iPhone 15 — it's time for Apple to ditch the iPhone Plus

iPhone 14 Plus shown held in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You may have missed the news over the weekend, seeing as how most of us were focused on ringing in the New Year. But it sounds as if the iPhone 14 Plus isn't generating much interest among shoppers. And that could have significant repercussions for Apple's iPhone 15 plans.

The original post came from Korean blog Naver (opens in new tab), which reports that the iPhone 14 Plus simply isn't selling. Apple doesn't break down iPhone sales by product type, but this isn't the first place we've seen that claim.

What's unusual about the Naver report is that it suggests the iPhone 14 Plus struggles could push Apple in one of several different directions when it comes to this fall's iPhone 15 release. Specifically, Naver sees three options: Apple cuts the price on its Pro phones so that the standard iPhone and the Plus model don't feel like afterthoughts; Apple beefs up the features on the standard and Plus phones; or Apple goes all in on an iPhone 15 Ultra model, making the iPhone 15 Plus seem like a better value in the process.

There's a fourth option, though, if iPhone 14 Plus sales are truly bad and Apple is flummoxed about how to solve that. Namely, it could drop the Plus model entirely and stick to a trio of iPhone 15 handsets.

Three's company, four iPhones are a crowd

It's not written in stone that Apple has to come out with four new models every fall. The iPhone 14 release in September was only the third straight year Apple's done that. In 2020, it added the iPhone 12 mini to the other iPhone 12 models, and a mini made a return trip when the iPhone 13 family came out in 2021.

You might remember that neither of those mini iPhones sold particularly well, either, to the point where Apple decided it had to go big with the iPhone 14 release. But despite a 6.7-inch display in a device that's only $100 more than the standard iPhone, shoppers reportedly aren't jumping on that offer.

Each time Apple's come out with four phones, it's always felt like one too many.

In other words, each time Apple's come out with four phones, it's always felt like one too many, at least from a marketing poing of view. So why not correct that mistake by getting rid of the superfluous fourth iPhone?

Yes, there are mitigating circumstances with the iPhone 14 release, beyond the fact that we really don't have sales figures of any kind for the latest iPhones. (Hitting stores in late September, only a fraction of iPhone 14 sales are reflected in Apple's earnings report for its fiscal fourth quarter.) And even a cursory iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro comparison reveals that the Pro models got the bigger features, dulling enthusiasm for the iPhone 14 Plus. It's possible that adding something like the Dynamic Island to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus — as has been rumored — might make people more willing to buy those phones this fall.

What this means for the iPhone 15 Plus

Still, another way of looking at this is that the market has been telling Apple for three years running now that a fourth iPhone just isn't that appealing. Big screen or small, consumers just don't seem that interested.

With the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max (or iPhone 15 Ultra, if that's the direction Apple ends up taking with its high-end model), Apple would have a natural good/better/best order for its smartphone lineup. The iPhone 15 would be the device to get when you want a great camera phone that won't cost you more than $800. The iPhone 15 Pro can offer even better cameras and performance for just a couple hundred dollars more. And if you want to push out the boat, well, that's what the Ultra is for.

This would even open up Apple to sell both big- and small-screen devices at a discount. Mark down the iPhone 14 Plus and the iPhone 13 mini and you can keep those devices around in the fall to appeal to shoppers who consider screen size above any other factor.

Do I actually think this will happen when the iPhone 15 release date rolls around? Probably not. Apple has likely long decided what phones are going to be part of its iPhone 15 lineup without any input from me. 

But if people were interested in a lower cost 6.7-inch iPhone that lacked the high-end features found in Apple's Pro models, they would have embraced the iPhone 14 Plus. That they haven't — at least, reportedly — suggests that there's not much Apple is going to be able to do to convince them that the iPhone 15 Plus is a better option. Sometimes, you just have to concede that less is more, especially when it comes to phone releases.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.