I’ve been thinking about Apple’s pricing a lot lately. It’s reached a point where I’m not going to be able to afford to update my Apple hardware as often as I would like.
My Apple devices are getting dated but for now, I won’t be upgrading to any new devices. I’m going to have to use my existing hardware until it becomes unusable. Instead of having an iMac, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone as I do now I’ll be more selective in the future. For example, my iMac is a late 2013 non-retina. It’s getting dated. It’s stuck on Sierra. I love it but when it fails I won’t be replacing it. Instead, I’ll use my 2015 MacBook for all my computing needs. I just can’t justify the cost of owning two macs anymore.
I’ll also be sticking with my iPhone 7 Plus for now. It works great and does everything that I need for it to do. At a $1,000 plus a new iPhone Xs model isn’t in my budget.
I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one feeling this way. Here’s a Washington Post article that does a nice job of laying Apple’s price hikes and what you should do if the price of Apple loyalty is getting hard for you to swallow.
Geoffrey A. Fowler and Andrew Van Dam, writing for the Washington Post
Apple has never made cheap stuff. But this fall many of its prices increased 20 percent or more. The MacBook Air went from $1,000 to $1,200. A Mac Mini leaped from $500 to $800. It felt as though the value proposition that has made Apple products no-brainers might unravel.
What we learned: Being loyal to Apple is getting expensive. Many Apple product prices are rising faster than inflation — faster, even, than the price of prescription drugs or going to college. Yet when Apple offers cheaper options for its most important product, the iPhone, Americans tend to take the more expensive choice. So while Apple isn’t charging all customers more, it’s definitely extracting more money from frequent upgraders.
What we see is a reflection of a new reality for consumer tech. Most Americans who want a smartphone, tablet or laptop already have one and aren’t interested in changing to a new system. Without big subsidies from phone carriers and as product innovation slows, we also don’t mind holding on to these products for three or more years. Apple, hoping to charge more every time we do buy, is changing how it gets money from us. So we need to change how we think about its value.
But the specs hardly matter. As any member of the Apple tribe will profess, it’s selling far more than sexy hardware. It’s an Apple-only operating system that works with all its other Apple-only stuff, like iMessage and iCloud — a (mostly) happy trap that’s hard to leave. You’re buying access to all those Apple Stores and customer service, not to mention Apple’s aggressive stance on privacy.
The paradox is that many Apple customers think they must have the latest, trained by Apple marketing to future-proof ourselves. So this year, instead of buying a year-old iPhone 8 at a discount or an iPhone XR (a much less expensive compromise to the top iPhone XS), many customers are skipping out on an upgrade altogether.
The question is: How far can Apple’s latest and greatest prices stretch? “Apple is becoming aggressive, perhaps overly so, in pricing the top- of-the-line models of its products,” says Rafi Mohammed, a pricing strategy consultant. And that is “putting its loyal relationship with its core customers at risk.”
In 2014, Americans waited about 24 months to upgrade their phones at national carriers, according to BayStreet. Now we’re waiting almost 36 months. People will ride their iPhone 6S until its wheels come off.
“I could see it going to four years” for phones, says industry analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies.
So what should you do if the price of Apple loyalty is getting hard to swallow?
Instead, you might ask: How many Apple products do you really need?
Beyond that, it’s about recalibrating our upgrade urge. Apple devices really do last a long time, all the more so with the inexpensive battery replacements Apple is offering through the end of the year. If your iPhone breaks, used ones available on eBay can still work great for far less money.
Or: Before buying the new thing following one of Apple’s launch events, wait a month until the buzz settles. If the product doesn’t still seem very revolutionary, it’s a safe bet to save your money by holding on for another year. Or four.