Welcome to our weekend Apple Breakfast column, featuring all the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized summary. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes well with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, but it’s cool if you want to read it over lunch or dinner too.
The false economy of cheap products
I’ve written before about the Vimes theory of socioeconomic unfairness, which uses the example of leather boot maintenance to demonstrate the surprisingly high cost of being poor. But you’ve probably never heard of the related Cook Theory of Anti-Value, which argues that consumers prefer expensive products over cheap ones, and explains much of Apple’s behavior over this decade.
Apple products are proverbially expensive: ask someone outside the industry to describe an iPhone in 10 words or less and “cheap” probably won’t come up. But for most of its history, the company has still managed to deliver decent value, living up to the old adage that you get what you pay for. Those who can afford an Apple product can expect beautiful design, industry-leading build quality and reliability, an easy-to-use interface, and strong specs. You pay a premium price tag, you get a premium product.
From time to time, Apple has fiddled with the other end of the market, pointing out that it wants to deliver something very affordable. But this never seems to work out quite right. The 2013 iPhone 5c was heralded as the great budget iPhone prior to launch watched cheap, and completely failed to deliver the aspirational lifestyle aspect that’s such a big part of the iPhone experience. (Our reviewer reported that the design was praised by a toddler, which wasn’t quite the testimonial that Apple was looking for.) And the later iPhone SE line, which started out more promising, discontinued because Apple completely didn’t understand what it was about. device that people liked.
According to reports, Apple has now informed suppliers that there will not be an iPhone SE 4 as planned, suggesting that the company has decided to enter the budget smartphone market rather than address the limitations that plagued its most recent model. It also reportedly gave up on the idea of a cheap Apple Pencil last year, which would have offered almost none of the premium features that made the original model (and particularly its stellar successor) such a success. Even the popular $329 9th Gen iPad was replaced by a $449 10th Gen iPad in 2022, giving the impression that Apple would rather cannibalize its own iPad Air sales than focus properly on the low-cost tablet market.
It makes sense for Apple to prioritize the premium segment of the market, as that’s where it’s seen the most success. Premium, high-margin products can be hugely profitable if your image is good, and image is Apple’s trump card. Conversely, a premium brand operating in the budget market can undermine their image and in turn diminish the appeal of their flagship devices. When times are tough, companies retreat to their core business, and Apple’s core business is expensive high-end technology.
Which makes it all the more confusing when we hear persistent rumors about other cheap products. Such as the so-called AirPods Lite, which we can expect to sell for $99 in late 2024 or early 2025, according to a reliable source. Experts believe Apple is frustrated that it is missing out on potential revenue from budget earbuds and plans to enter this market with a less ambitious device that still carries the coveted AirPods branding. (Apple already sells the $70 Beats Flex, but that’s not quite the same.) Whether the AirPods brand will remain desirable after consumers try a pared-down model, stripped of the high-end features, weaker in sound quality, and likely plagued by a ostentatious design to pick out the cheap skaters that wouldn’t pay a big whack remains to be seen.
Any student of Apple history can see that the AirPods Lite are unlikely to succeed. In fact, it seems likely that development will stop before it does and that we’ll get an AirPods 3 price cut instead when the fourth generation comes out. The real mystery is why the most successful maker and marketer of premium tech products in history still expects different results.
Trending: Top stories of the week
If Apple wants it Reality headset to succeed, maybe it shouldn’t really sell.
Did Samsung really go full iPhone with the Galaxy S23?
The Mac is not suitable for a touchscreen. In order for a touchscreen MacBook to work, the Mac has to change.
While Biden focuses on Big Tech, Apple has good reason to be nervous– and satisfied too.
The Macpro is supposed to be the ultimate Mac. If it doesn’t exist, then why does it exist?
Apple’s AR headset better be good, because everything else is doomed.
Little things can make a big difference. We’re rounding up three little ways Apple is making a big impact in 2023.
The rumor mill
Your next MacBook Pro could have a touchscreen.
New AirPods Max and $99 AirPods are in the pipeline, according to a new report.
The Apple silicone Mac Prowhen it finally lands may be the biggest disappointment in years.
A 15-inch MacBook Air is coming save the Mac lineup for 2023.
January 2023 is likely to be a quiet month for Apple, but major releases lurk.
Apple is about to finally switch to superior microLED screens in 2024.
The iPhone 16Pro can have a dynamic circle instead of an island.
Apples AR headset could have its own event this spring.
Just apple canceled the iPhone SEsources say.
Podcast of the week
What can we expect Apple in 2023? Well, based on recent reports, it’s all about Apple’s venture into AR, VR, a headset, and an operating system to make it all work. The future is near and we talk about it in this episode of the Macworld Podcast!
You can watch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
Software updates, bugs and issues
The best iOS 16 feature that you don’t use makes your iPhone 14 Pro so much better.
iOS 17 and macOS 14 could have “fewer changes” this year. That could be good news on the reliability front.
And with that we are done for this week. To receive regular raids, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest news items. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay Appley.