In the beginning, there was the iPhone. And it was good.
Then came the iPhone S, the C, the Plus, the S Plus, the SE, the R and the S Max. And they were good as well, insofar as anyone could tell the difference between them.
When the eleventh-generation iPhone debuted, the standard version was joined by two further models – the Pro and the Pro Max.
And nor is Apple alone in adopting the Pro suffix for a slightly different version of its main handset.
Other manufacturers to have employed the same trick include Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus.
But what differentiates Pro versions of smartphones?
Are there any tangible benefits, or is this a branding exercise akin to the special editions car manufacturers use as a model approaches the end of its production run?
The first and most obvious distinction is a significant price increase for Pro versions of smartphones.
The OnePlus 8 Pro costs £200 more than the standard 8, despite draining its battery more quickly and packing the same processor, RAM, storage, selfie camera and stereo speakers.
The Huawei P30 Pro misses out on the 3.5mm headphone jack found on the standard P30, yet it’s almost twice as expensive when bought from certain retailers.
Similarly, the most affordable iPhone 11 Pro costs £320 more than a standard iPhone 11, despite having a 5.8-inch screen compared to the basic model’s 6.1-inch screen.
Study the specifications more closely, however, and Pro models are always cut from finer cloth.
While the OnePlus 8 Pro has inferior battery life, it counters with a higher refresh rate and screen resolution, superior cameras, wireless charging and IP68 waterproofing.
Huawei’s P30 Pro provides twice the storage of the basic P30 alongside a larger screen, more RAM, IP68 resistance and superior camera technology.
And anyone upgrading to the Pro version of the iPhone 11 will benefit from a telephoto camera lens, greater water resistance and a Super Retina screen measuring up to 6.5 inches.
Taste the difference
So why do manufacturers release Pro versions of smartphones?
On a day-to-day basis, few of us could differentiate a phone with IP68 resistance from one without, or identify the marginal gains a 4200 mAh battery brings over a 3650 mAh one
In truth, a slightly larger screen and extra RAM is about elitism as much as anything.
Going back our cars analogy, a GL model is clearly better than a L, while a Ghia is superior to both.
And so it is with smartphones, where owning a Pro sets you apart from lesser mortals.
Unless you really need 256GB of storage or a 48MP telephoto lens, the specification differences are nominal. Yet the prospect of owning a top-end model remains seductive.
And as Apple has consistently proved, clever marketing and a sense of exclusivity can persuade consumers to spend considerably more than they might otherwise need to.