Reports are surfacing today that Apple is considering a “low-cost” iPhone option for overseas markets like China (via DigiTimes and WSJ). Obviously, this is aimed at making more money by selling more iPhones in places where paying American-style prices for a smartphone just isn’t feasible for a large chunk of the population.
I have a different idea: Apple should make more money by charging people in existing markets a bit more instead. Why? For so long Apple has had one unified phone product globally. The iPhone is the iPhone is the iPhone–period. Now I know that Steve Jobs told Tim Cook not to constantly think, “What would Steve do?” which I am sure was a great relief for Tim, but at the same time, from consumers to tech journalists, people are beginning to talk like the magic is oozing out of the Apple brand.
By charging existing customers a bit more for the iPhone Apple can still expand it’s bottom line without compromising it’s unified standards. Let’s face it, Apple fans will pay just about anything for a new iPhone at the moment–but that might not always be the case, perhaps especially if the brand starts to get watered down.
Another point is this: if you, Apple, are going to charge less for another version of the iPhone abroad, why not start licensing iOS to other manufacturers who can wrap the operating system in various hardware facades Windows-style? Even if Apple itself is the one putting out a less-than-premium version of a product, the iPhone brand, and the prestigious Apple brand as a whole, will cease to be the Apple Steve rebuilt as the iCEO. To me, there are no shades of quality–Apple currently represents the best, that is what their brand essence is–low quality is low quality no matter who makes it lower.
At some point, despite Steve and Apple’s best intentions, Apple will probably not be recognizable as the creative powerhouse that introduced us to the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad in the first place… maybe that time is already here. I think a lot of Apple fans will rue that fact, and yet at the same time life goes on and the company must continue to evolve, necessarily, and become whatever it will. I hope that the new Apple will not feel like an Apple in decline, but rather a new Apple that is different, yet good in it’s own way. Even so, charge me a bit more for the iPhone and let it keep it’s mystique, luxury and in-your-face appeal. At what point does quantity outweigh quality? I hope it never does, Apple.