There’s Tim Cook! Oh, and there’s Eddy Cue! Look at their styles and panache, as they deliver the most anticipated presentation of the year. I’m literally salivating at the beauty of the devices being introduced. Pop open the soda, chips, candies, and settle in. This is like watching the Super Bowl of technology; except, the entire show is one big advertisement for Apple.
New software, hardware, and features are all wrapped up in their presentations. Every time you see the Apple logo, music, and a powerful CEO take center stage, you know you’re going to see something new. This bastion for consumerism is also one of my favorite things to watch. I’m a technophile, iPhone 5 owner, and (previously) wasteful smartphone upgrader. I want to be in-the-know. In the past, it also meant spending a small fortune each year on unnecessary gadgets – made to make my life easier – that was causing me to go into deeper debt. The irony.
Contracts And Upgrades
In case you’re waking from a coma, the 21st century has brought great technological revolution. But it’s also meant fine print, two-year contracts, and plenty of strings attached. For phone buyers, most people are stuck overpaying for service and not able to leave a company for fear of hefty termination fees.
This puts many smartphone buyers in a bind. Technology evolves faster than two-year contracts. For the desperate, iPhone buyers can expect to spend over a half grand to upgrade outside of contract. In fact, to get the 64 GB iPhone 5 off-contract, you’ll spend about $849 before tax. That’s a hefty fee to have the latest technology in your pocket.
Apple’s Release Cycle
Despite a sizable population being excluded from an upgrade every year or so, Apple developed its own, ambitious release cycle. Every year, the iPhone gets an upgrade.
Here I am, watching another wonderful release date. What will come out next? These guarded devices are shrouded in secrecy and speculation until the moment it hits the stage. What a wonderful sight!
But there’s a fundamental quandary that encourages people to spend more than they should: upgrade now or later?
Upgrade Now And Later
The product design appears flawless, and the iPhone has been poured over to check for flaws and areas for improvement. You could literally be holding the latest technological innovation if you buy it today.
Maybe you’re like me, and bought your first iPhone a few years back. I’ve had them since the 3GS. Every year, prior to my frugal life, I would upgrade to the newest version. My bank account took a beating because of this wayward spending, but I didn’t seem to care.
See, Apple may be flawless designers, but they are even better business people. They’ve studied consumer behavior, reaction, and sentiment. They know how to make the most money they can and still keep you happy.
Here’s the secret: Every year, they design a product that is mostly evolutionary, but borders on revolutionary for the device (they even use this terminology in their speeches). Each year’s redesign is minor, but important. Between iPhone 4 and 4S, there wasn’t a major design change, but users got to experience “Siri” in the latter version. Between 4 and 5, there are major, visible distinctions.
By changing the phone a little bit every year, it attracts people from two years back. Their phones are feeling ancient compared to this technology, contracts are due to expire, and they want the latest version. But the important part is that the changes are just enough to attract people that are one year into contracts, too.
Now, the two-year old iPhone holders are instantly ready to upgrade. They see no reason not to! The one-year old iPhone owners are carefully protected. Apple doesn’t want you to feel like your device is already outdated – even though it is. Because Apple creates an evolutionary device, owners can feel good about keeping their product – knowing it’s still relevant and feeling respected – but also have the burning desire for that next new thing. That’s the sweet spot: between respect and desire.
Innovation, Stifled By Planned Growth
Technology was never meant to be choked back by product cycles and plans. Apple can blame the small changes year-to-year to technological limitations, supply-chain management, and various research and development functions. The honest truth is that they likely hinder growth to assuage current customers and lure in new ones into a perpetual, yearly buying cycle.
Development can be anarchic. When major corporations hold the keys for improvement, sometimes they control the growth rate to aid in profits. But what if corporations lost this control or willingly gave it up? How fast could our technology change, then?
Either way, I’ve gotta stop watching these keynote speeches. I’m afraid I’ll be lured into buying an iPhone 5C.