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Apple keeps finding new ways to deny that the iPhone is getting too expensive

Published Sep 18th, 2018 2:48PM EDT
Tim Cook iPhone

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Tim Cook keeps getting asked in so many words whether Apple is becoming something akin to the Gucci of tech, thanks to the $1,000-plus price of the iPhone that’s so central to so many peoples’ lives today. Tim’s answer, in that laconic Southern drawl? We charge this much, because (insert L’Oreal hair flick here) we’re worth it.

That’s basically the response he gave today during an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America, explaining that since carriers help subsidize the cost of the handsets most people pay some $30 or thereabouts a month. Which works out to “about a dollar a day,” Tim helpfully clarified — and even then, it’s still probably not priced as high as Apple could take it, since he goes on to remind Robin of all the products the iPhone has replaced. Things like the camera and music player, for starters.

“We want to make an iPhone for everyone,” Cook said during the interview, in which he subtly shifted the focus toward value, as opposed to cost. “That’s always been our objective, and we’ve got several iPhones in the line that go down to materially lower (prices). But if you look at this phone, it … has an unbelievable camera in it, and it has the smallest and most powerful chip ever in a smartphone.

“Your phone has replaced your digital camera (and) your video camera. It’s replaced your music player. It’s replaced your video player. It’s replaced all of these different devices. So arguably the product is really important and we’ve found that people want to have the most innovative product available — and it’s not cheap to do that.”

Ok, but Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone models, some people have argued, represent the tech giant doubling down on its luxury brand status. With Business Insider even going so far as to say Apple, even though it’s always commanded a premium, may be now in danger of losing a whole generation of mainstream customers who balk at paying this much for a phone. Apple can’t upsell customers, the site notes, if it doesn’t even get them in the door, with moves like killing off the SE helping bring that reality to fruition.

This is something Apple keeps finding creative ways to address, such as with Tim’s $1-a-day comment. Satisfying cost-conscious customers with answers like that, though, may not be so easy.

Apple’s “move to revamp its device lineup by doubling down on thousand-dollar phones, and simultaneously dropping its least expensive model, has made clear that it’s no longer overly concerned with appealing to customers of more limited means,” BI notes. “Instead, the iPhone maker seems to believe that the way forward is to be the Louis Vuitton of consumer electronics.

“That focus on the high end has already started to pay off for the company in the form of near-term profits, even as it recently surged past a trillion-dollar market cap. But it could prove to be a bad bet in the longer term, particularly if it means fewer consumers turn to Apple to purchase their first phone or other device.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.