I've got mixed feelings about the latest iPhone 14 news. One of the best iPhone features was that it was like Coca-Cola: whether you were a pauper or a president, the Coke you enjoyed was the same. That's been less true with more recent models, but even as recently as the iPhone 13 you could count on having the same cutting edge Apple processor whichever flavour of iPhone 13 you bought. Sure, more expensive models had more toys, such as more cameras. But the core iPhone experience was the same at every price point.
We already know that's changing with the iPhone 14, which will only get Apple's latest processor in the Pro and Pro Max models. But according to incredibly well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (opens in new tab), that is no longer a one-off due to chip shortages. It's Apple's new strategy, so it'll affect the iPhone 15, iPhone 16 and their successors, too.
From 2022 on, there will be two tiers of iPhone: the standard models with last year's processors, and the Pro and Pro Max with the most recent ones. Apple's essentially modelling the iPhone range on the iPad, reserving its latest tech for the biggest spenders.
Is this really bad news?
The system on a chip in the more affordable iPhone 14s apparently won't be identical to the ones in the iPhone 13: multiple sources say they'll get a bit more RAM. But they'll be largely identical to last year's processors. And to be fair, they are fast processors: I very much doubt I'll be able to fight bigots on Twitter or load TikTok any faster on an A16 iPhone than on my current A15 one. But if you're on an annual upgrade cycle as I am, it means that the difference between each years' models is now much slimmer than before – unless you go Pro.
And of course, that's what Apple wants you to do, because Apple is in business to make money.
According to Kuo, Apple has raised its estimate of iPhone 14 Pro sales from 40%-50% of all iPhone sales to a whopping 60%. That means the average selling price of the iPhone will go up, and that in turn means the average profit of the iPhone will go up too. And that's great news... for Apple.
For the rest of us? Well, Apple's still going to make the standard iPhone. But now if you want a processor upgrade from a standard model, you won't just be able to buy the new one: you'll have to shell out considerably more for a Pro one. And yes, you'll also get a better camera, and a better display. Which is good if you want those things, and want to pay for them. But if you don't, then annual upgrades just got a whole lot less compelling.