A little while back, based on several reports from reputable publications, it looked as though Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) 2018 iPhone lineup would consist of three iPhones. All three would essentially be three different sizes of the same basic design of this year's iPhone X, though obviously with next-generation internals and display technology.
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However, fresh reports have surfaced indicating that the 5.28-inch iPhone with an organic light emitting diode, or OLED, display has been scrapped and that Apple has now added an iPhone with a 6-inch liquid crystal display, or LCD, panel to the lineup instead.
Considering these reports, it now seems clear what Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup will look like.
iPhone, iPhone X, and iPhone X Plus
After this year, I think Apple will finally do away with the traditional numbering scheme that it has applied to its iPhones. I don't expect the LCD-based iPhone to be called iPhone 9, nor do I expect the successor to the iPhone X to be called iPhone XI (pronounced "iPhone eleven").
Instead, I think that even though Apple chose to call this year's premium iPhone the "iPhone ten," it deliberately stylized it as "iPhone X" so that "iPhone X" becomes a brand of its own, as iPhone has been over the last decade. The "X" in this case doesn't indicate the tenth iteration of the iPhone, but instead "iPhone X" is an all-new product category for Apple, supplanting iPhone.
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To that end, I believe that next year, Apple's three new iPhones will be branded iPhone for the LCD model, as it'll be the final iteration of the iPhone line, iPhone X for the direct successor to this year's iPhone X (perhaps with a parenthetical note about the year in which it was released in the marketing materials, similar to what the company does with its Mac products), and iPhone X Plus for the larger variant of year's iPhone X.
Diving into pricing
It's hard to tell how Apple would price such a new lineup, but there are several possibilities.
One possibility I've written about previously is that the standard iPhone could start at $749, the next iPhone X could start at $999, and its successor could come in at $1,099.
Such a product stack would essentially continue Apple's strategy of building the phones that it really wants to and betting that customers will see enough value in devices that don't compromise on Apple's technological vision to pay premiums for them.
Alternatively, if Apple can apply the appropriate pressure to its supply chain partners (this may be difficult if Apple continues to rely exclusively on a single source for OLED display supply), Apple could start the new iPhone at $699, the new iPhone X at $899 (after this year's $999 iPhone X, this could look like a bargain to many potential iPhone customers), and then the iPhone X Plus could come in at $1,099.
In such a lineup, I'd expect Apple to simply discontinue the first-generation iPhone X rather than continue selling it, particularly as the economics of such a device being sold at, say, $799, might not be viable, even if the phone is a year old by that time.
The second pricing structure could serve to take advantage of any price elasticity that exists in the market for iPhone X devices, helping fuel Apple's iPhone unit shipments, though potentially at the expense of the average selling price and profit margin story.
Pricing seems to be the trickiest thing to try to predict about Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup, and it's something that we'll probably have to wait around a year to learn more about.
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