Can you name a better tech storyline than Apple? Even with dear leader Steve Jobs gone for over a year, Apple remains fodder for critics and pundits, even while the company continues to delight customers and smile all the way to the bank.
Today, one of my more argumentative co-workers and fellow blogger lamented the anemic specifications in Apple’s new iPad mini.
He decried the mini’s screen (when compared to the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD). He went through a laundry list of iPad mini shortcomings, including lack of SD card, no USB connector, and so on, ad nauseam.
Of course, he conveniently forgot about the iPad mini’s camera, the sturdy aluminum unibody construction, the lighter weight in a slightly larger package than competitors, not to mention the long list of quality apps (which, if I’m not mistaken, is a big reason we buy iPhones and iPads).
We argued for a bit, but I doubt if I had much impact on his thoughtless perspective.
Then, after I had time to think about our conversation for awhile, I asked myself a simple question.
Why doesn’t Apple give critics what they want?
Seriously. Why not? Apple has the resources, both human and financial, to build products that are pure top of the line in every bullet point, and at a price point competitive with any other manufacturer.
To be fair, Apple designs their own products, hardware and software, and outsources the manufacturing. I doubt if Google or Android have as much engineering resources involved in their mostly off-the-shelf-component tablets.
So, why doesn’t Apple put into the iPad mini a processor that’s faster than all the competition? Why isn’t the screen in the iPad mini of better resolution than either the Kindle Fire HD, or the Google Nexus 7?
The big public knock against the iPad mini is the price tag and the screen. Users love the size, the light weight, the feel, and, of course, the few hundred thousand iPad specific apps that already run on iPads.
I have less of an issue with the iPad’s $329 base price than I do with the screen. After all, Google and Amazon sell their competing devices at cost, and hope to make up their losses when users view ads, buy music, buy apps, buy TV shows and movies.
How’s that business model working out?
Probably not so well. It’s already been proven that Apple’s iPad and iPhone users actually use their devices to purchase apps and content at rates far beyond Google or Amazon (who still refuse to announce how many products they’ve sold; so what does that say?).
Apple seems to work diligently to provide a superb product feel, but often shortchanges the product in other areas (older, slower CPU, lower RAM, lower resolution screen, more expensive flash storage upgrades, lack of traditional connectors are good examples).
Another area which perturbs me about Apple is the company’s inability to extend the envelope in obviously important areas. Take the iPad’s battery. Please. The first iPad had 10 hours of battery life. That was impressive. The iPad with Retina display also has 10 hours of battery life. Also impressive. The much smaller iPad mini still has 10 hours of battery life.
In the nearly three years since Apple launched the iPad, battery life has remained mostly stagnant. What’s with that, Apple?
Here’s what I think. Apple doesn’t give critics what they want because Apple doesn’t really care about critics. Unless there’s a severe issue which might damage the brand or impact sales. Antennagate and Mapsgate are two examples.
Otherwise, Apple charts Apple’s course, critics be damned because the most important thing at Apple is the user experience. By creating a superior user experience with Apple products, the company can get away with not using the newest or most expensive or the most components to compete with manufacturers who have the bullet point feature disease. That allows Apple to maintain crazy high product margins which are the envy of the industry.
Look at what Apple charges for a 16GB iPad mini. $329. $100 more gets you a 32GB iPad mini. That’s $100 for a mere 16GB of storage. Another $100 gets an iPad mini with 64GB of storage, or $200 more for a mere 48GB more than the original.
Apple does that because they can. It’s been their modus operandi for decades. That’s a good example of the famed Apple Tax.