Apple’s most boring iPhone could be the most significant release of 2022. […]
Apple’s launch strategy – months of radio silence followed by too many products at once – would make more sense for a cicada colony than for a high-tech company that wants to sell products. Apparently, someone in Cupertino likes to make life difficult for journalists, or maybe they are just afraid of being eaten by the birds.
After a long period of hibernation, the company’s spring event is now scheduled to take place, at least according to the latest report, on Tuesday, March 8th – a little early for a company that usually targets the second half of March or the beginning of April. Calendar purists will point out that, technically speaking, this is not even spring, but part of the dreary end of winter, which everyone loves so much.* Since Apple doesn’t launch any notable product launches in November, December, January, and almost certainly in February as well (apart from operating system updates and an Apple Watch band), it has kept us waiting, but maybe we should be thankful that it won’t keep us waiting any longer.
More importantly, the announcements we will hear in March are worth the wait – if we are willing to listen. The theme will not be luxury or flagship functions or devices, but value, reasonable compromises and realistic, step-by-step improvements.
The fascination of the sensible
There are three main products to be presented at the Apple event in March. (As always, Apple does not reveal anything in advance, so these are guesses based on leaks and industry rumors). None of these devices will raise your pulse, but they will quietly introduce important novelties.
The iPad Air, an excellent mid-range tablet that has been inexplicably neglected throughout 2021, is likely to receive an update. If the tradition of bringing the iPad Air closer to the iPad Pro in terms of quality and to the base iPad in terms of price continues, we could expect another Insta recommendation with a new chip and camera. In addition, we hear that Apple will introduce a new high-end Mac mini with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Again, it’s about finding the golden mean: the best of both worlds, i.e. features that go beyond those of the entry-level models, at a price that the average consumer can live with.
But the king of reasonable product launches will be the new iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE will not look much different externally, but it will bring important internal changes (c) Jason Cross/IDG
5G at a great price
There’s a reason people love the iPhone SE, and that’s its price. (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not by much. The smaller size is not the unique selling point that we thought it was, as evidenced by the failure of the iPhone 12 mini. I’m sorry, Mr. Macalope. If you lower the price of your phone, more people will buy it. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Apple does not like to pay much attention to the SE, because a) it obviously prefers to sell 1000-euro phones rather than 400-euro phones, and b) part of the company’s sales is the cool lifestyle fantasy that it has built around its products, and you can’t promote that much with budget devices. Journalists are often tempted by the glittering lure of the “new“, which the SE is unlikely to ever fulfill. But customers love the device.
While the iPhone 14 will get more headlines and articles, the new SE will make all the difference for more people. Apart from the performance improvements (multiplied by the long time span since the last upgrade) and access to the latest version of iOS, this will be the first 5G device that many can afford. Together with the infrastructural improvements that we have seen since the introduction of the first compatible mobiles, the SE update could herald the biggest increase in 5G adoption that we have experienced so far.
Assuming that Apple keeps the price of the new SE around 400 euros, Apple will land another big hit.
Technology for everyone
Apple has a strange relationship with cheap products. Presumably for fear of spoiling the already mentioned lifestyle fantasy, they are not denoted by this term, and often the company seems embarrassed to even talk about them. The cheapest offer in the Apple stable is usually, at best, a mid-range offer for the average buyer; the iPhone 5c disappointed a lot of people who expected it to be really cheap.
But the company was founded with a mission to make technology accessible to everyone. Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I because I wanted to give it away to other people for free, as he later claimed; the Macintosh was developed explicitly with the aim of being affordable for the masses, even if that didn’t quite work out. Apple has always told itself that its mission is to make high-quality products affordable for as many people as possible, regardless of whether the rest of us share this view or not.
At a price of 799 euros, it’s hard to argue that even the simplest version of the iPhone 13 mini is affordable for everyone – or that most of us have the means to upgrade our phones every year. The iPhone re-launches towards the end of each year are an entertaining theater, but this kind of prosperity porn is far less significant at the level of usefulness than the sporadic and less celebrated updates of Apple’s cheaper products. And the SE is the most significant of all.
So buckle up, park your wallet at the door and get ready for the meaningful spring. It will be a mild ride.
*Here in the UK, this period sometimes lasts until June.