The High Cost of Being Loyal to Apple

Apple iPhone XS

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from The Washington Post.. It looks at the subtleties of Apple’s increasing hardware costs.

Apple iPhone XS
Apple’s iPhone XS lineup. Updating every year will cost you. Image credit: Apple.

It turns out that there’s a cost associated with being very loyal to Apple and upgrading often. Apple knows that. In this article I found, journalists Geoffrey A. Fowler and Andrew Van Dam look at how: “Your Apple products are getting more expensive. Here’s how they get away with it.” Their primary finding was interesting and, perhaps, generally overlooked.

What we learned: Being loyal to Apple is getting expensive. Many Apple product prices are rising faster than inflation — faster, even, than the price of prescription drugs or going to college. Yet when Apple offers cheaper options for its most important product, the iPhone, Americans tend to take the more expensive choice. So while Apple isn’t charging all customers more, it’s definitely extracting more money from frequent upgraders. [emphasis mine.]

Creating the perception that the latest products will make one a more effective, joyful user is one aspect of marketing. It’s true, up to a point. But where the line is in one’s computing life is subjective. Being enamored with Apple products tends to push the line towards more frequent hardware updates.

There many people who use older Apple equipment to good effect. Those users write me often. But for many enthusiastic loyalists, using older devices just isn’t fun. And that’s what Apple seems to be cashing in on. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s just great marketing and shrewd business practices for Apple’s high technology products.

More Debris

• Gordon Kelly at Forbes reports that a significant design change may be coming to the iPhone in 2019 “which will lead to size, weight and cost savings.” See: “New iPhone Leak ‘Confirms’ Significant Design Decision.” Curiously, Apple is working with Samsung on this one.

• In this entry, I’ll start with the subtitle. “Google security researchers shame Logitech into releasing security update for insecure app.”  If you use Logitech Options with your mouse or keyboard, read this. “Logitech app security flaw allowed keystroke injection attacks.

• This next article from The Eclectic Light Company delves into macOS security mechanisms in a very understandable way. I highly recommend it. “Where do Apple’s recent security updates leave macOS?” Here’s an excerpt.

It is – and always has been – true that good third-party anti-malware software is important for Macs. Whether you need it is a matter of risk assessment. Simply assuming that running the latest version of macOS will protect you is dangerous, and everyone using an older version should think again whether their protection is now sufficient.

Fast Company has some great advice. “7 Digital Privacy Tools You Need to be Using Now.” I’ve gone through the list and concur on every one. Take some time for this one.

• Dan Moren at Macworld intelligently looks at what’s behind Apple’s new job additions and their geographic locations. “What Apple’s new job additions tell us about its product plans.” His analysis is excellent.

Buddy robot.
Buddy. Image credit: Bluefrogrobotics There’s a reason it looks so adorable.

• Readers of this column know that I write often about robots. One of the things I’ve learned is that there is a element of fear when it comes to personal interaction with robots. This is largely unique to Americans and doesn’t exist to as great an extent, for example, in Japan. Loup Ventures provides some hands on research. “Robot Fear Index: Increased Adoption May Be Fueling Concerns.

My take on this is that current, very advanced robots (not family toys) have an unfavorable intelligence to strength ratio. When these robots start acting in human, patient, generous, graceful, empathetic ways, humans will fear them less. We have long way to go in that regard.

AI created human faces
AI created human faces. Image credit: Nvidia.

• Take a look at these faces above. These people don’t exist. Their faces were created by an AI at Nvidia. This is fun but also scary stuff given the potential for misuse. “These People Are Not Real—They Were Created By AI.

• Finally, “The more addicted someone is to technology, the more dysfunctional or non-functional they are…” That’s from another good analysis piece from Loup Ventures.The Bell Curve of Tech Addiction.” You probably sensed this all long, and now we have a good explanation of the cause and effects. Parents, especially, should dig into this one.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

6 thoughts on “The High Cost of Being Loyal to Apple

  • I’m loyal to a good value, so bought a bought a PC laptop this month. I’d previously bought Apple since 1991. I didn’t leave Apple as much as wanted to go to Windows 10 and to hardware that I prefer. And the value is there.

    Apple has become an caricature of its former self with prices and the hardware feature choices they make.

  • John:

    The WAPO article makes a number of plausible points regarding Apple’s increasing hardware costs that, in the absence of data to the contrary, have to be acknowledged.

    Two passages stand out in particular, and encapsulate the piece’s main point:

    “Our charts of Apple’s rising prices are like a Rorschach test: Some see a tech giant gouging us more for ho-hum upgrades. Others see the increasing usefulness of Apple products in our lives. What we see is a reflection of a new reality for consumer tech.”

    And, “Apple, hoping to charge more every time we do buy, is changing how it gets money from us. So we need to change how we think about its value.”

    People can and will disagree on what is the primary driver behind Apple’s pricing, whether price gouging or recouping R&D costs for new tech.

    I believe that both are oversimplifications, however I concur that it is necessary for us to change how we think about the value of our tech, Apple’s or otherwise. Specifically, I suggest that we are still using an obsolete analytical framework in thinking about the value of our tech; despite the tech world, and our behavioural responses to it, having substantially changed.

    Back in the day of the PC arms race, circa SJ2 when we had the PowerPC Mac vs Wintel, power users of both platforms were keen to be first-adopters of every new iteration of their preferred PC. This went beyond simple bragging rights. This was a war for legitimacy in the workplace; and for Mac users in particular, the very survival of their platform.

    If you were a Mac user, you were part of an identifiable minority who had better be able to show a damned good reason in the work place for making that choice, meaning that this had better be a great computer and worth every penny. It required that you put your best foot forward, meaning that upgrading, whenever possible, to the latest and greatest was an imperative if it was to compete with best of the Wintel world; and that yours was not an inferior or a bad choice, or worse, a career jeopardising choice. I recall the scrutiny I was under at the time for simply using a Mac (a toy) in a serious research environment.

    Along the way, something happened. SJ conceded that the PC wars were over and that Windows had won. Some, perhaps many, misunderstood this to be Apple acquiescing to second or third tier status. They were wrong. Recognising that they were beaten at the PC primacy game, Apple didn’t just change the rules, they created a new game; and because they were not perceived as a threat, the industry let them do it. At least, for awhile.

    First, it was the music player on the Mac. Then it was the iPod. Then it was the iTunes music store. And later movies and books. Interspersed was the ditching of a dead-end classic OS and the switch to a UNIX based GUI in the form of OS X, and not long thereafter, the sacrilege of ditching the PowerPC for Intel CPUs. And while the industry was scrambling to either imitate, quash or collaborate on Apple’s entertainment moves, Apple introduced the iPhone. Flummoxed or derisive, neither industry nor pundits put it together at first, because no one had ever seen this before, but Apple had created an elaborated platform of integrated hardware, software and services designed to function as a seamless system, an ecosystem. There were other elements of this system as well. This was a paradigm shift, not only for the company, but for the client community and how they interacted with their tech; not as disparate units of kit, but as an integrated system.

    This led individual users who might purchase one device to buy into a service and then perhaps another device to enhance the experience with the former device and service; then bring that device into the workplace.

    We didn’t appreciate this at first, but by degrees the imperative to upgrade any specific device, notably the PC, in order to maintain legitimacy in the workplace was eroded by the incremental introduction of Apple-ware into that space, in order to have ecosystem user experience.

    Importantly, another factor altering our behaviour change was the coincident maturation of legacy products, notably the PC. A few years ago, MacWorld magazine featured an article about the latest iteration of the PowerBook cum MacBook Pro that argued that this might be the last laptop one would need to purchase. This was not hubris but a practical acknowledgement that the user experience for most users would not materially change with subsequent upgrades. They were right.

    Only gradually did users, and the industry, come to appreciate that, in the context of an elaborated platform of devices, software and services, and only incremental performance enhancement to mature product lines, the imperative to upgrade any one specific device with each new iteration was no longer present. Rather, the user experience was defined, not by specific devices, but the platform as a whole. For any given user, hardware upgrades became individualised by personal use case. As the WAPO article points out, people are increasingly willing to go longer intervals before feeling the need to upgrade. Personally, what is more likely to drive me to upgrade my 2017 MBP will not be performance specs but my capacity to have latest security updates to macOS. Tech specs have become subordinate to security.

    In summary, it is the platform and its ecosystem that define the user experience, whereas the hardware upgrades increasingly appeal to specific individual needs, rather than to the community en masse. This ecosystem paradigm has changed our tech culture, and therefore our behaviour.

    Pundit and market analytical frameworks will need to catch up and adjust to this adaptation.

    1. Apple used to be worth it, but no longer. Regardless of what they think. In fact, they are worse in some ways such as selling “pro” machines without ports and not even selling a dock to make up for missing ports. They are out of their minds.

  • It’s scary how much Fowler and Van Dam mirror my thoughts. Good to know there are others thinking the same as me about the new Apple. I’m keeping my devices 3-4 years longer and think it’s time to leave the Apple ecosystem when it’s time to replace. The garden is now a jail. Time to breathe again.

    1. Hardware and services should be agnostic. You can use iCloud, Google Drive, and OneDrive on Windows or Mac. You can still use your iPhone and have a Windows or have an Android phone and use a Mac. Ecosystem is a myth.

  • John: I just can’t read any articles by Gordon Kelly. He writes clickbait crap that’s usually overblown anti-Apple hype. The Macalope has a lot of fun exposing his BS and having more fun doing it than should be legal!

    The only worse “reporter” out there writing nonsense about Apple is Ewan Spence – also at Forbes…

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