Quick. Can you name the richest and most valuable technology company on planet earth? If you answered Apple you don’t win anything other than my undying gratitude for participating in yet another unscientific survey on a slow news day.
Now, quickly again, can you tell me why Apple makes more money than any other technology company? Those answers are likely to be many and varied, but high on the list of responses are phrases that include cool products and marketing and, my favorite and somewhat unexpected, accessories.
The Second Price
All of Apple’s major products have a line of accessories available for purchase; from Mac to iPhone to iPad to Watch, there’s something about the Apple add-on accessory market that makes the company stand out from competitors.
Mac users can buy sleeves, cases, bags, stickers and external contraptions by the bucket, and that pales in significance to the number of accessories for iPhone users who have seemingly thousands of cases from which to choose. Not only cases, but cases with screen covers, engraving, dock stand, camera and USB adapters. iPads have pencils and keyboards and cases.
Few technology gadget makers have the add-on accessory ecosystem that rivals Apple. Walk into any Apple Store and you’ll find the usual accoutrements for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and those combine to add a few billion a year to Apple’s top and bottom line, but with the exception of homegrown iPhone cases and the iPad’s case and keyboard combo, Apple seems to let the third party ecosystem pull some cream off the top of the latte.
Watch Me Now
Watch changed the accessory focus for Apple from unfocused to highly focused. For now, Watch is an iPhone accessory but the most easily customizable product ever. Ever. Why? A watch is a different animal than Mac, iPhone, and iPad. A watch is both utilitarian and a fashion statement. It’s always been that way and helps to explain why many of us have watch collections; some luxury, some classy, some fashionable, some sport and utilitarian. But most of us have more than a single watch.
Apple recognized the utility and fashion of a watch and put both components into the original Watch with multiple Watch case designs– aluminum, stainless steel, gold– but an even wider variety of Watch bands, from inexpensive but durable fluoroelastomer bands to leather, stainless steel, and gold.
Thanks to the easy on, easy off watch band design, Watch users can collect easily interchangeable bands instead of forking out more money for a different watch. Watch spawned a third party accessory industry, just as all Apple products do, but this time Apple is getting in on the profits.
Watch easily has become Apple’s most personalized and customizable product ever. Walk into any Apple Store and you’ll see dozens of Watch bands available, but go online, say to Amazon, and you’ll find many hundreds more; most priced far less than comparable bands from Apple, of course.
Wearable technology has come of age and the focus isn’t as much on the technology and utility as it is on fashion. Yes. I’m serious. Apple has always been something of a status symbol, a premium brand with product prices to match. But Watch goes to a whole different level. Apple’s entry-level band is priced at $50. Leather bands start at $150. Classier bands of the non-gold variety can hit $500. For a watch with an entry level price tag that comes in less than $300.
One of my friends has a collection of watches; mostly given to her by her husband who felt the gift’s value somewhat wasted because she seldom wore a watch; not to work, not to dinner out, hardly ever. She has a Watch. And eight Watch bands of varying colors and designs; from fluoroelastomer to leather to chain link and others in between. Even more interesting is that she wears Watch everyday, and just swaps out the bands to fit the occasion. Why? Watch is more useful with her iPhone than a traditional watch which did little more than tell time. Watch does more. Much more. Yet, it can be stylish and fashionable because of the wealth of Watch bands.
That brings me another reason why Apple makes more money than other technology gadget makers. The ecosystem. Apple’s Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Watch have an average selling price that dwarfs the competition, but those numbers do not include the accessories lines, and the company has moved swiftly to stimulate and be a part of the Watch accessory industry.
Why does Apple make so much more profits that competitors? Apple plays a different game.