Gruber: ‘Apple’s Two-Pronged Annual iPhone Strategy’

John Gruber got down in writing what’s been rattling around my head for a few years now. The regular and pro duopoly of iPhone introductions has some — still evolving — idiosyncrasies that most folks don’t appreciate. Here’s a couple of key things that Gruber points out:

What everyone groks about this strategy is that the pro models are more expensive. Of course they are. But there are a few aspects to Apple’s strategy that many people miss. The most important is that the iPhone Pro models are only produced for one year. If the pattern holds, come next week, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max will cease production, and be replaced in the product line by the new 15 Pro models. The non-pro iPhones, however, stay in production for at least two additional years, dropping in price by $100 each year. I find that fascinating, but it’s seldom remarked upon. The iPhones that are the most expensive, most cutting-edge, and I presume the hardest to manufacture are only produced for one single year. That’s an altogether new strategy from the years before the iPhone X, when there was just one new flagship iPhone per year (albeit in two sizes during the iPhone 6-6S-7 years), and most iPhones stayed in the lineup at reduced prices for years to come.


We won’t know tomorrow whether this more repairable, more accessible system architecture will repeat with the iPhone 15, but I suspect it will. No matter what, the regular iPhone 15 models will not simply be the iPhones 14 Pro models repackaged in aluminum frames rather than stainless steel. The strategy Apple has achieved, as I see it:

  • Pro models: cutting-edge chips, cameras, and materials; will be produced for just one year.
  • Non-pro models: refined architecture using the year-old SoC and older camera systems; will be produced for 2-3 years to come.

You can’t just wait around the price of a Pro phone to come down if you’re buying it from Apple. It’s always going to be that price until the next one replaces it.


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