The tech press has been full of speculation about the 4” iPhone and its return.
A few weeks ago I postulated that for it to have any chance it had to have — Touch ID — Apple Pay — and be 64bit. These aren’t high requirements these days and the speculation seems to be suggesting that Apple might have decided that their experience with the 5c and Apple Watch have given them a better perspective on the striation of the market.
The 5c, in my view, looked fun and engaged with people — but it was a technological dinosaur and was hampered in having limited memory and performance, and because no 64bit processor a support annoyance moving forward.
The rumours on the new 4” iPhone seem to suggest that there might have been a shift of understanding about how the market segments and the Apple Watch will have been an interesting example of a range of pricing for the same hardware, shifting the pricing differentiator from the compute hardware to the style.
If you did that with the iPhone you could have a 5ce (a coloured plastic shell) a 5se (a glass and metal slab) and even next September a iPhone 6(Plus)e with the same processor, camera, touch id, memory configurations.
The pricing between models is somewhat arbitrary at the moment so that won’t change the real cost difference on memory sizes is a few dollars and the sticker price goes up by $100 each time, easier to justify small / medium / large with $100 between each model and by adding a plastic version you end up with slightly lower cost small as well.
What I hope is that apple has learnt that putting last years processor in a “new” device isn’t good for anyone in 2 years time.
However the current A9 is so powerful that one does wonder what next and what would be the improvement in battery life if you reduced the clock rate of the processor by 30%.
Most users would be very happy because that extra 30% would still be faster than the predecessor, you could cut the speed even further as it was an 70% uplift on the A8.
Creating a consistent performance platform for the “older” phones below the new flagship product that will appear this year that gives a consistent level of performance across all the sizes and pricing models is key.
One of my peeves about the policy since Apple Pay was launched was that Apple didn’t take this technology to the entry level devices. There may have been good reasons but by not making Apple Pay available across devices they set back their ability to make the process ubiquitous.
Of course it was never going to be ubiquitous in the US on day one because there were no contactless payment terminals but today as contactless becomes more prevalent people are still are using devices that don’t have Apple Pay but could have done.
In the UK (and London in particular) contactless was very common when Apple launched and 9 months later for any small purchase you expect shops to be contactless. This was probably helped by the London pubic transport infrastructure having gone contactless many years ago and doing deals with banks to let contactless bank cards act as transit tickets with the best pricing applied.
Apple Pay is great but it was limited by still selling old devices without the option for several years. I don’t believe the normal woman/man buying a phone and not being technically aware would understand the difference and switching to a more consistent platform with this years chip (A10) being in the flagship model and the previous years chip in the other devices but with similar hardware / storage options across the size range.
The biggest problem is where do phone processors go from here?
The A9 is very powerful and in the version in the iPAD Pro almost as powerful as the chip in the MacBook, is the design philosophy going to change moving forward and is it going to be less about raw power and more about battery performance, are apple going to be able to integrate more of the other chips required for a phone into the main SoC where will the A10 take us.
To conclude I think the 4” phone has a place as do different designs and sizes but only if they have the same storage and processor capabilities. I hope that Apple don’t build a device that has limitations that make it a dinosaur before it is on the shelves for 6 months.