Helping the iPhone Sell Itself

On the one hand, Apple is doing exactly the right for their users with their products: Offering consumers a very small number of products that are differentiated in clear ways, to make choosing a product fairly straightforward.

Samsung, HTC, and the other smartphone vendors have been doing the opposite: Releasing new models every few weeks that differ from previous models in seemingly trivial ways, and flooding the market with a plethora of products.

What they’re doing seems to be smart marketing when it comes to the uninformed consumer.

I walked into Future Shop last night and their cellular phone section had 6 large tables covered in phones. There were over 60 different phones there, mostly manufactured by the same 3 or 4 companies. But they all looked slightly different and had slightly different features.

My father in law went in to the Rogers store last week and said he needed a new phone. The battery on his current phone is dying and if he renews his contract he can get a new phone for free instead of paying for a new battery, so why not.

After looking at the phones available, he picked a nice red one. He doesn’t know anything about the phone other than that it can make presumably make phone calls, but he liked the colour of it.

The phone he got was an HTC Desire, an Android phone that costs $175 no-contract. Probably one of the cheaper phones they have.

He could have gotten an iPhone 4 (still a $500 phone) for the same price, but he didn’t go in looking for an iPhone, and there’s no way the store staff would steer him towards a phone that would offer them so much less profit. They were happy to give him the phone he chose.

I think this is pretty common. People who have Rogers phones go into Rogers every 3 years and get a new phone, and they get either whatever Rogers recommends, or they get a phone they find attractive from the store display.

The iPhone loses out on both these. It’s not a phone that jumps out at you in the store these days, not among all the phone with bigger screens and attractive cases. And there’s no incentive for Rogers to push Apple products. Quite the opposite. This is obvious from what phones they typically advertise.

So, what does Apple do about this? Be content to be a high-profit niche player (like they are in the Mac)? Or tailor their product line to the low end of the market?