It has been discussed for some time, but is Apple ready to create an iPhone like no other? Will it decide to seal everything inside the case, remove the external ports and fixtures, and be happy with another expensive price tag to create a seamless iPhone design. Would the move to a totally sealed iPhone in 2021 a sensible design choice?
I personally think that the Apple of Steve Jobs, which was happy to kill the number one selling iPod (the iPod Mini) because the iPod Nano had just been launched, would be up for it. Tim Cook’s Apple? I’m not so sure. Apole is the establishment now, and tends to wait until other companies have proven concepts and designs before pitching in with something almost but not quite the same.
The last few years have seen Apple diversify the number of iPhone models that it puts out on sale. Moving the whole range to a sealed design may be a risk too far for Cook, but a single ‘hero’ model to prove the concept would minimize the risk while still offering kudos and headlines – much like the Mac Pro which is not going to sell in huge numbers but is still seen as the flagship desk-bound model.
What challenges would a sealed iPhone need to overcome?
First up is power. The lightning port is the main charging point for the iPhone, although wireless charging with a Qi compatible system debuted with the iPhone 8. Apple’s rapid charging system was quietly removed from the website before it was launched, but I have to assume that the R&D team are working away on the issues without a ‘by the end of the year’ deadline hanging over them.
Audio output, be it streaming music, video, podcasts, apps, or any other uses, have already been pushed towards either the speaker assembly (which surely has to stay) and wireless connections. Apple’s domination of the wireless headphone market with the AirPods and AirPods Pro suggests it is more than ready in this area.
There are implications for the third-party peripherals market. The ever popular idea of portable battery chargers will be one of the most disrupted areas, although it is notable that some manufacturers, such as Mophie, have portable chargers with wireless charging output built in to the case. Other manufacturers will no doubt be encouraged to include bluetooth connectivity over the next year or two to be ready.
Perhaps the most drastic action would be what Apple would put in the retail box. If charging is only through wireless means, then a Qi compatible charger will need to be in with the iPhone, as would a set of AirPods.
I’ve discussed previously the idea of having a set of basic AirPods in the box would still leave audiophiles looking for ‘better’ headphones the choice of the AirPods Pro. The same ethos would likely apply to the charger, with faster chargers only available as an additional purchase. Both would drive up the average revenue per customers. It would also justify a ‘Pro’ tag on the sealed iPhone. It would not just be a bigger screen, it would be a new type of iPhone, bundled with an impressive set of peripherals.
That would not come cheap to the consumer. It would likely be the most expensive iPhone package that Apple has launched. Yet it would offer status, it would display cutting edge technology, and it would be Apple taking control of how people perceive their smartphones.
Yes, a single hero model would be worth the gamble. But will Apple roll the dice?
Now read more about the steps Apple should make during 2020 to find success…