Opinion: Why does everyone pick on Apple products?

Why-does-everyone-pick-on-Apple-products-ipod

“Why does everyone pick on Apple products?”

This was an implied question I got from @Scionwest on Twitter recently. In light of last week’s column on the new iPad overheating, I thought it was a fair observation: We clearly have had laptops that seemed to get hotter than the iPad 3, and we sure didn’t pound on them as hard.

Part of that is likely because you don’t typically hold a laptop. But there are other examples of Apple catching an especially hard break, like Antenna Gate. The same issue existed in other products at the time, yet generally didn’t get much ink. Why?

It’s a downside to Apple’s homogenous product line.

It’s ironic when you look back at Apple’s iconic 1984 ad that the company has stopped being the rebel and is now even more consistent than IBM, the company it was making fun of in the original ad. It also showcases that the one-time IBM model, now Apple model, works.

Every strategy has advantages and disadvantages, but often we look at one or the other and don’t contrast them. The disadvantages can range from opportunity costs (what was not done in order to do what was done), to outright problems with the strategy. For instance, the advantage of speeding is you get where you are going quicker; the disadvantages include higher chances of a ticket, accident, fatality, and insurance cost risks. But I’ll bet none of us, including me, think through those when we put the pedal to the metal.

So let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages to Apple’s simplified line model.

The simplified lineup

When compared to other computer and consumer-electronics companies, Apple is more successful, but its product lines look downright anemic. At the start of Apple’s recovery, there was just one iPod. Then different capacities came out. Then different sizes and colors.

The iPod line was more of an exception, because with the iPhone you can only choose capacity, and with the iPad, capacity and connectivity. Both just come in black and white. The core components, processor, screen, case, battery and other essential parts don’t change. The same goes for Macs: Apple basically offers two laptop designs and three desktop designs.

The advantages of keeping it simple

Operating this way allows Apple to focus. It can put more into design, more into marketing, and maintain a higher level of connection with its brand and hardware ID. In addition, its repair, stocking, returns, and sales incentives are simpler and cheaper. Finally, there is less customer confusion. Nobody is confused between buying an iPhone against an iPad. Within Apple, only the iPod line presents any opportunity for product confusion, and even there it is likely minimal.

Go to buy an Android phone and you have plenty of choices, but which one is the right one? Sometimes Apple is simply the easier decision to make.

The pitfalls of no choice

When something goes wrong with this approach, problems are magnified.

If Dell or HP has a problem with one of its PCs, it might affect a few thousand people. If the something goes wrong with a laptop, they can simply push buyers to another model. If Samsung has an issue with one of its phones, it can simply just push you to another phone. In any case, because the lines are so diverse, one problem seldom touches a company’s entire customer base.

When an Apple product has a problem, it touches all buyers of the line in most cases. You might opt to buy the older model (for instance, given the new iPad’s problems, I’m recommending the iPad 2), but for Apple, pushing the older product would look like a failure. It can’t support that strategy publically. The iPhone 3G truly sucked, but did Apple push folks to the older model? No. Apple always has to ride through or cover up the problem, because it doesn’t have the option of pushing people to another product – it doesn’t have another viable product to push them to.

ipad_thermal_imagesImage courtesy of Consumer Reports

That’s why Apple is generally slow to admit problems, and you get what looks like a company in denial while engineers frantically work on the issue. Recall that Apple never publicly fessed up to the problems with MobileMe, but fired the team that created it and replaced it with iCloud. Steve Jobs downplayed Antenna Gate as much as possible, but Papermaster got fired for it, Apple had to go to IBM for a fix, and the subsequent iPhone 4S featured a complete (hardware) redesign, suggesting there were likely other problems with the iPhone 4 we didn’t catch.

Skip the iPad 3

From Apple’s standpoint, the simplified product lineup is working — just look at the company’s bottom line. But once you understand the shortcomings (the company has to cover up problems while it fixes them) consumers might want to adopt a different strategy for buying Apple products: Don’t be the first to buy, and skip products that appear to have a critical or unusual number of problems.

Look at the iPad 3. Like the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, chubby iPod, and tiny iPod Shuffle, it has some critical issues. It runs hot (Consumer Reports has now been corroborated by other reviewers, which means we should anticipate early battery fatigue and other internal problems over time), takes twice as long to charge, is heavier than the last model, LTE isn’t available in many places (Australia just forced a refund, and parts of Europe appear to be ramping up to do the same), and in a constrained data market it consumes a ton of it (folks are burning through their monthly data plans in days). This last point is like bringing out a Hummer during a gas shortage. If you think about it, had anyone else brought out a product with this many issues, it wouldn’t have sold. That either speaks to the power of Apple marketing, or our own gullibility. Maybe both.

I expect the fourth-generation iPad to run cooler, be lighter, still have the same display, use data compression and upscaling to get around the data problem, arrive in a world with more LTE, and likely have Gorilla Glass (I’m throwing that in because products without it are breaking a lot, and Apple helped invent it). Engineers might also try to get the battery to charge more quickly, but that’s a tough problem.

When Apple has a bad product, it typically fixes the problems in the following product, which is the one to buy. It reminds me of the “buy the third generation” rule we used to use with Microsoft.

Game the system

Apple has clearly selected a selling strategy that works best for its bottom line. Once you learn it, you can adopt a buying strategy that works best for your bottom line. By waiting to jump on the latest products, you can buy smarter, navigate through the problems with Apple’s strategy, and more reliably pick the best products over a period of time. The iPad 2 was the high point in the iPad line, as is the iPhone 4S, and both are still on the market.

Just like, as an adult, you don’t have to eat everything on your plate, you don’t have to buy every Apple product. You really don’t.

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Deals

The best iPhone deals for October 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for September 2018.
Computing

Will Apple introduce a new MacBook at its Oct. 30 event? Here's everything we know

Whether it's called the MacBook Air or just the MacBook, Apple is highly rumored to introduce a new, affordable laptop in 2018. We discuss reports about upgrading displays, processors, sign-in features, and more.
Wearables

A strap for everyone: The best Apple Watch bands you can buy right now

If you have an Apple Watch, you know how easy it is to take off the strap it came with, so why not buy yourself another one? Here we've gathered the best Apple Watch bands we've seen so far and there's something for everyone.
Music

How to convert and play FLAC music files on your iPhone or iPad

The high-resolution revolution is upon us, and FLAC files are a popular way to store hi-res sound. But what if you’re an iOS user? Check out our article to find out more about FLAC files, and how to use them on Apple devices.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

Which new iPhone is the best? iPhone XS vs. iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XR

Apple has three new iPhone models to choose from this year, making the choice a little harder than usual. What's the difference between the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR, and which is best?
Photography

Camera shootout! Testing the latest Pixel, iPhone, and Galaxy Note in real life

Which takes the best photos, the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, Galaxy Note 9, or Pixel 2 XL? We put the cameras on all these top-notch phones through their paces to see which performs best in the real world, from low light to portrait mode…
Mobile

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.
Computing

Apple’s latest feature ensures MacOS apps are safer than ever

MacOS is mythically known for being more immune to viruses than Windows, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to make it safer. Apple is using an app notarization feature to protect users from downloading malicious apps.
Computing

Apple CEO demands Bloomberg retract its Chinese surveillance story

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling on Bloomberg to retract a story alleging that Apple had purchased compromised servers that allowed the Chinese government to spy on Apple. Apple's investigation found no truth to the story.
Mobile

Sams's Club offers $100 gift cards for iPhone XR pre-orders

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now that the phones are out, you might be wondering how you can get them for yourself.
Mobile

It’s about time! A USB-C magnetic charger for the Apple Watch has finally arrived

While most of the buzz surrounding Apple has been about the iPhone XR, the company also introduced a new Apple Watch accessory. Starting October 24, a USB-C magnetic charger will be available for purchase.
Mobile

How to take great photos with the iPhone XS, Apple’s finest camera phone yet

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max feature the best cameras yet seen on an Apple smartphone, ready for you to get out and take great photos. Here's our guide to help ensure each shot you take is a winner.
Mobile

If you're light on memory, these are the best lite apps for Android and iOS

Looking to save data, storage, and reduce performance issues? Lite apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the best options. Here's our roundup of lite apps and PWAs for all the most popular apps on the market.