The Apple juggernaut may have suffered a flat tire. Normally, whenever Apple releases a new product — particularly a follow-on or upgrade to an existing winner like the iPhone — Apple fans and aficionados snap them up like beers at an NFL tailgate party.
But this time, Apple’s once-loyal audience is reacting like those beers are warm and flat.
Whether because their unfettered imaginations outpaced the ability of Apple engineers to deliver new features, or because Apple flubbed the communications and marketing process on the new phone, fans were extremely under-impressed with the device. As a result, the new Apple iPhone 4S launched to a resounding silence.
Makers of iPhone competitors are now taking the faltering launch as an opportunity to pry thousands more Apple enthusiasts away from the iconic brand and get them to purchase relatively lower-price, non-Apple mobile phones.
Of course, Apple still has opportunities in many large emerging markets, including China, where its older models are likely to prove attractive to consumers, especially after any price discrepancies have been eliminated.
Discounted Older Phones
Proving that it won’t be going down without a fight, the “big dog” in mobile phone technology has already decided to break with tradition and sell its older iPhone models at greatly reduced prices. For example, Apple will cut the price of its iPhone 4 to just $99, provided the customer signs a network service contract. Apple’s older 3GS model will be offered for free, with a contract.
Both offers represent major strategy reversals for Apple, which previously focused only on the upper tier of the smartphone market. These price cuts may induce people who have been interested in the Apple brand, but leery of its startlingly high prices, to visit an Apple store and see what all the fuss has been about.
Originally introduced more than four years ago in a ground-breaking form factor and with intuitive features that have since been widely copied by most other mobile phone manufacturers, for many people the iPhone has been the benchmark of the mobile phone industry. That’s why sales have been remarkably good, despite Apple’s insistence on a sky-high pricing structure. Competitors tried hard to chip away at Apple’s brand loyalty, but enjoyed little success.
But now that Apple has apparently missed the target with its new 4S, Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Hitachi, and Nokia are hoping for better days ahead.
Is It Much Improved?
One problem with the new iPhone 4S is that it doesn’t look or feel not much different from its predecessors. Fans were disappointed when they didn’t get a thinner, lighter model with a bigger, brighter screen. Nor does the new 4S have its expected metal case.
The new iPhone does offer some new capabilities, such as voice commands that can send messages or search the Internet for stock prices. But these do not appear to be attractive enough to please the highly-demanding Apple user family. Many consumers appear willing to stay with their older iPhones, and a few — at this point it’s unclear exactly how many — seem ready to jump ship and switch to a phone that uses the Microsoft or the Android operating system, both of which now appear to be ready for prime time.
Samsung and HTC, for example, now offer high-end devices that compare favorably with current Apple iPhone offerings, and Nokia’s recent switch to the Microsoft operating system sets the stage for its smartphones to become more competitive with Apple, as well.
In light of the poor reception for Apple’s new 4S model, the company will be under greater competitive pressure than ever before from other vendors, which until now have not had much success dislodging the Apple iPhone from its place as the world’s best-selling smartphone.