After two years of disappointing iPhone mini sales, Apple’s answer was to ditch the small form factor and embrace ultra-portable phones with the introduction of the iPhone 14 Plus.
This does not appear to have gone as planned. Demand for the 6.7-inch phone has waned, with multiple sources claiming last month that they were being asked to cut back or stop production of components altogether.
Things haven’t gotten better since then, however, with the highly regarded supply analyst Ross Young is now reporting on Twitter (Opens in a new tab) (paid subscription) that iPhone 14 Plus panel shipments are “scheduled to be near zero in December with demand for this model stalled.”
In other words, Apple already has more iPhone 14 Plus models than it can sell. And it doesn’t seem like it’s just a size thing. While Apple lists the iPhone 14 Plus as shipping immediately, the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max has a five-week waiting list.
In fact, in general, Apple buys more panels according to Young. “2022 iPhone 14 Series panel purchases now appear to be up 10% versus 2021 iPhone 13 Series purchases despite the smartphone market down 9%,” he wrote.
But this time, people are simply buying more Pro devices, leaving the regular models on the shelves. “The ASP blended for these devices is up 10% also with the 14 Pro/Pro Max accounting for 64% share versus 51% for the 13 Pro/Max.” he added.
Analysis: Why is the iPhone 14 Plus struggling?
So why is the iPhone 14 Plus struggling? On paper, it seems like a no-brainer: big phones sell out, so giving people a big iPhone cheaper than the $1,099 iPhone 14 Pro Max should be a home run.
There are many possible explanations. Personally, I’d argue that the iPhone 13 Pro series is a better value than the iPhone 14 range (Opens in a new tab), whether you can purchase a discounted or pre-owned model. And in our iPhone 14 Plus vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max comparison, we outline the many reasons why the Pro Max is the superior large-screen phone — from the 48MP camera and always-on display to the 120Hz refresh rate and telephoto zoom.
Added to this is the high price of the iPhone 14 Plus, which is $899. The mini, while obviously a weaker performer, at least has the advantage of being the cheapest non-SE iPhone, and that’s something the iPhone 14 Plus can’t match. With the regular iPhone priced at $14, $100 and the first Pro model only $100 more, it’s stuck in awkward territory when it can’t be afforded.
And that’s before we get to the real potential for consumer confusion. As Editor-in-Chief Mark Spoonauer says, the four-product iPhone lineup may have become a bit unwieldy for a line known for its simplicity in the Steve Jobs era.
Fortunately, we have some consumer data to support these theories. As mentioned elsewhere, the phone vendor Celsil (Opens in a new tab) I recently polled over 2,500 iPhone owners for their opinions on all things iPhone, and there was a special section about the 14 Plus.
While 20.4% of respondents have already purchased one or plan to do so soon, the remaining 79.6% have no interest. Of those, 22.5% said it was too expensive, 12.1% thought it was too big, and 7.8% thought it had weak features compared to the Pro and Pro Max models.
Other specific responses were all variations on the above topics, with 6.6% saying they preferred the iPhone mini option, another 6.6% saying the price was very close to the iPhone 14 Pro and 5.8% saying it was very similar to the iPhone 13.
Of course, the 18.2% choice of the insanely vague “other reason” box might contain an entirely new explanation for the “eureka” Apple needs, but we’ll never know.
In truth, all of the explanations offered likely combine to paint the full picture of why the iPhone 14 Plus struggles: It’s a niche product with a challenging price point and a feature set that’s frustratingly similar to the previous generation. In hindsight, how could this be a winner?
Despite this, we expect at least another generation of iPhone Plus. Smartphone production simply isn’t reactive enough to change course so quickly, which is why we saw the iPhone 13 mini, long after it became clear its predecessor wasn’t performing as well as hoped. It looks like lightning is set to strike twice as Apple continues its search for a perfectly balanced smartphone lineup.