s response to a feature phone. Remember when the iPhone 1 came out, and it was just the core apps? Remember how my close, personal friend Steve Jobs called making phone calls the killer app? It’s exactly that. It’s the iPhone 1 without a web browser.
The thing is, the majority of humanity that uses a phone only wants to make phone calls with it and send texts. That’s is. The iPhone Nano will offer that functionality, plus the ability to listen to music, and pretty much nothing else.
Why, exactly, will it be?
You’re probably wondering why Apple would release an iPhone with a hobbled version of iOS. You’re probably wondering this because you like all of the features Apple’s added over the years, and you wonder why anyone would buy an iPhone without apps and internet access. You’re definitely wondering this because you’ve got you’re head up your butt, and are the wrong market. There are two excellent reasons why this phone will happen:
First, there’s the price. The thing is, when the tech pundits talk about Apple making a cheap phone, they keep confusing what “cheap” means, or what it should mean. Pundits — and lots of folks in the first world, folks who can afford smartphones — keep saying that an iPhone at $49 or $0 would sweep the market and lay to waste all those who would DARE to stand against it, but that argument is stupid, for several reasons.
One: The 3GS is already $49. And when the next iPhone gets announced, the iPhone 4 will probably be sold at $49 while the 3GS won’t be sold at all.
Two: The upfront cost is the smallest chunk of change involved in buying a smartphone. The major cost for a smartphone is the monthly service plan, and when people talk about making a phone cheaper, they need to start thinking about that. Now, presumably Apple wouldn’t be able to convince every carrier in the world to offer data plans at a 90% discount — if they did manage that somewhat miraculous goddamn feat, everyone would want it for every phone everywhere, which would negate the need for a special iPhone with a cheaper data plan. No, the way to go here is to take the data plan out of the equation.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you knock down the initial purchase price of a smartphone if, say, your income is only a couple grand a month, or, say, $100 if you’re in the third world. You need to make it a device that anyone can use without an expensive plan. Apple needs to make the phone cheap to buy unsubsidized, and they need to make it cheap to operate.
Second, there’s the marketshare. The market for smartphone users continues to grow, and even though Android is currently eclipsing Apple in terms of sales, Apple’s doing pretty well, and selling their iPhones hand-over-goddamn-fist. Despite that, the market for smartphones is only so big, and beyond that is the much, much larger market of cell phone users who either aren’t interested in or able to buy a smartphone.
We head-up-our-assers tend to forget it, but those users are the norm.
The majority of the phone using market doesn’t use smartphones, and the majority of featurephones are pretty old-school, in terms of styling. How wonderful would it be if Apple, the only company to design beautiful products, made a stylish, beautiful featurephone?
Not only would it be something magical for people who could afford a smartphone but don’t want to, it would also be wonderful for the majority of the market that simply can’t afford one.
To put it another way: Apple’s already destroyed Nokia’s smartphone market, it’s time for them to destroy Nokia’s dumbphone market.
In case you think this is a silly notion, consider Tim Cook’s recent statement on an earnings call that Apple doesn’t want the iPhone just to be for rich people. They’re going to make them palatable for poor people, which is, in some ways, where the money is.
In case you think the idea of Apple making a version of the operating system which would, essentially, only look like iOS, but wouldn’t offer much of the core functionality, consider the current iPod Nano: it features a simple operating system that looks like iOS, offering a consistency of user experience, without the overhead, or need to support all those features. Apple’s already doing what I say they will do to their new phone. It’s just a matter of time — probably a couple months — before they do this.
The iPhone Nano is coming. It will be a massive success, despite the fact that for the first time, Apple will be exclusively targeting a product at the unwashed masses. You won’t like it, or need one (but you’ll buy several, because you’re like that), but Apple won’t care, because they’re selling it to someone else.
*The trusted source is me, okay? Yes, this is just speculation, but my track record of Apple speculation is pretty good: I called the iPhone OS name change, and my prediction about Apple turning its Macs into glorified iOS devices is moving right on track.
Also, I know that this was speculated about over at AllThingsD a while ago, but I was unaware of this until just now, so that makes it my idea, goddamn it.