Sunday, September 12, 2021

Saving iPhone Mini: It Would Be A Mistake For Apple To Get Rid Of It So It Probably Will Not

I love my iPhone 12 mini even though I have always had a top line iPhone (except for when I use my 2016 iPhone SE as a main driver and the Pro on certain occasions). So when I went with the mini this year, I knew I could not go back. It was a bit bigger than I hope for with a 5.4" screen but I'll take it. Given the news that the mini had not being selling as well as Apple had hoped, the rumors out there suggest iPhone 13 mini would be the last mini barring a miraculous jump in sale. I think it would be a mistake for Apple to get rid of the mini.

The rumors likely have it all wrong. Apple will not be getting rid of the mini but likely will change its strategy in marketing and selling the mini. There are options Apple have to make the mini more popular with the mainstream mobile users. It all depends on how Apple's mobile business model evolves or stays the same in the years to come. Will Apple be looking to sell high end models to keep its average selling prices up or will it be find with iPhone users upgrading to the lower end or middle of the road iPhones who also spend money on apps and Apple's growing portfolio of high margin services and digital offerings.

Here are some thoughts on making the mini better and stick around longer for those like smaller form factors and how I think Apple will like keep the mini around.

  • Smaller mini - I like the mini but I can go for a 5" mini. A small mini could bring back the segment of the market that wants a small iPhone. The iPhone 5 form factor is gone. The iPhone SE last year is a compromise but I don't know if it is selling all that well. But if Apple came back with an iPhone mini that is smaller than last year's SE and bigger than the iPhone 5 form factor, it would be a hit. 
I think it would be a huge hit. I'll probably be a life-long adopter of an iPhone with a 5" screen provide it has decent battery life. It would be perfect for those on the go who do not want a brick in their pocket, the world out crowd, and folks who likes to use their iPhones with just one hand.

This is not what Apple will likely do but this is a wishful thinking on my part and I want to get it out of the way first. If there is ever a 5" iPhone mini or SE, you only have to look to the current iPhone SE to see how it will perform in the real world.  

  • This is what Apple will most likely do with the iPhone mini. Renaming the mini and branding it as the iPhone SE. And when it does, what happens?  Touch ID either goes to the power button like the iPad Air and eventually migrate into the screen itself a few years down the line. There will be a price cut as well. The mini and SE starts at $699 and $399 respectively. that is a big price difference but Apple will find a way to get the cost down for the mini into the SE price range. After all the SE used to be an iPhone 7 or 8 and both the 7 and 8 started at $699.
  • Lowering the price of the mini but still calling it the mini. It would be a hit but I don't like this idea. Apple already has a lot of SKU and it's confusing to consumers. I would rather see the mini become the SE. However, Apple might keep the mini around for couple of years starting $599 to recoup some of the R&D costs and then drop it down to $499 as an SE. By that time, most of the margin will be most profit as costs of the iPhone mini is much cheaper in 3-4 years than what it is today.
With the screen size as low as 5.4" (I'm hoping for 5") all the way up to 6.7", Apple would continue to have every segment of the mobile market covered and prices starting at $399 and up. With the mini around, it gives Apple much more appeal to cost conscious buyers and fans of smaller form factor.


Expect some sacrifices though. The iPhone SE has only a low end camera that has been around for years. iPhone mini as an SE would be no different. We might still see the same camera design as the current iPhone 12 but I think Apple is going to do SE fans any favors with telephoto lens or much more upgraded camera feature. I can see Apple still to a single camera design that has a wide-angle feature to keep costs down.

Another sacrifice to expect with a mini as an SE is the battery life. I do not expect it to be worse than the current mini but I do not see Apple increasing the battery life in any measurable sense.  The current SE and mini comes in at 13 hours and 15 hours of streaming respectively. It is not that big of a difference in terms of real world use between the two models. So expect about the same battery life for future iPhone SE/mini. What I care about is real world use and I can tell you the mini is fine as a mobile device of a vast majority of users for day-to-day uses.

So, we will know in a day or two what Apple has planned for the iPhone 13 mini. And next year, we will know what Apple has planned for the SE. No matter what the rumors are saying about mini's demise or disappointing sales, Apple is not going to simply make it go away. The mini has a future in the iPhone lineup regardless of what you call it, mini or SE.

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