Adding to yesterday’s iPhone analysis

Since posting yesterday, I’ve had some great feedback & comments refining my proposed projections for Apple’s new iPhones. So I wanted to take the time today to break some of those down and refine my ideas further.

Reader Tom Izaks pointed to news earlier in Feburary of Qualcomm (Apple’s cellular chipset maker) working on a yet-unreleased ‘global LTE chip’.

Qualcomm said OEM products (that is, smartphones) containing its new chipset will launch in the second half of this year.

Apple Insider also had news on the technical specs of this purported chipset:

The RF360 chipset is “designed to mitigate this problem while improving RF performance,” and offers support for all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE.

This would definitely make sense to be incorporated into a next-gen iPhone, given this chipset would also support China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA network, one of the biggest growth markets for Apple.

This would dramatically simplify their lineup, cutting the number of variations to 1/3 of what it was before. It would also eliminate the possibility of a 3G-only iPhone 5C. I think this is entirely feasible.

Second, some readers suggested a 128GB iPhone 5S may be possibility. I find it hard to fathom, given the push to cloud-enabled services & streaming, but I can’t rule it out. I can’t see Apple doing 4 different levels of storage, so a 128GB iPhone would also naturally eliminate the baseline version at 16GB. That’s a tough call to make.

Based on this info, let’s re-examine my original predictions:

  • iPhone 5S, 3 colours, 16GB/32GB/64GB
  • iPhone 5, 2 colours, 16GB
  • iPhone 5C LTE, 5 colours, 16GB only
  • iPhone 5C, 5 colours, 8GB only

I would eliminate the baseline 5C model for sure. This now leaves us with a conundrum; why would Apple introduce a 5C with similar specs and storage to the 5? If the two are almost identical except for the casing (and perhaps, a slightly better camera), what purpose does the iPhone 5 now serve?

So, following that line of logic, I think that it’s likely the iPhone 5 will disappear entirely. This leaves us with a dramatically reduced lineup. So dramatic in fact, that there’s ample space to stock the iPhone 5C with another storage option.

So, if we add a 32GB version to the 5C, I think we ought to bump the ceiling of the iPhone 5S storage to 128GB; it makes sense to only have 1 storage point at which the two products overlap.

My new prediction:

  • iPhone 5S: LTE, 3 colours, 32GB/64GB/128GB
  • iPhone 5C: LTE, 5 colours, 16GB/32GB

If my maths is right, this now means only 19 variants — far less than before! If they’re overhauling the market with an entirely different approach to selling iPhones, a simplified lineup certainly feels like an Apple-like way to go about it.

Creating a lineup like this would have the familiar smooth price-point ramp that’s a hallmark of Apple products. In fact, I bet there would be a relatively small price difference between a 32GB iPhone 5C and a base model iPhone 5S.

To me, this now feels very reminiscent of the lineup that emerged from the iPod when the iPod mini was introduced. It’s an interesting parallel, and one that seems to keep repeating itself when Apple diversifies a product line.

In fact, I would not be surprised if we see the same strategy when the next iPad event happens in October.

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