The confusion at Apple seems to be knowing no boundaries. Today, the company made two announcements. First, they have officially discontinued the iPad 2, the entry level option for the Apple’s full-sized tablet. And they have “re-launched” the iPad 4. Second, they have launched an 8GB variant of the iPhone 5c, which has by far struggled to meet expectations as far as the firm is concerned.
In the early part of last year, when the rumours first floated, that Apple was working on a cheaper version of the iPhone, rumours began spreading about the new phone being made of “cheaper” materials, aka plastic. Now, this was a serious shift in product strategy for a company that pioneered innovation in industrial design with materials like aluminium and glass. The original iPhone, made with these materials possesses a certain grade of finish which put it miles ahead of competition, not just then, but even today. Although, the second and third generation iPhones did move back a little, the iPhone 4 gave consumers an unparalleled feel of natural materials at their fingertips.
Among the other rumours that surfaced last year, was on-going work to remove the only moving part from the front panel – the Home Button, which has been quite a reason for requiring service, but then Apple added the more convenient Touch ID to “forward-thinking” iPhone 5s. Now, my take on the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s form factor is very positive when it comes to making the phone slimmer, and keeping it just as wide as the predecessors enabling single-hand operation which is one of the first USPs of the iOS mobile interface. However, the shift towards dainty aluminium which makes the phones more prone to dust scratches and dents, leaves me wanting to continue with the glass back of the iPhone 4/4s.
But the rumours about a plastic iPhone 5c, were more than alarming, considering until the release, the entire line-up of Apple hardware was completely encased in aluminium and glass, and it tangibly gave consumers the feel of the highest environmental standards right at their fingertips. And this was not the start of something innovative, but the manifestation of shifting values away from their earlier foundation.
And now, let’s discuss pricing. In earlier years, Apple has continued offering the predecessor model of the iPhone at half price in the US Market, along with a two-year contract with a preferred carrier. This meant, every consumer had a choice to go in for an earlier model at a cheaper price, and the same trend was seen in other countries outside of the US. The difference in other countries however, wasn’t exactly half owing to lower subsidies being offered by carriers, or none at all. The iPhone 5c had changed this. This time around, the earlier model, aka the iPhone 5 was discontinued by Apple, and replaced by the iPhone 5c, which had almost the same technical specifications, but made with cheaper materials. I am sure, that the company would love to argue about the quality and finish of plastic they have used (as shown in their advertising), but basically the iPhone 5c makes a statement, “I am ignorant that the iPhone 5s is an entire generation ahead, with a marginal difference in price”.
Apple invested in advertising the product, as a phone for the colourful. They created publicity around worldwide tie-ups with carriers. But considering the pricing in a country like India, where the iPhone 5s retails for Rs. 53,500 and the iPhone 5c sells at Rs. 41,900 – the price difference does not justify missing out on the faster A7 processor, the 64-bit computing and the mobile M7 co-processor.
And now, the announcement of an 8GB iPhone 5c, which will supposedly be slightly cheaper, is just showing that the company is only playing with prices, not with the intention to bring better technology to people, but trying to “add a bumper” to dampen the fall of Apple. Never before, has the company been undecided about discontinuing products and bringing them back, as the time when they re-introduced the iPad 4. It is really like, they were trying to push people to buy the last piece in inventory and then telling them, “Oh we also have something else in stock, which will be cheaper… but not really.”