Something hit me over the weekend: iPhone 8 was designed from the start to take one for the team. It’s a sacrificial lamb that was never intended to be a big seller. Yet without it, Apple would have found itself in a pickle.
The Mixed Product Introduction
Apple’s decision to announce an experimental, expensive device—iPhone X—alongside an iterative improvement—iPhone 8/Plus—was, admittedly, perplexing. This was especially so with the staggered rollout between the two devices seemingly forced by supply chain constraints
And iPhone 8 has the same old industrial design as iPhone 6, the fourth generation without a significant design change. Why even bother? Apple seemed to be risking that one device or the other would be a flop compared to past iPhone launches.
Something clicked into place when a financial adviser friend idly mentioned Wall Street was watching iPhone’s average selling price (ASP). That something was this: if Apple had jumped from iPhone 7 to iPhone X, with a $1,000 price tag on an entry level new model, the world would have had a collective %#@! fit.
The headlines write themselves:
“Apple Has Lost Its Mind”
“Greedy Silicon Valley Tech Giant out of Touch with Ordinary People”
“Apple Expects Suckers to Pay $1,149 for a New iPhone”
On the last one, I went with the 256GB model price point because it makes for sexier click-rant bait, but you get the picture. Apple would have been blasted from here to my Apple Death Knell Counter if the only new iPhone in 2017 started at $999.
To Every Device, a Purpose
Please don’t misunderstand me on the iPhone 8. It’s a great device. It’s a solid iterative improvement on a great product line, and it will be an upgrade for people with older iPhones or any Android device. But it’s just that, iterative, and the industrial design isn’t even all that iterative.
By introducing the work-a-day, iterative iPhone 8 at ordinary iPhone prices, Apple positions the iPhone X not as an out-of-touch luxury item, but as an aspirational, high-end device you should be so lucky to get. Being supply constrained at launch only adds to that allure.
We’ve had conflicting reports about the success of the iPhone 8, but I doubt Apple ever intended to sell all that many. That device’s entire existence is to be the plain bridesmaid who makes the iPhone X bride look all the more beautiful in comparison. And so far, it’s done its job fabulously well.