By Khai Johnson | April 30, 2019
Apple has always been a big competitor as far as high end electronics sales are concerned during the holiday months: historically Apple’s yearly revenue has been increasing almost exponentially since the release of the iPhone in 2007. Even looking back to 2004 and 2005, their yearly revenue increases by a little less than 70 percent! Though considering the company has existed for more than four decades it's not hard to see that their formula for success has proved itself… successful.
The annual revenue from 2018 fiscal year, October 2017 to September 2018, has been the highest year revenue the company has ever achieved coming in at 265.6 billion dollars. In the fiscal year of 2018 Apple also sold over 216.76 million iPhones. This is what contributes greatly to their annual income as iPhone sales made up 82 percent of their annual revenue: this is as no surprise as the iPhone’s conception back in 2007 marked the rising trend in Apple products.
Apple has done much to stay in the mainstream whilst being an innovator. From taking risks in altering the core design and furthermore immediate functionality of their products to introducing newer developer tools to help those who wish to curate programs for OS X apple has made waves in the tech industry. Since 2009 Apple’s iPhone has been one of the top five smartphones globally and because of its strength in market share apple is able to, in short, get away with things that other vendors aren’t able to “get away with.”
In recent years apple has done many things to the iPhone (and even more recently to their line of personal laptops) that consumers generally don’t agree with. From the removal of the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack to the addition of encryption of all data stored on the iPhone, apple has done some interesting things as far as security and the functionality of their products. But really things like that are a double edge sword when you break them down: Many consumers are deterred by lesser out-of-the-box functionality and frankly we are not at a time in technological standards where making another connector type “standard” is a good idea for a mainstream product. It is interesting to see that Apple is able to take these risks as they have so much steak in the market already, they can almost make any change they want to their products because Apple has the ability to set the standard.
Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, on the same day put out a statement which remarked: “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”
The case resulted in tension from the FBI and opposition from Apple as there was never a court hearing for the iPhone in question was unlocked through third-party methods. As Tim Cook looked at the bigger picture of data security and privacy so should we when considering the policies of manufacturers and what they bring to the table as far as privacy a the implications of authority being able to have a foot in the door to potentially anyone’s data.
Apple has done much to preserve and increase its popularity as well: As of October 10th 2017, almost two-thirds of Americans own at least one Apple product. The CNBC Surveyed and also found that the average American household reports owning an average of 2.6 Apple devices. This means that as of 2017 over 200 million Americans held ownership of an Apple product that year alone. From 2012 this is an increase of 14 percent (of Americans who owned apple products.) but what keeps Apple popular? A times article from 2012 titled “6 Reasons Why Apple is so Successful” suggests many things (well six things) from Apple working on projects two years from release to the designers and engineers that make the product having to want the product themselves. One of the more interesting ideas is that Apple only makes a product if Apple can do it better. This idea is particularly strong as Apple has shown competency in multiple re-imaginations of mainstream electronics.
Continuing to use the iPhone as the primary example, before the iPhone, in the last 90’s, cellular phones were somewhat basic in their functionality and the ability to have mobile calling was for some a luxury. Until the mid 2000s, mobile cellular device were non standard and the rise of the well knowns, the Nokias and Blackberries of this era reigned king. The best selling phone brand remained Nokia even though the original iPhone sold around 1.7 million units worldwide (while Nokia sold a humbling 437.1 million units.) but those 1.7 units set the groundwork and standard for the iPhone 3G which the following year sold over one millions units over the first weekend. The total 2008 sales rose well above fourteen million units and the lifetime sales settled at around twenty-five million units. This increase in the product’s interest was a result in its drastically cheaper price, starting at $199 whereas the original iPhone demanded $499 just for the base model.
The iPhone may have been the most widespread Apple innovation, though it wasn’t the only significant one. One of the cornerstones of Apple is the Mac. Apple released its first Macintosh branded computer in 1984 (alongside the already on the market Apple II computer lineup.) These advance system had what we would consider rudimentary and ultimately bad GUIs (graphical user interface.) but at the time this was an immense selling point though the steeper, less competitive price pointed consumer in the direction of the Commodore 64 and IBM PCs. The first Macintosh still found success with educational institutions which kept Apple their number 2 spot in personal computers for the next decade. The early 90’s roll around and after the widely successful Mac 128k and 512k Apple introduces two new more competitively priced Macs. Those being the Color Classic and Macintosh LC II. The more impressive and successful Classic Color featured an all-in-one approach to the Mac design featuring a built in 10 inch CRT display. It was packaged with the Apple Keyboard II and The Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II. The computer was particularly notable for it being the final computer in the compact family of Macintoshes and for it being priced particularly well considering the cost of other competing models capable of displaying color.
The LC series 500 was apple’s hit as far as computers for educational purposes. This series, introduced in 1993 with the LC 520 paved the way for modern apple all-in-ones. A more powerful successor to the Color Classic, the 520 featured a larger 14 inch display with a CD-ROM drive alongside a faster cpu but no incredible to its core design. These machines were marketed to educational institutions at their main purpose was for educators, something Apple’s marketing heavily suggested during this era. apple later released an LC 550, 575 and 580 which were more powerful though an upgrade kit for the 520 was made available making it comparable to the LC 550 and 575 models. Immediately after releasing the product apple began to work on a new more powerful series of Macintosh that would be later released in march of 1995.
After the 1995’s more expensive Power Macintosh 5200 LC series in 1998 Apple introduced the iMac series a more modern take on the all-in-one design. The major changes included a more compact see through case design (a design in which you can see the logic board and components in the PC.) The iMac g3 also initiated the standardization of USB connector for apple computers. This new generation of Mac began to set Apple industry standards such as the eventual introduction to non-upgradable components, something apple fans still don’t agree with, as well as Apple’s continuation at marketing towards the average consumer.
Something I find personally intriguing is the Apple operating system, OS X. The evolution of its aesthetic and absolute functionality. Being only second to Microsoft’s Windows in popularity, modern OS X is sleeker than before, very easy to use with a high skill ceiling allowing for people who are long time veterans of any Mac OS to feel right at home. Furthering the comparison of a the modern macOS 10.14 a.k.a Mojave to Windows 10 there is a feasibly better first time user experience from Apple’s operating system as much of the visual aesthetic comes from the minimalistic arrangement of menus and icons. Many consumers claim that it’s the ease of using the OS X interface that sets it apart from the Windows 10 experience.
Nowadays Apple products are considered mainstream and trendy although they will always hold a special place in business and technological success story narrative. Personally have some implicit bias towards the efficacy of Apple products and it was an interesting task to ask people about their opinions on Apple products and their user experiences.
Via iMessage I interviewed Andrew A-S. Here is the transcript of our iMessage correspondence:
How do you feel about Apple Products?
A-S: “They’re fine: I don’t really like how everything they make is exclusive but iMessage is king and thats like the only reason I still have an (iPhone) phone. Yeah apple stuff is overpriced even though they do have good (Operating systems) OSs”
How do you feel about Apple’s success in the mainstream?
A-S: “It makes sense because most people don’t need open source and highly customizable products they just want something easy to use that looks cool and apple products fulfill both of those things. It does kinda feel like they have a bit of a monopoly.”
I ask A-S to expand on his monopoly idea:
A-S: “Well it's not really a monopoly because the consumer has other options for products but once you buy an apple product its best compatibility is with other apple products for the most part so you’re kinda sucked into the ecosystem. Almost forced to buy their products in the future.”
What alternatives to Apple products would you interested in?
In terms of laptop computers I don’t know. I’ve had really bad luck with all my past laptops. For desktops: built PC all the way.”
I ask A-S. Why he prefers custom built PCs:
A-S: “Because you can customize it to reach your needs and its a lot cheaper overall but I get it: some people don’t wanna build a PC because of the effort it takes to do research for parts, considering compatibility, and then actually building said computer.”
A lot of consumers would agree with Andrew as Apple has fallen off as far as the value of their desktop computers. The lack of after-purchase expandability and upgradability. This has been an issue since the introduction of Apple’s 2010 MacBook Air in which the RAM (Random Access Memory) is soldered into the logic board. This continued with all models of the MacBook Air.
The MacBook Pro on the other hand from its first and second generation (2008-2012) included expandability options. From first hand experience I can say that upgrading the RAM or storage and even CPU of my mid 2012 MacBook Pro was a useful option to have and might be appealing to the average mainstream consumer, though not a must have for some. The third generation (2012-2016) of MacBook Pro lack some of this easy upgradability as most of the operations to do so are much harder to complete. The Fourth generation of MacBook Pros (and modern iMacs) is completely Unable to be upgraded with other parts unless you’re one of apple’s engineers. This fact may have contributed to the worse Mac sales in July of this year as unit sales were down by thirteen percent from the previous quarter (Q3). One must also consider that the newer models of MacBooks, iMacs and even the the Mac mini (one of Apple’s products with the most value) have gotten incrementally more expensive throughout these past few years. Currently a new top-spec 2018 fifteen inch MacBook Pro costs a little more than seven-thousand dollars. These higher prices exclusivity and difficult hardware upgradability have deterred some consumer demographics over the recent years, though not enough. Summer 2018 saw apple reach a trillion dollars in value after a particularly good quarter selling iPhones. This would make Apple the first trillion dollar company. So clearly Apple is doing something right.
I interviewed Jake and asked the same questions that I asked Andrew.
Jake: “I feel that they are generally overpriced and take advantage of their market niche and ecosystem to do so.”
How do you feel about Apple’s success in the mainstream?
what am I supposed to feel about it; They have a successful business model and have done well because of the mentality and feeling their business represents.
And really it is clear that there is a divide between those who call themselves Apple enthusiasts, those who resent Apple a great deal and individual who don’t care. People who value aesthetics over performance tend to lean towards Apple products while can sway either way depending on the usability and quality of a specific product.
But really that’s what sometimes make the difference for some consumers as they look at what they consider value in a product.