The iPhone X isn’t even available for sale yet but the tech world is already looking ahead to the next big thing. Looking ahead into Apple’s future, however, begs the question about what the next big thing will be. Of course Apple will release a new device next year. That’s a given. But will there be an iPhone 9?
On the surface, the question seems ridiculous. Of course there will be an iPhone 9! Or maybe an iPhone 8S. But there’s no way Apple doesn’t release an update to the most popular, well-known smartphone of all time, right? Well… Not so fast.
This current release cycle seems a little strange for Apple. There is the iPhone X, the iPhone 8, and the iPhone 8 Plus. This is the first time that Apple has had two entirely different models in their lineup. The iPhone X is, of course, the new design that follows the latest trends in the smartphone industry. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are the same design that we have come to know and love from Apple. I think the pricing of these devices is what causes the most confusion for some. For example, the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X don’t have a wide price gap between them. If you’re looking at an iPhone 8 Plus with larger storage it almost makes more sense to think about picking up an iPhone X and see if you can get by with less storage. That way you have the newest, most cutting edge design and features.
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That’s what brings the existence of the iPhone 9 into question. Does Apple continue this weird lineup of flagship-priced devices that are clearly not as in-demand as their actual flagship device. I honestly can’t remember a time when you could walk into a retailer a day or two after an iPhone release day and pick up a device without having a pre-order. That was the case for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. People have seen the best that Apple has to offer and they are clearly holding out for the iPhone X despite its hefty price tag.
Remember that this article is pretty much 100% speculation. It’s too early to know what Apple’s plans are and I think they largely hinge on the reception of the iPhone X and their ability to scale production to meet demand. If Apple finds that an overwhelming majority of people want to hold out for the more expensive iPhone X then I could see them dropping the iPhone 8-style devices from their lineup. This would mean no iPhone 9.
If they do go with the iPhone X as their only flagship then I would imagine we see an update to the iPhone SE with better hardware to help fill the gap left by the loss of the iPhone 9. We have seen rumors about an upcoming iPhone SE so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new model coming in the next few months.
My feeling is that Apple has too many balls in the air and they can’t keep juggling like this with so many different smartphones. Look at Apple’s entire business model. For the most part they have 1 device with some upgrades available. In some cases they have a base model available and then there is a “Pro” device. We see that approach taken with the iPad lineup and the Mac lineup. That could be the goal for Apple in coming years and this year is a bit of a transition phase.
Let’s also not forget that Apple is apparently working on a foldable iPhone model. That device likely won’t be ready for a widespread release for another couple of years. If Apple continues with their current lineup that means there will be an iPhone SE, iPhone 9 or whatever number they reach, iPhone X, and Foldable iPhone. 4 devices! Not very Apple-like.
With all of that said, let’s not assume that the iPhone 9 is dead. I have no doubt that Apple is working on an iPhone 9 or and iPhone 8S, depending on how they plan to continue the naming of their devices. Right now, Apple has no idea how successful the iPhone X will be. Clearly a few people are waiting for the device to launch before making a buying decision. We see this with the lukewarm demand for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Apple has a good idea that the iPhone X will be hugely popular. A lot of analysts are saying that this could be the most profitable iPhone ever. However, you never count your chickens before they hatch. Apple will keep their options open for now which means they are likely right in the middle of developing an iPhone 9. When things become more clear, Apple may decide to drop their plan to release an iPhone 9 but it’s easier to cancel a device halfway through development than try to hobble one together after you find that iPhone X sales are lagging behind expectations.
Like I said, this is all a ton of speculation. We have no solid iPhone 9 rumors and the iPhone X hasn’t even hit the market yet. Apple could, quite literally, go any direction with their next release cycle. It would be interesting to come back to this article in 4 to 6 months and see what Apple’s situation looks like. Is the iPhone X still flying off the shelf after the initial release hype? Do we have new iPhone 9 rumors? Has there been a new iPhone SE launch? Apple has a lot of moving parts here and, considering their overall business model, having 3 or 4 totally different offerings in one segment is unusual. I’m not saying it’s impossible! I’m just saying it’s very unusual for Apple.
What do you think about Apple’s smartphone lineup? Is there still room for an iPhone 9 in the lineup or is the iPhone 8 the end of the line for the numbered iPhone devices? I want to hear your thoughts and speculation in the comments section below.