Apple didn't mention the iPhone 14 at all during this week's WWDC 2022 event — hardly a surprise given the company's standard refusal to talk about any product that it hasn't announced. But if you've been following iPhone 14 pricing rumors, at least one of the announcements coming out of WWDC spoke volumes about what could happen to phone prices in the fall.
In case you missed the news, Apple took the wraps off a new version of the MacBook Air, powered by the company's brand new Apple M2 processor. The new generation of Apple silicon promises twice the performance of the original M1 while using half the power.
It's an impressive bit of hardware as we learned during our MacBook Air (2022) hands-on time, so it's probably not a surprise that Apple plans to charge $1,199 for the base model when it goes on sale next month. That's a $200 premium over what the MacBook Air M1 sells for, which is staying in Apple's lineup.
Apple's MacBook Air presentation at WWDC really didn't go into an explanation as to why Apple boosted prices for this model, but you can glean the rationale from what the company did talk about. Besides the improved system-on-chip, the latest MacBook Air is lighter and thinner than what came before it, even though the screen is slightly larger.
More importantly, the display is 25% brighter than the last MacBook Air, and Apple's laptop now supports 67W charging (if you spring for the faster charger, that is). In other words, there's enough improvements here to justify the higher cost — or at lest make you feel like you're getting something more for the extra money you've been asked to spend over the MacBook Air M1.
Left unsaid at WWDC was the state of the components market right now. Laptop parts cost more than they used to, and hardware makers like Apple won't necessarily be able to absorb the higher cost of building their machines. Some of that's going to get passed on to consumers, which could be what's happening here.
What the new MacBook Air could mean for iPhone 14
So how does that impact the iPhone 14 in general and the Pro models in particular? Well, the same conditions affecting component costs impact the entire tech world, phones included. Also, if you were to use rumors about Apple's upcoming phones for an iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro comparison, you'd have to conclude that the Pro is getting the more substantial features in this round of updates.
Specifically, it's the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max that are tipped to replace Apple's notched display with camera and Face ID cutouts. The Pro phones are also expected to feature a new A16 processor, leaving the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max to run on a variant of the current A15 chipset. The main camera on the iPhone 14 Pro could get a boost to 48MP, and we haven't even talked about the faster-refreshing displays that already separate the standard iPhone from its Pro sibling.
In other words, Apple is reportedly packing a lot of impressive changes into the iPhone 14 Pro, just as it did with the MacBook Air 2022. It's not unreasonable to assume a similar price hike could be in the works as well.
That certainly seems to be what the rumor mill thinks is going to happen. While the iPhone 14 is tipped to retain its $799 starting price, one persistent rumor has the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max adding $100 over what the iPhone 13 Pro equivalents cost. That would put the iPhone 14 Pro at $1,099 while the iPhone 14 Pro Max would go for $1,199.
At a time when people are feeling the pinch of rising prices from all directions, it would seem counterintuitive for Apple to charge more on what is, at the end of the day, a discretionary item. (A mobile phone may be essential to have, but one that costs more than $1,000 certainly isn't.) With the MacBook Air 2022, Apple seems to be betting that people will pay up for a quality product that brings more to the table than the lower cost version. And I'm guessing that philosophy carries over to the iPhones in the fall.
The usual caveats about projected prices on unannounced products are in play here, especially since laptops and phones aren't the same thing. If Apple ends up keeping iPhone pricing in place for the iPhone 14, no one will be more pleased than me. And yet, I still think it's worth planning on higher prices in the fall, because all the signs are starting to point that way.