On Wednesday, Apple launched the iPhone 14 series. As in the past three years, the lineup is split, with two semi-affordable entries and two more expensive flagships. In this case we have the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus at one end and the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max at the other.
However, what is different this time is the disparity between these two sets. This year, more than any other, Apple is working to attract two different types of iPhone buyers: experts and regulars.
For the iPhone 11, 12, and 13 series, there was a lot of overlap between regular and Pro phones. For example, a person who uses their iPhone for CPU-intensive tasks would appreciate the processing power, but they might don’t mind the cameras. This hypothetical buyer could happily buy the iPhone 13 for just $799. They would get the same CPU and general features as the iPhone 13 Pro but for $200 less.
See also: Which iPhone is right for you?
However, the iPhone 14 series draws a line in the sand. On one side, you’ll have power users: people who need one or more of the high-end features iPhones are known for. On the other hand, you’ll have the norms: people who don’t know or care about smartphone technology and just want to upgrade to a new iPhone every few years.
Never before has this line been so different. It could fundamentally change the way Apple manages its smartphone portfolio. It could also be a lightning rod for change throughout the smartphone industry.
iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: two different phones
Samsung has several lines of smartphones, each with its own identity. The Galaxy S line is the best of the best for the general consumer, while the Galaxy A line appeals to multiple levels of budget buyers. Meanwhile, the foldable Galaxy Z line is going after the tech enthusiast who wants to be ahead of the curve. This creates multiple categories of phones, each with its own strict appeal to a certain demographic.
Apple only does this. It has the iPhone SE, which is strictly targeting a budget consumer. Other than that, though, all other consumers should be lumped into the main iPhone lineup. That sounds simpler than Samsung’s strategy, but it’s also more limiting. With so much historical overlap between the four main-series iPhones, there was only so much Apple could do to cater each phone to different types of buyers.
iPhone buyers now must fall into one of two distinct camps: ambivalent norms or passionate experts.
With the iPhone 14 series, Apple is dismantling those limitations. Now the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus can exist as phones for the average consumer who upgrades every few years. Meanwhile, the Pro models may specifically appeal to the power user who updates more frequently, even annually. Apple can select and market these devices to these two different sets of buyers.
This creates a very interesting situation. If you hold an iPhone 14 in one hand and an iPhone 14 Pro in the other, you’ll see completely different devices for very different people. The Pro model will have a better display by leaps and bounds, a cutout instead of a notch, a better camera system with an additional lens, and much more premium build materials. Inside, it will have a more powerful chip and better memory management that will enable much-desired usability improvements, including an always-on display.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro are completely different phones.
Meanwhile, in your other hand, you’ll have a phone that offers neither of those things. You will have, in a sense, two completely different phones, and each one will be priced very differently.
Advanced users better be ready to spend
Let’s go back to the hypothetical buyer who wants all the processing power but doesn’t care about the cameras. Previously, they would have been able to buy an iPhone for less than $800 and get what they wanted. Now, though, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 to get the A16 Bionic, since the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus came with last year’s A15 Bionic.
$1000 is the price of entry for Apple’s new chip.
This $1,000 price floor now exists for most of the new iPhone features announced this year. Do you want an always-on screen? $1,000. Do you want a 48MP camera? $1,000. Hate the notch? You can (mostly) get rid of it for $1,000.
Related: The history of the iPhone
During its launch event, Apple made a big fuss about how it wasn’t raising prices on Pro-tier iPhones. That might soften the blow of this new change. However, Apple conveniently left out a large part of the world with that news, as the new iPhones are in fact, increasing in price in other countries.
In Europe, the iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at a whopping €1479 (~$1480). And, in the UK, that same phone costs £1,199 (~$1,383). It would seem that Apple is using the rest of the world to subsidize US prices and keep them the same as in previous years.
If you’re not ready to spend a lot, you can’t get all the new features. This is especially true outside of the US.
Once again, this shows that Apple is adamant about this new line between the norm and the experts. If you’re not ready to spend a lot on your phone to get all the cool new features, you just can’t get them. In years past, you might have gotten some of them, but that’s no longer true. Either you go big or you go home.
However, that’s just bad news for iPhone users, right?
iPhone 14 series: ramifications for the entire industry
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Many of our readers are Android fans. They might be thinking to themselves, “This has nothing to do with me.” Ah, but how wrong you are.
History has shown time and time again that the Android industry is following Apple’s lead. Remember when Apple removed the headphone jack? How about when you took the charger out of the box? Android OEMs scoffed at first, but now agree.
History has shown time and time again that the Android industry is following Apple’s lead.
Apple’s moves this year could result in very different separations within the Android ecosystems. Take the pixel line. What are the big differences between Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro? The Pro has a slightly larger, slightly faster screen and an additional camera lens on the back. That’s pretty much it.
What we could see in the future is a greater separation between professional and non-professional models. This will of course mean fewer new features for the non-professional sector. Hypothetically, one could imagine a Pixel 8 that doesn’t offer too many upgrades over the Pixel 7, while the Pixel 8 Pro could offer a ton of great new features for a lot more money.
Expect the gap between ‘pro’ and ‘regular’ Android phones to grow ever wider.
This would create a very disparate market, moving the price needle higher for what counts as a “flagship.” If you’re loaded with cash, you can get all the fun stuff. If you’re not, you get a few tidbits. Talk about wealth inequality.
Of course, this is me being pessimistic. This could turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps smartphones have become advanced enough that most people are fine with an affordable device that does only what is necessary and nothing more. People who want all the really cool, cutting-edge perks will have to dole out for them. On the surface, that sounds reasonable.
The iPhone 14 series will act as a litmus test for the rest of the industry.
The iPhone 14 series will, in a way, act as a litmus test for the rest of the industry. Will buyers flock to the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus even though they are barely an upgrade over the iPhone 13? Or will they scoff at “upgrading” to a phone that doesn’t even have a new processor? So will they cave in and spend $1,000 to get the new features they really want, or just not bother at all? Time will tell. However, we should all be paying attention, because how this goes will be how the industry as a whole goes.
Continue reading: Now is the right time to buy an iPhone 13