Although Apple did not announce new iPhones yesterday, the event was a full hour. Apple announced four new hardware products, a major new service, and a new package. By any objective standard, it’s a big day. As I will note below, the main products may not be hardware, but Fitness Plus and the ability to make an Apple Watch into a tracker for kids.
In addition to these announcements, the most important thing that struck me is that Apple seems to be making a subtle but important shift in its product strategy this year. You may have heard of the “Good, better, best” pricing strategy ̵
The ancients among us have Steve Jobs’ famous Mac product grid indelibly marked in our concept of how Apple approaches products. On one axis was “Consumer vs Pro” and the other “Desktop vs Portable.”
But that doesn’t really apply to both axes anymore, and it certainly does not work for the many kinds of products that Apple now manufactures. There are simply more levels than just “consumer” and “pro” for most product categories. Plus, in the Apple world, the word “pro” in itself doesn’t really mean “for professionals” as much as “the best” these days.
Take the messages from the Apple Watch. Apple announced both a flagship Series 6 series of watches and a cheaper SE line. At first I thought of the Apple Watch SE as a parallel to the iPhone SE. So it seemed to me that the trend is that Apple needs to make cheaper products that are technically new because it’s harder to get consumers to buy last year’s model. But after some thought, I think that is not quite right.
The good, better, best cadence for Apple Watch happens to go under different names compared to iPhone. The SE name scheme just threw me off. This is how I think it goes:
- Good: Apple Watch Series 3 / iPhone SE
- Better: Apple Watch SE / iPhone 11
- Best: Apple Watch Series 6 / iPhone 11 Pro
The “good” option at the bottom of the lineup actually serves two purposes. It’s a killer deal and makes Apple products more accessible. But it also makes room for the better opportunity to be more advanced and more expensive. Last year, Apple probably sold a Kajillion Series 3 watch at its low price – this year it has a very clear upsell in the SE.
The same basic logic applies to the new iPad and iPad Air. The new iPad Air takes on many of the things that make the Pro compelling – so much so that unless the words “ProMotion” and “LIDAR” mean something to you, Air is a better choice. It’s also $ 100 more than the iPad Air was last year.
I think Apple is not so worried about the iPad Air cannibalizing the iPad Pro – it still sells an iPad after all, and it certainly makes a good margin because that’s what Apple does. In fact, I suppose “margin” is often the answer to why the better option lacks a feature that the best option has. Apple Watch SE is also a series 6 with cheaper components: no oxygen monitor in the blood, always on the screen or the latest chip.
Put another way, all I’m talking about here is upselling. The quality of the “good” opportunity gets you into the (now metaphorical) door, and upselling for the better opportunity sits right there. Apple’s trick is to make it upsell a variant of its best things instead of an improved version of the good stuff. Apple Watch SE is based on series 6. iPhone 11 is closer to 11 Pro than iPhone SE. And the iPad Air now looks more like an iPad Pro than a basic iPad.
Like any model, this idea can break with too much rhetorical pressure. I do not know how it e.g. Applies to the MacBook lineup, but this lineup is in such a stream right now with the upcoming Armchips that I think it’s getting a pass. To me, this model is what Apple is striving for, but depending on where a given product line is at the moment, it can be difficult to achieve.
Every time Apple releases a new product in a row, there is always a variation of the question “Why should this exist when it looks like the other thing?” I asked it myself with the iPad Air and Apple Watch SE yesterday. And now I think the answer is to make sure that the “better” is better – and it does not hurt Apple if it means that it is also just a little more expensive.
Rounding off the Apple news
┏ Apple’s Time Flies’ event: the 9 biggest announcements. This is a good overview of everything in one place. You can also find all the stories we published in this story stream.
┏ Apple ‘Time Flies’ 2020 live blog. To see my and Nilay Patel’s thoughts in real time.
┏ Apple sends ASL translation of its ‘Time Flies’ event. Every business needs to do this.
┏ Apple announces Apple Watch Series 6 with the ability to measure blood oxygen levels. The measurement of oxygen in the blood is the big new feature, but there is also a U1 chip in there that could possibly unlock some future options one day, like unlocking your car or finding the as yet unannounced AirTags.
┏ Apple announces Apple Watch SE, an affordable sequel to the Series 3. The most important things you lose from Series 6 are the always displayed screen, the oxygen monitor in the blood, the ECG and other bits like the U1 chip. It is important that it has fall detection.
┏ Family Setup lets you manage multiple Apple Watches from a single iPhone. I think this key is perhaps the most important thing Apple announced yesterday. You’ll have to pay an airline a monthly fee for it to work, but I have to imagine that anyone who looks at these kid tracker watches thinks twice about getting an Apple Watch instead – especially if there ends up being kids peer pressure about it!
A few notes I learned in briefings with Apple: kids are notified about certain forms of parental monitoring (like geofences) and can approve or deny sharing of certain health statistics. Also for children: the movement ring tracks the total activity time, not estimated calories. It’s apparently because it just makes more sense to track how active a child is, but I’m also happy because it’s probably not good for kids to think about calorie intake.
My very informal vote among my Twitter followers has many responses from parents who are mindful and thinking about this new feature. It also reveals a surprising number of parents who want to implant chips directly into their children’s skulls.
┏ Apple removes the USB power adapter from upcoming Apple Watch cases. As I wrote when it became rumored that Apple would make this the next iPhone: well. For the environment, I mean. Strange that Apple’s very expensive smart versions of the Apple Watch still come with a charger. I guess rich people would not be able to handle the logistics of finding their own charger in a drawer or something?
┏ How to choose between Apple Watch Series 6, SE and older models.
┏ Apple’s new watch strap comes in 12 sizes, and you need to measure your wrist to choose the right one. I saw a short demo of video conferencing of these straps and they extend quite far to fit over your hand before shrinking back to their original shape on your wrist. But this whole system for measuring your own wrist via a printout is really awkward. Not that I think there is a better solution, but an uncomfortable watch is the worst and I’m afraid people will get the wrong size and then just live with it.
However, there is an additional complication. The largest three loop sizes are not compatible with a 40 mm watch, while the three smallest sizes do not work with a 44 mm watch. This means, for example, that if you want the smaller watch but have a large wrist, you may not be able to get one of the new Loop straps that suits you.
Services: Apple One and Fitness Plus
┏ Apple Announces Fitness Plus Virtual Exercise Programs. They do not live like Peloton, but new content comes weekly across a number of different forms of training. However, an Apple Watch is required, which might just be a little disappointing.
┏ Apple confirms the Apple One subscription bundle and brings together music, TV Plus, Arcade and more. So there are three levels that feel like too many levels. But okay, Apple has to pay more for a family plan than an individual plan because music labels charge more for it, I’m told. And both Fitness Plus and Apple News Plus are not available in all regions (Fitness Plus only starts in six countries). Put them together and that kind of kind of Apple in three levels.
But I still feel that there is a bit of confusion here, honestly. My own personal calculation is that 200 GB of iCloud storage plan is no longer enough. So I get ten dollars a month for 2 TB. Add another Apple service like TV + or music and I’re crawling at $ 20 or $ 25 a month. So you start trying to do math on what you want and don’t want, and in the end you just land by screwing it up, I just get it with everything for the whole family – and if you’re a whole family, it’s a good thing. offer!
Still feels like upselling to me, just a little bit. And my regular reminder is that when you see a monthly price, do mental math to see what it costs per year. It’s a scale that makes it easier to compare with other purchases or – you know – save your damn money. So the Apple One Premier level is $ 29.95 / month or approx. $ 360 per year.
Finally – will Apple start offering bundles of hardware add-ons? In some ways it makes sense! In others, however, there are so many models of iPhone that it is difficult to know which ones will be linked to which price.
┏ Apple says its new Apple One service pack is not unfair to Spotify. The award for today’s strangest statement goes to Spotify, which wanted to put in and point out that Apple’s bundle of services puts it at a disadvantage. In a well-crafted statement, Spotify could have done the trick – but it chose more anger than clarity.
What’s interesting to me is that Apple felt the need to respond with a public statement. I think if there was not that much heat around antitrust right now, Apple would not have bothered with it.
iPad and iPad Air
┏ Apple announces updated eighth generation entry-level 10.2-inch iPad for $ 329. The iPad is still one of the best deals in consumer technology. And Apple is continuing its efforts to get them adopted in schools instead of Chromebooks.
┏ Apple announces new iPad Air, which looks more like an iPad Pro, starting at $ 599. The processor in it is newer than what is in the iPad Pro, but the iPad Pro has more cores and a stronger GPU. And what about the switch to USB-C? It tells me that there is no religion around Apple ports. But I also do not expect the iPhone 12 to switch to USB-C.
Which I think is a shame, but I understand Apple’s calculation that it would be disruptive to a large user base. So again, being willing to disrupt a user base in the name of moving forward is something Apple used to be afraid of – it was literally called “courage” to drop the headphone jack.
┏ Apple releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 on September 16th. The drama is that developers have historically had a little more notice about these releases. This means that a bunch of devs who worked to create iOS 14-specific features or updates will not be able to publish them on the first day of the update.
┏ Apple has sold more than 500 million iPads over the last decade. Apple made up a large part of the fact that more than 50 percent of all iPad buyers are first-time iPad buyers. It wants to make it the case that the iPad has room to grow and the ability to intervene in the PC and Chromebook market. It specifically called how both new iPads were faster. Although I have to say that Apple is announcing benchmarks like this, it’s hollow for me – it’s going to gain on experience and software ecosystem. Chromebooks are not popular in schools because they are fast, they are popular because they are cheap, practical and relatively easy to manage.
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