Pretty much all of Apples products are iconic, that’s hard to dispute. Many of them have become so ubiquitous and well known that they have become household names which are used even when talking about non-Apple products that are remotely similar. Recently, however, Apple’s product lineup has become increasingly crowded and, dare I say, diluted. Apples current trend seems to be making multiple variants for a single product line, which often includes a “pro” variant which offers something more than the standard offering. While the first real instance of this came with the iPhone 6 and its two size offerings, the difference between then and what I’m talking about here is that the iPhone 6’s two offerings were based on preference, the differences between Apples product offerings now often offer noticeably different functionalities and user experiences. For a great example of this, look no further than the most recent iPhones. Up until the iPhone 7, Apple only released one iPhone model in two different sizes. In 2017, however, Apple broke their previous trend by releasing 2 different iPhone models, the Phone 8, cheaper priced and similar in design and functionality and design to the previous years iPhone 7, and the more pricey completely redesigned and functionally updated iPhone X. Apple continued this new product lineup both last and this year, where they signified the differences between the cheaper and the more expensive models by adding “Pro” to the end of the latter, something Apple really likes to do. While this diversification of Apple’s product lines does allow for products that can better cater to consumers, it also has less apparent downsides. First off, it overcomplicates Apples product lineups, making it less clear for consumers which product is right for them. For being a company that is supposed to be simple and consumer friendly, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in an Apple store messing around with the iPads and had people come up to me asking for help with deciding which of the FOUR iPads is right for them. Secondly, and more importantly, is that having so many problems encourages complacency and deemphasizes making great products that can cater to a large audience. The problem itself is not with the number of products, but the overwhelming similarities and often minor differences between them. As I said before, Apple is currently selling four iPads, 3 of which are pretty similar, the iPad and iPad Air are incredibly similar looking and spare a slightly larger screen and updated specs for the Air, the are almost indistinguishable when next to each others and the iPad Pro is not all that different from the previously mentioned models.
The pressing part is that the problem I highlight here is not one new to Apple. in the late 90s Apple faced a similar problem with an overcrowded and convoluted product lineup. The problem was so large that it was one of the key factors that was driving Apple into the ground towards bankruptcy at the time. Consumers had such a hard time distinguishing products from one another that they were often forced to go elsewhere for their computers. It took Steve Jobs to fix this problem by cutting down the fat and simplifying Apples product lineup into iconic, one size fits all products, a policy that stuck with Apple throughout the Jobs’ era and up until recently with Apples change in attitude. I think that this change in attitude is likely a result of Tim Cooks leadership. The simplified product lineup was a staple of Jobs’ Apple, but it doesn’t really fit in Cook’s seemingly more profit-focused vision for the company, as the wider product line allows for their devices to reach wider audiences.
Obviously, this has been going well for Apple, with it being the most valuable company in the world and all. It doesn’t seem like Apple is making any changes either, with rumors saying Apple will release yet another iPhone later this year that would focus on being a budget oriented product. This new iPhone, which could be dubbed either the iPhone SE2 or iPhone 9, would feature a design more in line with the iPhone 8 rather than the newer designed iPhones X and later, lacking Face ID and the larger Liquid Retina display. I think that this is the worst reason for complicating a product lineup. Sacrificing functionality and innovation for the sake of price is never the tradeoff to make and certainly not a justifiable reason to further overcomplicate your product lineup. I really hope this policy does not continue and Tim Cook sees the less clear problems with this policy, as I fear it could spell similar repercussions for Apple to the ones it faced 20 years ago, only this time, Steve Jobs won’t be around to save them.