With the focus on the poor sales of the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max; has Apple just tested out the retail impact of a cheaper iPhone this weekend?

Apple iPhone SE (image: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

The headline is of course the return of the iPhone SE to Apple’s sales roster, albeit via the clearance section of Apple’s website. Shortly after the SE appeared on sale, it reached sold out status. While there’s no indication on the total number of units available, Apple will have gained something much more valuable than the revenue from the handsets. It will have gained data on the popularity and demand on the SE.

While that may be evident on social media and community sites, having customers coming to the Apple website, seeing how they navigate through the offers, watching them digitally close the sale, and to see if these are new or existing customers will no doubt be carefully analysed. More importantly Apple would be able to extrapolate the impact on sales of the higher-end and more expensive smartphones.

The last two years of new iPhones have followed a path of higher prices and larger absolute margins, a path that now appears rocky at best following January’s profit warning. As many commentators (including myself) have noted, if Tim Cook is serious about moving to a ‘software and services first’ approach then that demands a lot of users, especially if it is to come close to the income generated by physical iPhone sales.

One option is to open up all of its services to Android and Windows 10 users, such as iMessage. Another option, and one that feels less of a traumatic jump for Cook’s Apple, is to increase the number of iOS users who will automatically be using the services. The easiest way to do that is to see more smartphones, and the easiest way to sell more smartphones is to lower the price.

Lowering the price is tricky for Apple, it has to balance the benefit of increased sales to the damage it does to the perception of the luxury nature of the iPhone brand. With the weekend traffic and sales data from the iPhone SE, it should be a step closer to understanding how to launch a low-cost iPhone without killing sales of the high-end handsets.

Now read about Apple’s lack of innovative ideas in the latest iPhone leaks



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