There have been multiple credible reports that Apple is going to switch up the iPhone lineup by going all-in on OLED displays and introducing new screen sizes. But that may make the 2020 iPhone lineup unnecessarily confusing.
Apple has made lineups confusing in the past. Just take a look at the 12-inch MacBook. Before Apple killed it off, it stood out as a device with few convincing features other than portability.
It was smaller and less powerful than the 13-inch MacBook Air, but was somehow more expensive. Unless a user really needed a slightly lighter notebook, there was little reason why anyone would choose the 12-inch notebook over its larger stablemate.
Based on current rumors, Apple may end up doing the same thing for iPhones in 2020.
The iPhone XS in its current form could be shrunk down to a 5.4-inch size. With an edge-to-edge screen, that would be more akin to an iPhone SE than an iPhone X. The iPhone XR successor would gain an OLED screen, but if Apple keeps it at a similar price tier, it would still be cheaper than its smaller stablemate.
Depending on the exact features that the 2020 handsets have, consumers may be left with an odd choice. Pay more money for a slightly smaller device, or go with the iPhone XR successor. If current rumors are to be believed, they’d end up with a larger display and would still get an OLED-based device.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that size doesn’t necessarily have to coordinate with price. But consumers in many markets, like China, have long associated larger displays with more premium handsets.
That’s why a 5.4-inch iPhone XS successor that’s more expensive than an 6.1-inch iPhone XR successor (with an OLED display) doesn’t make much sense.
A Lineup That Does Make Sense
A much more convincing lineup, in the author’s opinion, would involve switching up the price tiers so that larger displays correlate with premium features. It may look something like this.
- 5.4-inch OLED iPhone would cost $749.
- 6.1-inch OLED iPhone would cost $999.
- 6.7-inch OLED iPhone would cost $1,099.
This lineup makes sense whether Apple adds premium features, like 5G, to the 5.4-inch iPhone or not.
Similarly, the 6.1-inch iPhone may even be the same physical size as the current 5.8-inch form factor if Apple can kill off or reduce the notch.
As far as the lower end of the spectrum, it could be occupied by whatever handsets Apple announces this year. Alternatively, Apple could release a brand new device with a Liquid Retina display at a sub-$749 price point.
This hypothetical lineup assumes that the three price tiers would remain the same. But a smaller 5.4-inch OLED iPhone could be cheaper to make, allowing Apple to drop the price on the bottom tier.
The Moniker Problem
There’s also the problem with the monikers. iPhone X was a decent name, despite the fact that many people referred to it as an “iPhone Ex.” iPhone XS (Ex Es) was acceptable, too.
But staying with the Roman numerals going forward is only going to make everything clunkier for customers who won’t bother to learn the proper pronunciation. That’s going to be true this year, with the iPhone XI (or ex-eye). But it’ll be worse next year.
Just think about it. You could call the iPhone XS successor an iPhone XII (iPhone ex-eye-eye to some). But what about an iPhone XIIR? People will be going around calling it an iPhone ex-eye-eye-are.
We’ve previously argued that Apple should ditch numbered monikers for its smartphone lineup and differentiate models by year. With new screen sizes and prices, an all-OLED lineup, and the fact that people commonly mispronounce Roman numerals, it’s definitely time for Apple to simplify its naming scheme.
Going with a moniker strategy similar to its iPad or MacBook lineup, it could look something like this.
- iPhone mini: 5.4-inch OLED iPhone
- iPhone: 6.1-inch OLED iPhone
- iPhone Pro/Plus: 6.7-inch OLED iPhone