The newest iPhone may be split into multiple models to boost sales, according to two new sources. But rather than creating new hardware for each, Apple may split the iPhone's personality by releasing iPhones containing different software.
Rumors that the iPhone would emerge in different formats stretch back over a year, with a focus on an iPhone Nano. Such a phone would keep the essential iPhone features, but in a smaller chassis and selling for a lower price.
But now a few hints have come directly from Apple management, and they genuinely point toward a fragmentation of iPhone versions. The first comes from a meeting between analysts from Oppenheimer and Apple execs last week. During the discussion, Apple revealed routes it was exploring for expanding the iPhone's market share: More functionality, lower prices, geographic growth and market segmentation with different models. This information was then presented by Yair Reiner, an analyst at Oppenheimer, to clients at the end of last week.
All of these suggestions make perfect sense, and with a single offering on sale, Apple's exploration of the smartphone market is clearly in its early stages. The iPhone's high unit price is also a significant barrier to selling more. But Reiner later spoke to RegHardware  and let a few more details slip. Apparently that key phrase "segmenting the market" would be concentrated not on hardware but on software instead. The core hardware of the phone would remain essentially the same between models, but enhanced software functionality would go into some versions, and simpler software into others.
This makes a different kind of sense: Keeping the core hardware the same simplifies production, and keeps costs lower. Accessory makers get to make common peripherals, and Apple's core software for developers would work on all the devices. Plus this jives with Apple's official quashing  of the iPhone Nano hardware rumors a few weeks back.
But how would the software differentiation work? It's hard to imagine Apple shipping different firmware for each model since that would be overly complex. Can we imagine iPhones with different built-in functions, supported by software--one with a better camera, or one capable of video calling? It's daft to run too far with the musings of a single industry analyst. But these rumors seem to come from pretty deep inside Apple, and that lends them a degree of credibility. We hopefully haven't got long to find out if they're right.
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