A MONTH or so from now, Apple will announce to the world its latest smartphone, the iPhone 8. For the last decade, the stage management of its launch jamborees has been characterised by a level of hysteria not seen since the Paris peace accords. But this time may be different… the world is no longer listening.
It is the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone kickstarting the smartphone revolution - but after years of phenomenal growth, the market has become saturated. Even with a generous expense account from your firm, there is a limit to the number of £700 handsets you can buy.
Actually, £700 is not quite enough to get your hands on Apple’s current top of the range model, the iPhone 7 Plus, which costs between £720 and £920, depending on the storage space you need. Each step up adds £100. It is likely that the iPhone 8 will break the £1,000 barrier.
That’s a jarring statistic when you consider that half of all the smartphones sold worldwide now cost less than £200.
To put Apple’s pricing strategy into perspective, you could buy two top-end phones from a rival manufacturer, running Google’s Android operating system, for the price of a single iPhone.
The OnePlus 5, for example, costs either £450 or £500 (again depending on storage) and has the same size screen as the iPhone 7 Plus but boasts twice the memory and higher resolution cameras front and back.
We don’t know yet what the eighth iPhone will bring to the party, since Apple never announces such details ahead of time. It is rumoured, though, that several new features will not be ready and will have to be added retrospectively via software updates, or wait until next year.
Apple’s sales curve has always been driven by buyers for whom an iPhone is a more desirable fashion statement than any other handset, and by people who believe its products are easier to use. But now that the market has matured, neither design nor usability is the exclusive province of any one company.
It is not, of course, necessary to spend anything like £500 to get a phone with up-to-date features and design. The fifth-generation Moto G Plus from Motorola is built from aluminium, not plastic, comes with expandable storage and matches the iPhone 7 Plus on memory, yet it costs only £250.
That makes the iPhone 8 the TAG Heuer of handsets - fabulous if you can, as we say in Yorkshire, thoil it, but consigned for the rest of us to window shopping expeditions. And at least, a TAG Heuer won’t be rendered out-of-date in 12 months.
Apple’s strategy in reaching down to the middle market has always been to cut the price of its previous models, but they still look poor value compared to that Motorola.
It may explain why the company is shifting the focus of some of its marketing from phones to tablets, repositioning its top of the range iPad Pro as a replacement for your laptop or desktop PC. Prices start at £790 including the optional keyboard, which is expensive compared to conventional hardware - but the iPad Pro is more responsive and far more portable. Whether a tablet can really replace a PC depends on what you want to use it for, but the prospect of a computer for around the same money as a phone is a more appealing proposition entirely.