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Editorial: Apple's use of 'iPhone Pro' is a marketing label, not a personal description

Mac Pro 2019 in front of an original 1984 ad for the first Macintosh.

Rumors of Apple releasing an 'iPhone Pro' are again sparking debate over who is a Pro user and who is 'just' a consumer. This is a pointless yet damaging argument to have, and always will be.

Maybe Apple shouldn't have gone with that line about Macintosh being the computer "for the rest of us." For as good a line as it was, it also drew a line between us and whoever else isn't us. It drew a line between the public and technology workers at the time when there was a very clear delineation, and more firmly dug the trench between consumers and professionals.

It's an entirely imaginary division, subject to occasional gerrymandering, but somehow it's real. And you can see it every single time Apple is even rumored to do anything with the word 'Pro' in it.

The latest is how it is claimed that the company will release an iPhone Pro. With no real details, already it's being argued that Apple is ignoring consumers, and it's somehow also ignoring professionals, and it's really doing everything to everyone.

If it is true that there is going to be an iPhone Pro next month or next year, it means two things and only two things. First, it will be expensive, and second, Apple needed a name.

And that is the extent of it.

Reading too much into a name

A new product is always expensive — expense is practically synonymous with Apple. And, of course, the company had to come up with a marketing name for it. Names are better than numbers, and this has been complicated over the years by the X=X+1 increment for the iPhone broken by a "S" year, to say nothing of blowing past the "iPhone 9" and skipping the "iPhone 7S"

Beyond how the price will hurt and the name will stick, there is nothing else whatsoever that you can know today. Maybe you can expect that Apple is unlikely to stick it with an old LCD screen or make it the only iPhone without Face ID.

It will only be Pro because Apple has called it that, like every other Pro product. Even if you are a professional phone answerer, you pick it up the same way and you speak into the same microphone.

What you can be, and so what an iPhone Pro could be, is someone who would benefit from features that not everyone would. Good luck thinking of a phone feature only a few people need — though fixing the omissions in call forwarding would be nice.

Filmmakers might enjoy some extra facility in the camera lens, some people do want to be able to plug their mouse into the phone. We're just getting into areas of baseless speculation — and unfortunately also judgements.

Someone wanting a mouse for their iPhone is a bit like someone wanting a remote control for their Apple Watch. Unless that person is you, it's hard not to see that as ridiculous. Related to that is possible Apple Pencil support, but we can't imagine Apple wanting you to carry one around in your pants pocket.

Somehow, though, it seems that a great many of us find it hard to see any benefit in anything we don't personally use. And alongside that there's a deeply unfortunate tendency to criticize other people's needs.

Tim Cook looks to see whether anyone's waiting to buy the new Mac Pro. They are.
Tim Cook looks to see whether anyone's waiting to buy the new Mac Pro. They are.

It's common to go beyond lumping people into the "Pro" or consumer label and instead say consumers don't need a better microphone or that they cannot be serious Apple users if they have only an iPhone XR with its LCD screen.

At its most basic, we have that Pro and consumer label, and even that is preposterous.

You might be the kind of video editor for whom the new Mac Pro is barely adequate, but half of your job is writing shot sheets and your professional machine won't break a sweat doing that. Or you might be the kind of person who usually just does web browsing but once a month has to take over the accounts of your family, has to produce a podcast audio series.

We all step between being "Pro" users and not. We step between needing power and actually not really needing it at all.

If we have some need to be considered pro, it's going to be satisfied by what we actually do with the equipment we buy, not how much it cost. If you edit together all the video of your children, it's not going to be a professional feature film just because you used Final Cut Pro X instead of iMovie.

Professionals do a lot with their gear, of course, but the key thing they do is make money using it. If your business demands you use a Apple product for one reason or another, you're a professional Apple user. It does not and it cannot make any difference whatsoever if you're doing it on a 2018 iPad Pro, an original iPad, a refurbished Macintosh SE/30, or an iMac Pro.

The word "Pro" on the box is just a name.

It's not one size fits all

Users don't see "Pro" as just a marketing term or as simple as a product name, though. It's not seen as Apple just breaking up its technology into different price points. Instead, users go crazy and start labelling one person as a pro, and another as a consumer.

When the 2019 Mac Pro was unveiled, there were people who scorned the company for not including some feature they would like.

The argument goes like this: Mac Pro doesn't have feature X, and I want feature X, so the Mac Pro is not really for professionals.

In reality, the furthest that argument could reasonably go is much simpler: Mac Pro doesn't have a feature I need, therefore it's not for me, and I need to look elsewhere.

And here we go again with the rumors about an "iPhone Pro."

There is some blinkered, self-absorbed facet of humans that gets people disparaging a machine and everyone who buys it because it doesn't happen to suit them. Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of overlap with this group with the folks who believe the Mac Pro should be twice as powerful and come with ten times better specifications — but cost less than a Mac mini.

You can't help people like that, and there will always be plenty of them. There is one thing you can do, and it's actually what a professional would do.

Rather than argue about whether the machine has Pro in the title or not, rather than wound people for what they choose to buy — or, worse, what they can afford to buy — we can look at the work. Look at what we need to accomplish, and then at which Mac, iOS, Windows, or Android device will serve us the best.

He only had an Apple Lisa. Are you telling us Steve Jobs wasn't a pro user?
He only had an Apple Lisa. Are you telling us Steve Jobs wasn't a pro user?

All a real pro wants is to deliver the best work they can, and the name of the tool they use is irrelevant.

Let's change this

Whoever we are, and whatever we do, Apple gear empowers us. That's really what the line about "the rest of us" meant back in 1984.

It meant that computers were no longer going to be for technology experts in lab coats, they were going to be for us to do our jobs. Regardless of what those jobs are, regardless of which particular machine we elect or can afford to buy, the gear gives us what we need to get the work done.

As the new iPhone range comes out, as Apple releases more new Macs and iPads and AirPods and HomePods, let's see the word 'Pro' for what it is. All it is, and all it has ever been, is a marketing term that Apple applies to the higher end of its product lineup. And, it and is that makes it easier to tell the Apple Store which one you want.

After all, if there is an iPhone Pro and you buy it, it's going to be because its benefits are worth the price to you. If there's an iPhone Pro and instead you decide to buy a used iPhone 6S, it will be for precisely the same reason. If you buy a 2019 Mac Pro, it is entirely and completely and exclusively for the reason that you need it. Nothing else.

There is no one true "Pro" group. Saying or implying that there is based on a product feature set is ludicrous. There is just "the rest of us."

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