Besides software, what does Apple make? Macs. iPods. iPhones. iPads. And a few accessories. That’s a deceptively short list that belies the entire breadth of the product line, which is deep and getting deeper.
How Many iPhone Models?
Let me start with the iPhone line because the current tech media meme is that Apple doesn’t have enough iPhone models, that it needs a larger iPhone, and a much cheaper iPhone.
The problem here is that Apple uses a single name to describe every iPhone model. It’s an iPhone. The numeric designation– iPhone 5, or iPhone 4S, or iPhone 4– only partially segregates the models.
iPhone 5, for example, comes in black or white (actually black and slate, or white and silver). That’s two models. It’s also available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models. Suddenly, the line isn’t so small.
In the U.S., there are iPhone models for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and other carriers. That means even more models to manufacture.
Plus, Apple puts recent models in the lower price category– iPhone 4S and iPhone– to compete against lower priced smartphones. How’s that working out? The iPhone remains the number one seller in the U.S. All models.
How about the iPad? Two models, right? iPad and iPad mini at different price points. Not so fast. There’s a black and a white model for each. And, each model comes in black or white, and with the standard 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB storage options. And, each model also has cellular options for major carriers.
That doesn’t sound like a small lineup at all, does it.
Software is the key to what and why and how we use smartphones and tablets. Apple keeps the user experience unified with iOS 6, and apps that swing both ways– iPhone and iPad. While customers can choose from many hardware models, iOS and the applications for iPhone and iPad keep the user experience unified.
That gives Apple a broad price range, too. Even though the low end iPhone (last year’s model) and iPad are priced higher than cheaper smartphones and tablets from competing manufacturers, the Apple user experience is pretty much the same. Today’s iPhone and iPad apps perform well on older models, and less expensive models, and are easier to upgrade than competing products.
What of the near future? I expect Apple to expand the entire product line beyond the current confines of Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Frankly, I look for a 5-inch iPhone model, and a slightly less expensive (or, a version of last year’s model) iPhone.
For the Mac, we may well see a model with a 4G LTE option, and somewhere down the line, a hybrid Mac tablet with keyboard and touchscreen. That’s a wild assed but somehow plausible prognostication. That concept hasn’t worked too well for Microsoft and partners, but Apple is seldom first to the party. Just first to do what customers are willing to buy.