On Wednesday, Apple launched the iPhone 14 series. Like the last 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 on one side and the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max on the other.
However, what is different this time is the difference between these two sets. This year, more than any other year, Apple is trying to appeal to two different kinds of iPhone buyers: the experts and the normatives.
Before the iPhone 11, 12 and 13 series, there was a lot of overlap between the regular phones and the Pro phones. For example, someone using their iPhone for CPU-intensive tasks would appreciate the processing power, but cameras wouldn’t care. This hypothetical buyer would be happy to grab the iPhone 13 for just $799. They’d get the same CPU and general features as the iPhone 13 Pro, but for $200 less.
Also see: Which iPhone is right for you?
However, the iPhone 14 series draws a line in the sand. On the one hand, you have the power users — people who need one or more of the advanced features iPhones are known for. On the other hand, you have the standards – people who know nothing or don’t care about smartphone technology and just want to upgrade to a new iPhone every few years.
Never before has this line been so clear. 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 smartphone lines, 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 shoppers. Meanwhile, the foldable Galaxy Z line is going after the tech enthusiast who wants to be on the cutting edge. This creates multiple categories of phones, each with its own strict appeal to a particular demographic.
Apple only does this a little bit. It has the iPhone SE, which is strictly after a budget consumer. Other than that, however, every other consumer should be lumped together in the main iPhone line. That sounds simpler than Samsung’s strategy, but it’s also more restrictive. With so much historical overlap between the four main-series iPhones, Apple could only do so much to accommodate each phone’s many different types of buyers.
iPhone buyers must now put themselves in one of two camps: ambivalent standards 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. The Pro models, meanwhile, may especially appeal to the power user who upgrades more often – even annually. Apple can manage and market these devices to these two different groups of buyers.
This creates a very interesting situation. If you’re holding an iPhone 14 in one hand and an iPhone 14 Pro in the other, you’re looking at completely different devices for completely different people. The Pro model will have a better screen by leaps and bounds, a cutout instead of a notch, a better camera system with an extra lens, and a lot more premium build materials. Inside, it will have a more powerful chip and better memory management that will enable the coveted usability improvements, including an always-on display.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro are completely different phones.
Meanwhile, in your other hand, you have a phone that doesn’t offer all those things. You’ll be holding two completely different phones in a sense – and each will land at very different price points.
Power users better spend money
Let’s go back to the hypothetical buyer who wants all the processing power but doesn’t care about cameras. Previously, they could have bought an iPhone for under $800 and get what they wanted. Now, however, they will have to spend at least $1,000 to get the A16 Bionic, as the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come with last year’s A15 Bionic.
$1000 is the entry-level price for Apple’s new chip.
This $1,000 minimum price now exists for most of the new iPhone features announced this year. Do you always want a display? $1,000. Want a 48MP camera? $1,000. Do you hate the notch? You can (usually) get rid of it for a cool $1,000.
Related: The History of the iPhone
At the launch event, Apple did a big job on how not to raise prices for its Pro-level iPhones. That could soften the blow of this new shift. However, Apple has conveniently left out much of the world with that news since the new iPhones to be indeed rise in price in other countries.
In Europe, the iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at a whopping €1,479 (~ $1,480). And in the UK, that same phone costs £1,199 (~$1,383). It seems 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 willing to spend a lot of money, you won’t be able to get all the new features. This is especially true outside the US.
Once again, this proves Apple’s determination on this new line between the standards and the experts. If you’re not ready to spend a lot of money on your phone to get all the cool new features, you just can’t get them. You could have gotten a few in years past, but that’s no longer true. Either go big or go home.
However, that’s just bad news for iPhone users, right?
iPhone 14 Series: Impact on the Whole Industry
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Many of our readers are Android die-hards. They may think to themselves, “This has nothing to do with me.” Oh, how wrong you are.
History has proven time and again that the Android industry follows Apple’s lead. Remember when Apple removed the headphone jack? How about removing the in-box charger? Android OEMs mocked at first, but are now on board.
History has proven time and again that the Android industry follows Apple’s lead.
Apple’s moves this year could result in wildly different divisions within Android ecosystems. Take the Pixel line. What are the major differences between the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro? The Pro has a slightly larger, slightly faster display and an additional camera lens on the back. It actually is.
What we might see in the future is a greater separation between pro and non-pro models. This of course means fewer new features for the non-pro sector. Hypothetically, you 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 ‘normal’ Android phones to widen.
This would create a very disparate market, driving the price needle higher for what counts as a ‘flagship’. If you’re full of cash, you can get all the fun stuff. If you’re not, you’ll get some little tidbits. Talk about wealth inequality.
Of course I am pessimistic. This may turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps smartphones have become so advanced that most people are fine with having an affordable device that does exactly what it needs and nothing more. The people who want all the really cool, cutting edge perks should hand them out. At first glance, 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 sense, be a litmus test for the rest of the industry. Will buyers flock to the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, even if they’re barely an upgrade over the iPhone 13? Or will they scoff at “upgrading” to a phone that doesn’t even have a new processor? Will they then give in and spend $1,000 to get the new features they really want, or will they just make no effort at all? Time will tell. We all need to pay attention, though, because how this goes is how the industry as a whole goes.
Read further: Now is the right time to buy an iPhone 13