Remember all of those iPhone nano rumors that kept surfacing year after year between 2009 and 2012? None of them ever came true. Apple never made an iPhone nano, and the smaller, affordable iPhone came several years later. Naming scheme aside, Apple did launch the iPhone SE line of affordable iPhones. It also made an iPhone mini for the first time last year. But a new Steve Jobs email that surfaced due to Epic and Apple’s ongoing legal battle shows that the iPhone nano name was very much real.
It wasn’t until March 2016 that Apple launched the more affordable iPhone SE. Starting at $399, the first-gen iPhone SE was basically an iPhone 6 in an iPhone 5s body. It was also a nightmare for Android rivals. That nightmare only got worse in spring 2020 when Apple introduced the third SE model in the series. It has the same name and starting price, but features a more modern design with the power of an iPhone 11. And the phone absolutely killed the competition last year. The only thing holding it back from doing more damage was its 2017 design.
All that is to say that Apple did follow through on its cheaper iPhone strategy, just like those 2011 rumors claimed. And it’s a strategy that Steve Jobs had planned all along.
The Steve Jobs iPhone nano email
The Steve Jobs email that The Verge discovered in the Epic vs. Apple evidence pile isn’t the first such document to reveal exciting tidbits about the inner workings at Apple. As soon as you read it, it’ll be clear who brought this email into the suit and for what purpose. Here’s something Jobs jotted in the October 24th, 2010 email: “tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem.” That’s the kind of bullet point in an old to-do list that Epic will use against Apple in a court of law.
But the iPhone nano bit is the more interesting one. When Jobs wrote the email, Apple’s newest iPhone was the iPhone 4 that had launched that June. Apple would unveil the iPhone 4s on October 4th, 2011, a day before Jobs passed away.
When the Apple co-founder wrote this plan in October 2010, he included the iPhone nano into Apple’s 2011 iPhone strategy. The goal was to “create [a low-cost] iPhone model based on iPod touch to replace 3GS.”
Later in the email, Steve Jobs wrote under “iPhone nano plan” two things: “cost goal” and “show model (and/or renderings).”
This indicates Apple really wanted a cheaper iPhone model to compete against entry-level and mid-range Androids. That’s even though the iPhone 3GS was still on sale alongside the iPhone 4.
It also tells us that Apple had an iPhone nano design on hand. Jony Ive would have probably shown it to everyone — or he had shown it. We’ll never know what happened at that meeting.
But the Steve Jobs email indicates that the current iPhone SE sales success was long in the making at Apple. And that all those iPhone nano reports were based on actual details from inside Apple.