Apple’s latest iPhone designs shut the door on what may be a significant market segment

A tour through your local Apple Store can be an educational experience — if you’re interested in consumer tech commodities (“smart phones”), markets, and consumer interests.

I took one in the middle of July, 2019 and spent most of my time on the iPhone tables comparing the size of my smartphone – an iPhone SE against each of the models on display.

Background: I chose my iPhone SE for its small size (I need one sized for my pockets). When I purchased this device I had already decided, because of data privacy concerns, the mobile OS needed to be iOS. So my “must have” features were:

1. Personal data privacy controls
2. No risk of whole display interstitial advertising
3. Small Size
4. Support for fastest data communication speeds
5. Support for International Data Communication Protocols
6. HD display
7. Extensive app ecosystem
8. Support for Microsoft Office 365 application suite

A sophisticated, feature rich camera was, and remains, purely a “nice to have” for me.

So I was disappointed to find none of the current iPhone models matched the small size of my iPhone SE, neither in height, nor in depth. The reason why none of the current iPhone models matched the thinness of the SE amounted to a bulge on the back of each one, a bulge necessitated by a new camera design, one packed with new picture-taking functionality. Bulge size and type varied from model to model: some models sported simply one round bulge on the back, while others included two of them tightly positioned as a pair on the back of the device.

Apple’s decisions to discontinue marketing a small smartphone leaves a likely sizeable portion of the consumer market “high and dry”. The decision to stop marketing a smartphone with a flat back does the same and, further, commits what I call a “big product marketing mistake”, the kind of big error characteristic of mature products stuck on an “innovation” plateau, with no where to go except to emphasize capabilities outside the core “must haves” markets are after. The circular bulges aren’t going to go away. Somebody in Apple’s product marketing team effectively decided to kiss a segment of the market goodbye.

Not smart.

Should Apple fans hope the recent changes at the top of Apple’s design team (Jony Ive’s departure and John Williams’ ascendance as his replacement) will fix this error? I sure hope so, but am not so optimistic.

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