Opinion: The iPhone SE is a brilliant, lengthy-time period transfer – and creates the prospect of a $299 iPhone

I argued a few months in the past that ‘peak iPhone’ was doubtless a short lived phenomenon, however that Apple may need to be prepared to simply accept lower margins whether it is to proceed to develop its gross sales.

I feel it is going to additionally have to study to be a bit of extra versatile in terms of its revenue margins, particularly in progress markets. That ~forty% markup has served it nicely for an ideal a few years, however I don’t assume it could essentially anticipate to take care of it indefinitely.

Yesterday, the corporate indicated its willingness to do exactly that. For the primary time, Apple’s entry-degree telephone is a model-new gadget that gives near flagship specs at a worth degree near the earlier-era telephone. That may hit Apple’s margins on the system for positive, however the firm is trying to the lengthy-time period …

The iPhone SE nonetheless isn’t an affordable gadget, in fact. Apple continues to be concentrating on the premium finish of the market, however it’s acknowledging that ‘premium’ is a relative time period. There are these prepared to pay considerably greater than the typical worth for a smartphone, however who aren’t in a position or prepared to succeed in fairly as excessive as its flagship costs – particularly now that the transfer away from ‘sponsored’ pricing by carriers has made the true retail value far more seen.

And simply as a lot of what Apple has been doing in recent times has been pushed by China – the gold finishes being the obvious instance – the corporate is now trying to new progress markets like India. It could actually solely begin to make critical in-roads into much less rich markets whether it is prepared to accept a lowered revenue margin, at the least within the medium-time period.

There are those that would query the necessity for Apple to try this, and urge it to stay with its tried-and-trusted technique of concentrating on solely probably the most worthwhile slice of the market. That’s a technique that has, in any case, been wildly profitable, Apple reportedly taking house 94% of the profits from your complete smartphone business.

However there are two causes Apple’s first transfer into considerably extra reasonably priced territory is sensible.


First, as I outlined final time, the aggressive panorama is altering. Lengthy gone are the times when Apple was competing solely towards one or two different flagship smartphones, and the whole lot else was low cost-and-nasty. Chinese language manufacturers like Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo at the moment are providing credible competitors when it comes to each design and efficiency, and can proceed to take action. Apple can’t afford to stay its head within the sand and picture that quick-rising rivals gained’t impression its personal market.

Second, Apple is slowly monetizing its ecosystem. Positive, providers have up to now by no means merited something past inclusion within the ‘Different’ class in Apple’s accounts, however that state of affairs will change over time. Apple presently has over a billion lively iOS units, and has thus far bought Apple Music to only around 1% of them. That’s an enormous potential common month-to-month revenue stream that Apple has barely began to faucet.

Apple Pay, too, is producing moderately small sums of cash as but, however once more the lengthy-time period potential is gigantic – and once more Apple has demonstrated a willingness to simply accept a smaller margin within the brief-time period to construct a market share that may drive critical income within the lengthy-time period.

The corporate’s lengthy-awaited streaming TV service is one other instance of how the corporate can leverage its present buyer base to generate revenue from providers. For a corporation whose revenue is deeply cyclical, tied to new product releases and vacation purchases, common month-to-month revenue is a useful commodity – and one for which the corporate will probably be prepared to make some sacrifices.


What will probably be actually fascinating to me is what occurs subsequent time round. Apple has sometimes held onto earlier iPhone fashions, lopping $one hundred off the worth when new ones are launched. If it did this with the iPhone SE, we might probably see a model new iPhone out there direct for Apple for simply $299! That’s one thing that might have been unimaginable not that way back.

In fact, Apple might not do this. It might contemplate the specs of the iPhone SE ok to take care of present pricing for longer than a yr. One risk I might see is Apple viewing the SE as having an 18-month shelf-life at its present pricing, taking it by means of to the launch of the iPhone 7S. That might deliver it into line with present iPhone cycles.

At that stage, it might then merely withdraw it from sale, changing it with a more moderen mannequin. Nevertheless it might additionally retain it and drop the worth, giving us that $299 worth-level.


Apple does, in fact, danger cannibalizing a number of the iPhone 6 market. I need to say that even I’m contemplating the small downgrade, as I choose the larger pocketability of a four-inch telephone and truly want the design. However the firm has presumably accomplished its analysis rigorously in selecting the few goodies it has withheld from the SE.

As an apart, I said last week that I assumed it was crunch-time for iPhone storage tiers. Just some days later, Apple went forward and launched a model new iPhone beginning at, yep, 16GB. Nevertheless it was additionally notable that the brand new 9.7-inch iPad Professional was launched with 32/128/256GB tiers, in distinction to the sixteen/sixty four/128GB of the iPad Air 2. (Apple has now eliminated the 128GB tier from the older mannequin, presumably aiming to drive premium consumers to the brand new one.)

That provides me some hope that the message is getting by way of. Provided that Apple might want to be sure that the iPhone 7 is clearly distinguished from the iPhone SE by extra than simply measurement, I’d like to assume that would imply at the least 32/128/256GB tiers subsequent time round.

Is Apple proper to sacrifice margin within the brief- to medium-time period to make sure its lengthy-time period progress? Please take our ballot, and share your ideas within the feedback.

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