Why is the iPhone 11 Pro called iPhone 11 Pro?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why are some iPhones suddenly Pro?
If there’s one thing you can add to death and taxes as being inevitable, it’s the Fall release of the new iPhones. The latest trio has just arrived, faster and more polished than ever, just like any other year. There’s one notable change that has nothing to do with the specs of the iPhones and that is the new naming scheme Apple decided to go with. While it might seem like semantics, there’s more to the name change that meets the eye. Let’s investigate why Apple might have made the decision to change things up.

The success of the iPhone XR was a blessing and a curse

We already knew that the iPhone XR was outselling its 2018 siblings by a large margin, but Tim Cook confirmed it himself during the presentation of the latest models. And while that’s undoubtedly a great achievement, it also sends a clear message: people prefer the cheaper, less flashy iPhone over Apple’s de facto 2018 flagships: the iPhone XS and XS Max. That puts Apple in an awkward spot. On one hand, they made a desirable product in the form of the iPhone XR, but on the other, the source of the company’s pride and the showcase of technological prowess, the XS, remains in the shadows. Not a good look for a company that’s focused on premium products.

By naming the successor of the iPhone XR just iPhone 11, Apple hits two birds with one stone. First, it removes the "stigma" that came with owning the "cheap" iPhone XR. It's an unfortunate reality that some people use smartphones (and especially iPhones) to measure success or importance, and the XR just didn't sit well with them. With the new name, the phone receives Apple’s stamp of approval: this is the iPhone to get, period. No negative connotation to it.

And second, Apple positions the regular iPhone 11 to become its best-selling phone, just as it had planned all along. This is pretty much a given especially with the new, lower starting price of $699. But what about the Pro models? Well, they’re for those that want a little extra and don’t mind spending more on it. And little it is…

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What makes the iPhone 11 Pro so professional anyway?

It seems like Apple didn’t put much effort into diversifying its line more than it already did last year. Just as the XS did with the XR, the 11 Pro one-ups the iPhone 11 with an additional camera and higher-res, brighter OLED display. The camera was taunted as the biggest Pro feature, and Apple tried really hard to sell it as such, even giving it to professional photographers and filmmakers to put it to the test. And while the resulting shots and videos looked impressive, they still weren’t convincing that the $300 upgrade was worth it. The camera system has a two-times zoom lens, similar to the one the XS has, which wasn’t “pro”, and the ultra-wide camera that is on the regular iPhone 11 as well. So while the parts of the system aren’t pro by themselves, combining them is what makes the whole thing so advanced. There is some merit to that, even though it’s not much.

More likely, the idea of the Pro moniker is to give the impression that these devices are almost a niche product that only a select few really want or need. So while iPhone 11 owners get to feel better for the choice in iPhone they’ve made, so do the ones that went for the iPhone 11 Pro. Now, they’re part of the elite that wields a Pro smartphone, superior in every way (or at least a couple of ways) than its peasant iPhone 11 counterpart or any other phone for that matter. That was sarcasm, by the way, lower your pitchforks.

But there’s also a more trivial reason for the change...

The iPhone Pro adds consistency among Apple’s product lines

Devices with “Pro” in their names are nothing new for Apple. The MacBook Pro and iPad Pro are some of the most popular products from the company’s lineup. Having an iPhone Pro as well only makes sense and will surely satisfy the OCD of some Apple fanatics.

Apple probably looked beyond its own product assortment when considering the new names. Huawei, OnePlus and Xiaomi all have “Pro” smartphones and while they’re not really competing with Apple in the States, globally these companies are nibbling away from Apple’s market share. Having an iPhone Pro to put against the Android Pro flagships on the market might be a marginal benefit but it’s a benefit nonetheless. Plenty of users don’t bother digging deep (or at all) into the specs of the phones they’re choosing between when considering an upgrade. The “Pro” in the name can potentially sway some of the less tech-savvy buyers to one model rather than another. 

Overall, it appears that Apple’s decision to change the naming scheme of its iPhones was a smart one that has a lot of benefits and a few drawbacks. Now, hopefully, it will stick to it for at least a few years so there’s no further confusion.

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