Lost in the various product and service introductions at Apple's very significant September 9th event was a big and expensive strategy change for Apple – they are no longer a "one size fits all" company. Consider: from the first iPhone in 2007 to the 2013's iPhone 5S, there was always just one top-of-the line iPhone. Now, there are two top-of-the line iPhones – and their biggest difference is their size.
This new strategy isn't just in evidence with the iPhone. The newly announced Apple Watch is also available in two different sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm versions will ship at the same time in early 2015 – and will ship in three seperate versions.
This change in strategy moves Apple further from the Steve Jobs world and further into the Tim Cook era, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jobs famously eliminated whole product lines when he returned to Apple in 1997, initially setting product choice at a two by two grid. Modern electronics supply chains (the area in which Cook made his mark) appear to be able to support substantially more variety - the challenge is in the marketing: not confusing the customer with too many choices.
It is instructive to follow how Apple has slowly expanded high-end iPhone options. The original iPhone was only available in a single color with 4 GB and 8 GB storage choices (a 16 GB version was added later). Color choice was introduced with the iPhone 3G, but it was only a choice of black and white. The iPhone 3GS was the first to offer a 32 GB option. The iPhone 4's complete case redesign gave Apple its first iPhone size change and (of course) introduced the Retina screen, but color and storage size options stayed the same. With the addition of a 64 GB option, the iPhone 4s was the first iPhone to have four storage sizes. The iPhone 5 introduced another screen size change and the iPhone 5s was the first to offer three color choices.
It will be very interesting to see how case vendors (and other accessories vendors) in the iLounge at 2015 International CES respond to Apple's increased choice. By January, there should be a lot of useful data about which kind of buyer chooses an iPhone 6 versus an iPhone 6 Plus. Will the accessories vendors tailor their cases to these different kinds of buyers or will the only difference be the actual case size?
John Mulhern III, Posted 9/17/2014
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