While Apple had a very good opening weekend of sales with its new iPhone 5, selling a record breaking 5 million units, as we reported yesterday, demand once again far exceeded the supply of new iPhones, leaving many who pre-purchased and who lined-up at brick and mortar retail locations disappointed. In fact, supply issues have plagued almost every release of the iPhone to date, raising the perennial questions of whether this is all part of Apple’s marketing strategy to keep the buzz going, and just how high could the numbers have gone if Apple was able to deliver more stock?
There’s no question that people are still clamouring to get their hands on Apple’s latest must-have phone, but I have to wonder if Apple has toyed with the emotions of the general public one too many times.
The lure of the iPhone has always been one of status and exclusivity; it meant that the person who held aloft the latest iPhone was on the bleeding edge of technological progress. But with everyone from preschoolers to grandmothers now holding aloft their own iPhone’s, the cachet of owning one of Apple’s premiere smartphones is dissipating, meaning that soon the hardcore Apple fan base will go looking elsewhere for their technology fix.
I’ll admit at the outset that I predicted a similar fall from grace following the release of the disappointing and hardly worthwhile iPhone 4S last year, arguing that anyone in their right mind would see through Apple’s marketing campaign and recognize that the iPhone 4S was nothing but a slightly refurbished iPhone 4.
While I clearly underestimated people’s blind allegiance to Apple, I have noticed a distinct rise in general discontent with Apple products, with complaints no longer coming from the hardcore anti-Apple crowd, but from dedicated Apple users as well.
The larger problem for Apple goes well beyond issues of supply and demand to one of ubiquitous saturation. The entire technological ethos of the iPhone is built around exclusivity and status, meaning that there has always been somewhat of an ‘elitist’ air around the iPhone. If you owned one, you were somebody.
As TechNewsWorld writer Rob Enderle explains, “This perception of this elite status is what has helped Apple lock in to a very lucrative customer base, but as the phone became the one your parents, grandparents, and service providers used, it lost a lot of that allure — and likely the buyers who bought status with iPhone are starting to look elsewhere… We’ll likely see this impact once initial demand is met and the device has to compete with an increasing number of differentiated products.” Simply put, the iPhone has become the “Volkswagen” of phones, and has lost its elite status as a result.
While Apple may continue to stay strong for a few more years, it won’t last forever; every company who achieves success rides a wave; it rises, crests, and then falls–don’t forget that it was only 15 years ago that Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. In the end what I think will hurt Apple the most is its popularity: when everyone has an iPhone, it won’t be long until no one wants one.