back to article Sacre bleu! Apple's high price, marginal gain iPhone strategy leaves it stuck in the mud

You may or may not know that the phrase "industrial revolution" was coined by a Frenchman. "La révolution industrielle se met en possession de l’Angleterre," wrote the economist Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui. What irony, you may think. While Britain was inventing the modern world with its engineering, rich natural resources and …

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  1. Bloodbeastterror

    £1,149

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha... stroll on...

    1. David Lawton

      Re: £1,149

      Thats what Steve Balmer said in 2007 and we know who had the last laugh...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: £1,149

        Thats what Steve Balmer said in 2007 and we know who had the last laugh...

        The difference in 2007 was that it was new and there were a number of big steps forward in hardware design (gorilla glass), ui closely mated to the new capacitive screen and usability.

        In 2017 - not so much. Every "new" feature it has is already shipping in multiple android phones, some of them not even high end.

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: £1,149

          The opening paragraphs are perhaps the most relevant - there is not likely to be an audience of 20% of the smartphone market who fancy splurging a thousand quid on a phone.

          I'll grant that Apple have a long history of innovation. Yesterday's announcement feels like them attaching the milking machine to the cash cow's udders.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: £1,149

            > there is not likely to be an audience of 20% of the smartphone market who fancy splurging a thousand quid on a phone

            I wouldn't be so sure. Anyone who's prepared to pay £850 for a top-end Samsung is likely to be happy to pay £1000 for an Apple - if only because it integrates so well with the rest of their Apple gear.

          2. Richard Boyce
            Happy

            Re: £1,149

            "Yesterday's announcement feels like them attaching the milking machine to the cash cow's udders."

            That's long been attached. They're now using a cannula to draw blood too. Dracula would be impressed.

          3. Tom 64
            WTF?

            Re: £1,149

            > "a thousand quid on a phone"

            this.

            I could buy a car for that price. A fast car which would probably last 5 years if not 10.

            I know where I'd rather spend the dosh.

            1. The First Dave

              Re: £1,149

              You're talking about a R/C car aren't you?

              A car that costs less than a grand isn't gonna make it through more than a couple of MOT's without costing you the same again.

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: £1,149

                I bought my last car for 400zb, over five years spent another 400zb on MOTs before somebody crashed into it and wrote it off.

            2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: £1,149

              I was going to reply to this yesterday, but got sidetracked looking at cars for about a grand on autotrader : -)

              I miss our old Nissan Terrano... and for a grand, one could be ours again.

          4. The First Dave

            Re: £1,149

            It rather reminds me of the Twentieth Anniversary Mac - anyone remember/buy that?

            1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: £1,149

              Friend of mine had one,.... looked all sleek and that, until you saw the power brick, and realised it was slick because half of it was on the floor.

        2. Thomas Wolf

          Re: £1,149

          Assuming Face ID is as well implemented as Touch ID, then people will be paying for a feature that, while not new, actually works well. A path well worn by Apple.

          I do share the author's skepticism about the *convenience* of Face ID over Touch ID. For example, to pay with Apple Pay, I am used to simply pulling my phone out of my pocket, holding holding it over the transaction device & double-pressing the home button for authentication. It *seems* the Face ID equivalent is "pull my phone out of my pocket, double-press the power button, hold up to my face, hold up to transaction device?

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: £1,149

            You only need to hold, not press, your finger over the home button while you present the phone to the card reader if you want to pay with your default card.

          2. Bloodbeastterror

            Re: £1,149

            "Assuming Face ID is as well implemented as Touch ID"

            Well, I think that the demo showed just how well the face recognition works - i.e. it doesn't.

            Apple can bleat on as long as they want about how wonderful a feature it is, but it simply isn't - it's a gimmick, and one that has already been shot down in flames by any number of people today alone. Compared with a fingerprint reader it's total cack, and unreliable cack at that. It's another solution looking for a problem which was cracked a long time ago with a proper PIN solution.

            1. AdamWill

              Optional

              From what I read, the demo wasn't actually a failure of FaceID at all. It's just that the device they tried to demo with didn't actually have it turned on. Someone managed to freeze frame the error message, and it's something like "In order to enable FaceID on this device you must (blahblahblah)" or something along those lines. So it's not that the facial recognition failed, just a configuration issue.

              1. pavel.petrman

                Re: Optional

                @AdamWill: Reminds me of that demo of Mercedes Benz' radar-assisted braking which ended up in negative distance between the demo car and the carefully placed obstacle. It made some rounds over the Internet in its time, and later Mercedes said that actually the driver forgot to engage the system.

                But in case of Apple one would expect (based on fainbois' blabber as well as the musings of guys wearing a black turtleneck in front of other people) that a security feature is a security feature. And as such it shouldn't come with a sticker sayin 'Disable when in need of real security'.

            2. Slx

              Re: £1,149

              In the demo (if you read the text on the screen on the phone) it was prompting for a password to enable FaceID.

              This is normal iOS behaviour and exactly what it does with fingerprint ID. If the phone has been rebooted, it will not allow you to activate biometric security without entering the password first.

              It was a presentation failure rather than a technology one.

              1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: £1,149

                'It was a presentation failure rather than a technology one.'

                Now try and imagine that happening with Jobs at the helm.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: £1,149

            "I do share the author's skepticism about the *convenience* of Face ID over Touch ID."

            Well, it might stop court cases and other demands by law enforcement on Apple to unlock a phone if all they have to do is power it on and point it at the suspects face.

            1. YARR
              Paris Hilton

              Re: £1,149

              I suppose someone has to garner the Vertu end of the market.

            2. ThomH Silver badge

              Re: £1,149

              Per Apple, FaceID doesn't work if your eyes are closed. Or you can hit the power button a few times to disable FaceID until your security code is entered as you see the police approaching.

              Or you can just rely on it not really working very well.

            3. M Mouse

              Re: £1,149

              I thought I read somewhere that if you plug in a USB (or whatever the latest Apple connection standard is) the phone locks again and won't talk, so sucking out all the stored data just won't work that easily.

              That's bound to piss off someone in the back room when an unlocked phone is brought to the office and it locks up again as soon as they plan to suck out the data...

          4. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Dr Mantis Toboggan
          FAIL

          Every "new" feature it has is already shipping in multiple android phones,

          How dare you suggest this. Show me an android phone that allows you to turn your face into a turd emoji.....

          Who says apple doesn't innovate and has run out of ideas...

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: £1,149

        The difference is, the competition for the iPhone X is the iPhone 6+ in my bag, or the 6s+ that I can buy for a lot less than £1,149.

        Can you give me a compelling reason why I should buy the iPhone X rather than go for one of these options?

        1. FIA

          Re: £1,149

          The difference is, the competition for the iPhone X is the iPhone 6+ in my bag, or the 6s+ that I can buy for a lot less than £1,149.

          Can you give me a compelling reason why I should buy the iPhone X rather than go for one of these options?

          Isn't that the point though? When the iPhone was released there was /the/ iPhone, but now, as the article briefly mentions, there's a whole range if you're after an Apple product, and whilst not cheap, they're not the eye gouging price of the X. Apple know this, ISTR that their biggest seller is the SE, the iPhone X is aimed fairly at the gold Apple watch brigade.

          After watching the latter half of the keynote I thought Apple were really starting to lose their way, There were bits where the forced cheering was embarrassing. (wireless charging mat being a prime example). However the more I think about it the more I think Apple may actually be pretty good at this marketing stuff, all the media attention is focused on the X (even the 8 gets little mention seemingly) and that's how it's been for the last few generations, focus on the top end, whereas Apple have very quietly broadened their market without the perception that the brand is being cheapened. Even if in the last few years most of the coverage has been 'meh' at best it doesn't seem to matter. I remember reading many places how the watch was too expensive and going to be a flop; yet Apple are now the number #2 wearable maker. Crazy!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: £1,149

          Can you give me a compelling reason why I should buy the iPhone X rather than go for one of these options?

          Yes. It'll just make you a better person.

        3. DrBobK

          Re: £1,149

          Absolutely. Every year I look to see whether it looks worth updating my phone. It took from the 3GS to the 6 for the first upgrade. I think the 6 will keep going for a few years yet. The only thing that I think the X could do that I'd like is an augmented reality version of 'on foot' turn by turn directions. Not really worth it for the enormous amount of money. Of course if they got rid of the appalling Lightning connector and went back to something that actually stayed connected, I'd buy such an iPhone like a shot!

        4. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: £1,149

          >Can you give me a compelling reason why I should buy the iPhone X rather than go for one of these options?

          You bought stuff on iTunes and you don't want to buy it all again from google?

          You may not buy it now, but eventually, you will. Those who buy now will hide the cost in longer contracts.

          Posted from my iPhone 5, which I intend to keep and use for podcasts, maps, mail, phone calls and browsing while my wife shops.

          iCloud is off.

    2. Paul Ellis

      Re: £1,149

      Veblen goods.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £1,149

      And 20% marketshare... More like 12% these days, which correlates almost exactly the percentage of the population with an IQ less than 70...

      1. FIA

        Re: £1,149

        And 20% marketshare... More like 12% these days, which correlates almost exactly the percentage of the population with an IQ less than 70..

        It's so unfair, why do the stupid people have all the money goddamnit!!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: £1,149

          They don't. They just have huge debts....

          iPhones primary customerbase are people trying to prove they are a social status above where they actually are (of course most sensible people know that someone waving an iPhone around actually says the exact opposite).

          The rise of payday loans, cash converters and brighthouse and £50/month phone contracts means that even the most useless chav can own the latest iPhone.

          I see iPhone owner and instantly think "bellend"

        2. plrndl
          Pint

          Re: £1,149 why do the stupid people have all the money goddamnit!!!

          That's actually the wrong question. The smart question is "why don't the smart people have all the money?"

          I think I'll go and ask around in the pub.

      2. RyokuMas Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: £1,149

        In other news, Apple have made giant strides in proving that you can in fact milk a sheep...

    4. ckm5

      Re: £1,149

      It's easy to laugh, but for people like me a phone is a business expense and I don't really pay for it. And as a primary computing device, I don't mind spending $1000 on it - that's 1/2 of what I would have spent on a laptop 5 years ago. Having a larger screen in a smaller form factor is a huge plus when working in the field. Never mind that most people will just buy it on credit for ~$35/mo.

      Is the price point outrageous? Not really. Not when you consider a Palm Treo was ~$600 in 2004 (about $800 today) and Blackberries were $800 15 years ago. Even a modern top-of-the-line phones are $700-$800, this is only $200 more. If $200 is an issue for you, then you should be rethinking your priorities and buy a much cheaper or second hand phone.

      I think these will sell out easily - Apple will be laughing all the way and walking away with all the profits....

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: £1,149

        You use an iPhone as a *computing* *device*? I learned to type and graduated from finger painting when I was in primary school.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Stop Press! Craig Federighi mentions 'The Register' in 2017 Apple iPhone Keynote!

      I was falling asleep at the unbelieveable 'bionic'/'town squares' OTT marketing baloney, when I heard the words "at The Register". My ears pricked up, what, did I hear that right? "at the... The Register?"

      I immediately step the Keynote video back, 1hr:34m:30 secs, there it is, Craig Federighi, his own words "At The Register", what a twitter meme that would be!

      Set to work folks. ;) We need a Friday article for this, with clip!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The iPhone was unique because it could do one or two things (web and maps, but not much else) much better than the competition at the time.

    A bit of an understatement - the whole UI was many orders of magnitude better, smoother, more intuitive and more fluid than anything that had existed before. We'd never seen anything like it. I think you forget how woeful Windows CE was - the slowness, the crappy UI, the 15 year old region-based GDI juddery screen redraws - changing from portrait to landscape mode on my old XDA involved 2-3 second screen delay whilst the UI tottered its way to stability. The iPhone just animated the flip. Wonderful!

    But the iPhone X is just a bit odd really, and shows how closed and out of touch (no pun intended) the Apple culture has become. Jobs ran Apple like this because he thought he knew best, and he was often right. I have no idea what Cook thinks.

    Touch ID was a brilliant idea, and beautifully executed by Apple - right there in the primary UI control. How could that be better? You don't have to hold the phone up, you can use it whilst it's in a dock without any odd spinal contortions. How is facial recognition really any better? That I don't get. And as for the price...

    However, this will sell and sell and sell. Everyone lives on dreams and credit nowadays. £1,000 is nothing if you don't see it leaving your wallet.

    1. thegambles

      Compare like with like

      I know it's easy to say Windows CE / Mobile / Phone was crap and didn't provide a viable interface for web and mail, but much like people look at iDevice releases and see old copied technology as new, when the only new thing was the face matching emoji, you're not comparing like with like. Windows Mobile 5 with a good skin and after market apps (WM was more about after market even for core apps) was already do almost as easily and elegant (if that was what you wanted) as the 2007 iPhone. When the latter came out it was also hugely flawed - no cut and paste, no viable mobile data - I could go on.

      By 2009, the HTC HD2 came out only 12 months after the iPhone 3G (the first really viable iPhone in my book). As a device it was leagues ahead of the iPhone of that generation with a bigger higher resolution capacitive display. It was also faster with better battery life and arguably the best and most sensibly built phone ever. It was thin, very hard wearing (had very strong alu rear that enabled replaceable battery and SD storage). WM6.5 at the time could be made to work almost exactly like the iPhone if you wanted it, but could also get hideously and wonderfully complex with full desktop like apps (Softmaker Office etc) if you wanted it. Yes, this wasn't for everyone, but looking at innovation - it was great. Beyond this it was amazingly future proof. I, like many migrated to Android and upgraded for years to later releases. Re stability - running aftermarket Android ROMs on a 5 year old device was demonstrable more stable than a 3 year old iPhone that was supposedly endlessly updateable. WM6.5 was a good, stable OS that was targeted at people that wanted a bit more control and options and the best 6.5 device in 2009 was leagues ahead of the iPhone. We mustn't keep comparing the first W CE device with the later iDevices and expect to be taken seriously.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compare like with like

        "Windows Mobile 5 with a good skin and after market apps (WM was more about after market even for core apps) was already do almost as easily and elegant (if that was what you wanted) as the 2007 iPhone."

        Trouble is, the argument you are making is remarkably similar to the sort of argument often trotted out by people in love with Open Source.

        The people who love Open Source will tell you "this software is the best thing since sliced bread and will do exactly the same thing as your overpriced software written by <insert name of your most hated vendor>"

        Well sure. But the typical problem is with Open Source is that the documentation is patchy, you need to spend a lifetime hacking away with config files and begging for help on mailing lists, forums or just plain trawling Google. Plus with Open Source to achieve the same result you normally end up having to install 10 other Open Source packages, each with their own docs, configs, mailing lists etc.

        Or you could just pay the <big evil vendor> and get a solution that works out of the box, and you have commercial support that gives you someone to shout at and an SLA they have to adhere to to get you a reply.

        The argument is very similar to your "Windows Mobile plus good skin plus a bunch of after market apps" argument versus "the iPhone does it out of the box".

        1. airbrush

          Re: Compare like with like

          Sure but Apples whole ecosystem is built on open source, no open source and Apple would have gone bust years ago.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Compare like with like

          Actually, the typical problem with open source is how the documentation spends all its time bragging about how the code is open source, which language it was written in and which open source code libraries it uses, and how you can integrate this with your own apps, blah de blah. Example: Linphone.

          Who gives a fuck?

          Nowhere does the documentation I've found actually tell you how to *use* the bloody thing, in language non-techies can understand. And such documentation is needed, because its UI is confusing and clunky.

          *That* is the problem with open source. It will continue to fail and be largely irrelevant until its makers are prepared to understand and accept that the mass of users treat this stuff as *appliances*, and rightly so. That was Jobs's genius insight with the original Mac.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Compare like with like

            "Example: Linphone."

            Linphone. Hah...sounds a bit like Freeswitch.

            Freeswitch docs are a mess, and its devilishly confusing and over-complicated to configure and and troubleshoot. And the people on the mailinglist just talk you like you're an idiot and should have already known the answer before you posted the question.

            Although, having said which, the Joomla docs make Freeswitch docs look amazing. The Joomla docs are absolutely horrific, truly abysmal and contradict themselves everywhere left right and centre.

          2. AdamWill

            Re: Compare like with like

            Uh, what an absurd assertion. There's about seventy bajillion pieces of open source software, you can't *possibly* make a generalization like this and have it be remotely useful. Some of them are well documented, some of them are not. Amazingly enough, quite a lot like non-open source software!

        3. ChrisC

          Re: Compare like with like

          "Or you could just pay the <big evil vendor> and get a solution that works out of the box"

          Provided that the <big evil vendor> solution works exactly the way you'd like it to work... Count me in as another fan of the old Windows Mobile devices - my first three smartphones all ran various iterations of WM, and I absolutely loved how open the OS was to allowing the end user to tweak stuff to their hearts content if the default way of doing things wasn't quite to their liking.

          As someone who suffers from somewhat iffy colour vision, having the ability to knock up a custom colour scheme which was then respected by pretty much every part of the OS and third party apps, as opposed to the rather feeble lip-service usually paid to this sort of thing by many other OSs (and depressingly growing ever more feeble across ever more OSs as times goes on - don't get me started on how hostile "modern" UI design can be to people with less than perfect vision...) was an absolute godsend, and something I've missed ever since moving away from WM into the Android world. And that was just one of the countless things you could do with WM if you so desired.

          So whilst I'll readily admit that WM wasn't a brilliant choice for the average user who just wanted a simple to use smartphone, and whilst the early iPhones genuinely did shake up the market in terms of making smartphones accessible from the moment you took them out of the box, it does frustrate me at the number of people who seem to equate "needs to be customised for your own personal preferences" with "can't do any of this stuff at all".

        4. Ian Joyner

          Re: Compare like with like

          The thing about open source is it is being used by companies as a quick entry to market to make huge profits out of the free work of many open source contributors, who work on open source precisely because they don't like those kinds of companies.

          http://ianjoyner.name/Open_Source.html

        5. plrndl

          Documentation

          It's a long time since I've used closed source software, but I seem to recall that if you wanted documentation you had to buy a book that cost almost as much as the software, and was probably two versions out of date. The last time I bought software with proper documentation is was, dare I say it, MS DOS.

      2. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Compare like with like

        I bought a Sony Xperia windows phone at roughly the same time the iPhone came out. It was utter shite compared to the iPhone.

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