Why hasn’t Apple axed the iPhone mini and iPad mini?

Apple revealed two new ‘mini’ products at its September 2021 event: the iPhone 13 mini and 6th-generation iPad mini. Both are quality products with meaningful new features, but their turn up caught people by surprise. The iPhone 13 mini’s predecessor had long been rumoured to have sold below expectations, and the iPad mini hadn’t been upgraded in two years.

Why did these products survive — and get remade more powerful than they have any need to be? No-one else would make them, and there are suggestions the numbers don’t work. So is it that someone at Apple really believes in these devices — or won’t let in defeat? Does Apple make these products just because it can? Or are there other reasons for their continued existence?

When it comes to the iPhone mini, Neil Cybart, Apple analyst and creator of Above Avalon, is damning. He says all evidence points to iPhone 12 mini sales coming in lighter than expected, estimating that it represents just 5 per cent of total iPhone sales. “need that was thought to flow to the iPhone 12 mini ended up going to other models,” he claims. “The mini suffered from a perception issue — it wasn’t perceived to be good value. The without of a corresponding ‘mini’ price tag doesn’t help.”

Cybart believes little will change with the iPhone 13 mini — and it only exists because “Apple was not in a position to change strategies once it became clear the market just wasn’t into the iPhone 12 mini”. He goes further, believing the form will “go away in 2022 when Apple unveils iPhone screen size changes”.

Others are unconvinced. Neil Shah, VP Research at Counterpoint Research, says that 5 per cent number needs context, since it shows the mini nevertheless sells “on par with the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G in terms of quantity — and at a higher margin”. additionally, he argues the device provides vital opportunities for Apple, retaining users and attracting targeted demographics to Apple’s ecosystem. This includes users on older devices who keep keen on smaller form factors and people who prize “pocketability or pursability”.

Asymco analyst Horace Dediu broadly agrees. “In contrast to claims the iPhone mini was a flop, Apple doubled down on it and keeps two generations on the shelf,” he says. But there are good reasons for Apple sticking with a varied product line, already in the confront of variable sales. “In contrast to the quantity of the iPhone, the Mac does not sell well and some Mac variants have very few orders. Apple nevertheless sells Macs,” he says. And that’s down to the benefits beyond raw sales numbers that Apple gets from a broader portfolio of products — most notably that these products “cover some niche use situations and users, which keeps customer satisfaction high overall”.

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