On Wednesday, Apple launched the iPhone 14 series. As with the past three years, the lineup is split, with two semi-affordable entries and two more expensive flagships. In this case, we have iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus on one side and iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max on the other.
What’s different this time, however, is the disparity between these two sets. This year, more than any other, Apple is striving to appeal to two distinct types of iPhone buyers: Experts and Dwellers.
For the iPhone 11, 12, and 13 series, there was a lot of overlap between regular phones and Pro phones. For example, someone who uses their iPhone for CPU-intensive tasks would appreciate the processing power, but they might not care about the cameras. This hypothetical buyer might be happy to grab the iPhone 13 for just $799. They would get the same processor and general features as the iPhone 13 Pro but for $200 less.
See also: Which iPhone is for you?
The iPhone 14 series, however, draws a line in the sand. On one side you’ll have power users – people who need one or more of the high-end features that iPhones are known for. On the other side, you’ll have the standards – people who don’t know or care about smartphone technology and just want to upgrade to a new iPhone every few years.
Never before has this line been so distinct. It could fundamentally change the way Apple manages its smartphone portfolio. It could also be a lightning rod for change in the entire smartphone industry.
iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: two different phones
Samsung has several lines of smartphones, each with its own identity. The Galaxy S line is the best of the best for the mainstream, while the Galaxy A line caters to multiple tiers of budget buyers. Meanwhile, the foldable Galaxy Z lineup caters to tech enthusiasts who want to be on the cutting edge. This creates multiple phone categories, each with its own strict appeal to a certain demographic.
Apple does just that. It has the iPhone SE, which is strictly aimed at a budget consumer. Other than that, however, all other consumers should be lumped into the core iPhone lineup. It seems simpler than Samsung’s strategy, but it’s also more limiting. With so much historical overlap between the four core series iPhones, there was only so much Apple could do to cater each phone to the many different types of buyers.
iPhone buyers must now place themselves in one of two distinct camps: the ambivalent standards or the passionate experts.
With the iPhone 14 series, Apple is dismantling these 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, on the other hand, may particularly appeal to the power user who upgrades more frequently, or even annually. Apple may curate and market these devices for these two distinct groups of buyers.
This creates a very interesting situation. If you hold an iPhone 14 in one hand and an iPhone 14 Pro in the other, you’ll be looking at completely different devices for very different people. The Pro model will have a leaps and bounds better screen, a cutout instead of a notch, a better camera system with an extra lens, and a whole lot more premium build materials. Inside, it will have a more powerful chip and better memory management that allow for some much-desired usability improvements, including an always-on display.
The iPhone 14 and 14 Pro are completely different phones.
Meanwhile, in your other hand, you’ll have a phone that offers none of that. You’ll be holding, in a sense, two completely different phones – and each will land at very different price points.
Experienced users better be prepared to spend
Back to the hypothetical buyer who wants all the processing power but doesn’t care about the cameras. Previously, they could have bought an iPhone for less than $800 and got what they wanted. Now, however, they’ll have to spend at least $1,000 to get the A16 Bionic, since the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come with last year’s A15 Bionic.
$1000 is the entry price for Apple’s new chip.
That $1,000 floor price now exists for the majority of new iPhone features announced this year. Want a permanent display? $1,000. Want a 48MP camera? $1,000. Do you hate the notch? You can (most of the time) get rid of it for $1,000.
Related: The history of the iPhone
At its launch event, Apple made a big deal out of not raising the prices of Pro-tier iPhones. That might soften the blow of this new change. However, Apple has conveniently left out much of the world with this news, since the new iPhones are indeed increase in price in other countries.
In Europe, the iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at €1,479 (~$1,480). And, in the UK, that same phone costs £1,199 (~$1,383). It would seem that Apple is using the rest of the world to subsidize US prices and keep them at the same level as in previous years.
If you’re not willing to spend big, you can’t get all the new features. This is especially true outside of the United States.
Once again, this proves that Apple is firm on this new line between the Normans and the experts. If you’re not willing to spend big bucks on your phone to get all the cool new features, you just can’t get them. In years past, you might have gotten some, but that’s no longer true. Go big or go home.
That’s just bad news for iPhone users, right?
iPhone 14 series: Industry-wide ramifications
Robert Triggs/Android Authority
Many of our readers are Android die-hards. They might think, “This has nothing to do with me.” Ah, but how wrong you are.
History has proven time and time again that the Android industry is following Apple’s lead. Remember when Apple removed the headphone jack? What about when he took the charger out of the box? Android OEMs scoffed at first, but are now on board.
History has proven time and time again that the Android industry is following Apple’s lead.
Apple’s decisions this year could lead to wildly different separations within Android ecosystems. Take the Pixel line. What are the big differences between Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro? The Pro has a slightly bigger and slightly faster screen and an additional camera lens on the back. That is just about everything.
What we might see in the future is a greater separation between pro and non-pro models. This will of course mean fewer new features for the non-professional sector. In theory, one 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 “regular” Android phones to keep growing.
This would create a very disparate market, driving up the price needle for what is considered a “flagship”. If you’re stuffed with money, you can get all the fun stuff. If you’re not, you get a few little treats. Talk about wealth inequality.
Of course, I am the pessimist. This could turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps smartphones have become advanced enough that most people feel good about having an affordable device that does just what is needed and nothing more. People who want all the really cool, edgy perks will have to give it to them. On the surface, that seems reasonable.
The iPhone 14 series will serve as a litmus test for the rest of the industry.
The iPhone 14 series, in a way, will serve as a litmus test for the rest of the industry. Will buyers flock to the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus even though they’re barely an upgrade from 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 not care at all? Time will tell us. We should all be careful, though, because how this plays out will be how the industry plays out as a whole.
Continued reading: It’s a good time to buy an iPhone 13
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