A 'more money than sense' iPhone Pro is just what Apple needs

Opinion: As iPhone sales have become soft, one way for Apple to reinvigorate sales -- while simultaneously keeping the average selling price strong and not hurting those who want a cheap iPhone -- is to unveil a Pro model.

Apple is in a bit of a pickle.

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iPhone sales are softening, and more than ever, the Cupertino giant has to have an iPhone lineup that appeals to those who want a cheap iPhone. But it simultaneously needs to have a high-end, high-priced model on offer to keep the average selling price buoyed and appeal to those who want the very best smartphone money can buy.

Enter the iPhone Pro.

Now, the iPhone Pro rumor isn't new (it gained traction soon after Apple unveiled the iPad Pro), and the type of features a "Pro" grade iPhone would need in order to be called "Pro" is not really important (256GB of storage, a dual-camera setup, or a smart connector -- all three features have been rumored). It's important that Apple has a new, higher-priced handset -- let's say priced around $150 higher than the iPhone Plus -- to give those with deep pockets the opportunity to offset the hit that the cheapo iPhone SE has had on the average selling price.

Sound familiar? It should, because this is the strategy that Apple adopted with the iPad (only it's been disguised by words like "Air" and "Mini" and "Pro"). Whatever fancy suffixes Apple chooses to give its devices, they're just a rebranding of the age-old "cheapo," "mainstream," and "more money than sense" sales categories.

There's evidence to suggest it will work, too. Just look at the iPhone Plus' popularity. It gave those who wanted a "premium" iPhone a totally new iPhone. It's something radically different from the iPhones that have come before it.

And remember, the iPhone started out as a high-end, pseudo-luxury device that was only available to those who had a few hundred dollars to spare. Now, we have cheap iPhones, subsidized iPhones, trade-ins for iPhones, and iPhone rental programs. The iPhone has transformed from something that you needed to have the money to buy into something that you can get even if you don't have all the money right now.

Apple has to balance its desire for everyone to own an iPhone by maintaining that it's special and somehow different to every other smartphone.

I'm not saying the iPhone is or should be an elitist symbol (like Google Glass was when it debuted). Apple needs everyone to throw it a few bucks, after all. But it's important to remember how the iPhone juggernaut came to be.

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