Revenue and profits and unit sales notwithstanding, it occured to me this week that Apple’s product line is skewed. SKUs notwithstanding, either. Apple customers have more Macs to choose from than iPhones. The math is rather simple.
iPhone first. There are two iPhone 11 Pro models, one iPhone 11, one iPhone XR, two iPhone 8 models. That’s six iPhone models. Yes, they can be divvied up into color, configurations, etc. but just six. How does that compare to, say, iPad?
Bang For Buck
iPad has only five models. The new iPad. iPad Air. Two iPad Pro models. And iPad mini. Five. Again, that does not include colors, cellular, or storage differences. That would take too much time to count and I have a day job.
OK, on to the Mac. Apple has an entry-level Mac– the MacBook Air. Two MacBook Pro models– 13-inch and 15-inch. Three iMac models– 21-inch, 27-inch, and iMac Pro. Since they’re all configurable, I’ll just go with a single Mac mini and one lonely but expensive new Mac Pro. The trash can Mac Pro? Nowhere to be found. Total? Eight Mac models.
Apple has eight Mac models but only six iPhones and only five iPads.
What about Watch?
Allow me to consider that a different animal. Officially, Watch starts with Series 3 at the entry-level position. There is Apple Watch Series 5 (Series 4 is gone), Apple Watch Nike, Apple Watch Hermès, and Apple Watch Edition. The one you would buy if money did not matter. Edition comes in various band styles, titanium and ceramic cases, and the price tag bumps into $1,400 for the latter, $900 for metal.
Watchbands notwithstanding, my count shows five Watch models. Again, without doing the detailed math, I declare Watch the winner in total SKUs and configuration options thanks to 7,391 different bands. Not including those on Amazon.
Now, back to the configuration options, build-to-order options, and the total SKUs— stock keeping units– that Apple needs to track. This is a big deal.
In the field of inventory management, a stock keeping unit (SKU /ˌɛsˌkeɪˈjuː, ˈsk(j)uː/) is a distinct type of item for sale, such as a product or service, and all attributes associated with the item type that distinguish it from other item types. For a product, these attributes could include manufacturer, description, material, size, color, packaging, and warranty terms. When a business takes inventory of its stock, it counts the quantity it has of each SKU.
By comparison, the MacBook Air has two models differentiated by CPU speed, SSD storage, and price. You can add more RAM and more storage; four additional options. MacBook Pro, on the other hand, has four basic 13-inch models, each with more configurations, and two 15-inch MacBook Pro models with even more configuration options.
iPhone complexity grows faster than the Mac. iPhone 11 Pro Max has four color choices, three storage choices, four carrier choices (in the U.S.), plus an unlocked SIM-free option. iPhone 11 might be the basic entry-level iPhone, but it has more options. Six colors, three storage options, and the same carrier selection.
See how messy that can be? Apple keeps track of everything it sells. That means you can use the Apple Store app on your iPhone and order online– almost any configuration available– or order from a nearby Apple Store and even check inventory for pickup options.
This situation stands in stark contrast to Apple back when the company was synonymous with the Mac. Apple was the Mac. Then Apple had retail stores. Then iPod and iTunes Music Store. Then iPod for Windows. See?
Since co-founder Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997, the company has become far more complex. The Mac user base back then numbered barely 20-million (guesstimate on my part) and over 100-million now. Yet, the Mac pales in number comparison to iPhone and iPad and it won’t be too long before Watch outsells the once flagship product.
Today, it isn’t uncommon to see an Apple customer with a Mac or two, an iPad or two, an iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods. That’s just hardware. Now we have Apple Pay, Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Card, and monthly subscriptions to AppleCare.
Can you name another techno-gadget maker that has figured out how to extract so much money from an ever growing customer base.