Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program has shifted the landscape virtually overnight, and as a result, more people are going to be getting every iPhone model, not merely every other one. And that takes much of the pressure off of the “s” model.
No longer does Apple need to convince a generation of would-be contract renewers to upgrade this year rather than wait. And Apple might not need to keep the older models around either—the difference between a two-year old iPhone 5s and the brand-new 6s works out to less than $10 a month (and even less through some carriers), and without any up-front costs, I’m thinking more people than ever are going to opt for the latest model.
With a revolving cycle of Upgraders, Apple could keep a particular handset design around for an extra year or switch up the release schedule without any fear of losing sales. But I think we’ll still see an iPhone 7 next year. A change this drastic is more than likely to occur in an “s” year, and by the time the iPhone 7s is ready to ship, Apple could simply ship a new iPhone, with all of the same “s” enhancements, but without the modifier. In fact, the iPhone could start to become a bit like the Mac, with annual refreshes and occasional redesigns that embrace the soul of the “s” but aren’t beholden to the pattern. And eventually, Apple would just release a new iPhone redesign when it’s ready, whether that’s 24, 33, or 40 months after the last one.
Curiously, the iPhone 6s is the first model Apple chose to brand with a boxed-in “S” on the device itself. But it may be a collector’s item, because something tells me it will also be the last.
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