Dev-only iPhones

With today's release of iOS 8.1, most app developers are looking at 4 significantly different iOS versions they will be supporting: iOS 7.0., iOS 7.1, iOS 8.0, and iOS 8.1. Factoring in the number of devices (iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus) that run these OS versions, there is a grand total of 16 different configurations. That's without even counting the iPhone 5c, which is internally pretty much the same as the 5, or the rumored iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3 updates.

Assuming an average off-contract price of $400 for these models, that means you're looking at $6,400 for 1 set of iPhones used for development. Creating a universal app? Your total will now exceed $10,000.

So now you have these 16 phones that will in most cases be used for testing maybe a handful of apps, that have chips and software functionality in them that will be used very little (if at all), and will most of the time just sit in some desk drawer with a dead battery. I could think of better ways to spend money.

This problem could have a very simple solution: dev-only iPhones. Remove or disable the cellular chip (you can simulate cellular networks using the Network Link Conditioner), give it an 8GB storage chip, remove apps such as Weather, Stocks, Calculator, Clock, etc., disable the App Store for all but the developer's own apps, allow any supported iOS version to be installed using Xcode, and sell at-cost, but only to developers in the iOS Developer Program.

By disabling cellular and dumbing the OS down to only include parts that developers can interact with, it becomes pretty useless for people who are just trying to look for a sweet deal on an iPhone/iPod touch. The win for developers is that they only need 1 of each device, but they're also cheaper.

You could even take it a step further and set memory, CPU and screen size limits (meaning only use 4" of the available 5.5"), allowing you to simulate an iPhone 5s on an iPhone 6 Plus. Now developers only need to buy the iPhone 6 Plus to be mostly covered, though I'd still recommend also getting an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5c for 32-bit devices.

I may be way off course here due to technical implications or limitations that I'm not aware of. There are also still cases in which you'd need an actual device on the actual software as consumers use it. Developers don't always need to test against every iOS version on every supported iOS device. But for developers who do and don't want to spend the money on all these different devices, a dev-only iPhone may be exactly what they need.