Not So Simple Apple Product Strategy

I generally agree with the sentiment that Apple’s line up of tablets and phones has become more complex over time and could benefit from the minimalism Apple was better known for years ago. From The Verge:

“There were four iPhone 14 models. I hemmed and hawed. When I eventually bought one, I felt nostalgia for the days when there was one iPhone.” — Victoria Song

Long gone are the days when Steve Jobs axed Apple’s devices — to just four (4)! Not four phones. Four devices total, all computers: pro desktop, pro laptop, consumer desktop, consumer laptop. A simple product matrix was all Apple needed to get on a profitable track. Yet per the latest quarterly financials, Apple’s business is plenty lucrative with its myriad gadgets. So who’s to say the company is wrong?

But from a consumer view, it’d be nice if buying decisions were simpler with products having clearly defined boundaries. I’m no business guru, but when it comes to choices, I like the straightforward approach of “small, medium, or large.” So three options seems enough. But is it really?

If we look only at the newest iPhone 14 line up, there are four options. That may seem like a lot, but really there are two new iPhones, the 14 and 14 Pro. That’s it. The other two are versions of those that differ only in size (I’m pretty sure). There’s a bigger version of the 14 — the “Plus.” And there’s a bigger version of the 14 Pro — the “Max.”

That said, I’m kind of a tech nerd, so to me this seems clear enough. But to the uninitiated, I can imagine head scratching between the four names: 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max. Things might be more clear if the size moniker was superscript, like two to the third power: 14 Pro…to the Max.

Then again, Apple currently sells more than the four iPhone 14s. It also sells two iPhone 13s, a 12, and an SE for a total of eight, which is…thinking…seven more than the single original iPhone. Okay, that’s a lot of modern iPhones to choose from. Surely Apple could simplify the present line up down from eight to just five. Yet it’s great to have plenty of options, right?

Well, not so fast. Let’s say you have $600 to buy an iPhone. Do you get the 12 or the 13 mini since both cost the same? One is newer and has twice the storage but the other one is bigger. Why are two iPhones offered at the same price? Would Steve Jobs say they’re both needed? I don’t know. But Tim Cook has brought Apple to be valued in the trillions, so there’s that.

Do you think Apple’s product line up is a bit over complicated?