Love it or hate it, it’s hard to imagine life without the conveniences of modern technology. From smartphones that let us take digital photographs, record high-def videos and play the latest video games to wearable devices that monitor our health, it seems technology is reaching all facets of our daily lives. One such company — Apple — provides all of the above gadgets and much more, and they have an ingenious way of getting consumers to keep buying their products.
One of the primary selling points of modern technology is that much of the hardware is interchangeable. Frequently labeled as “plug-and-play,” much of these gadgets are compatible with other devices on the market, regardless of brand. But Apple wants to be the only company catering to their target audience, and they use several strategies to achieve this.
Apple introduced the Lightning port and connector in 2012 alongside the iPhone 5 to serve as a replacement to the traditional 30-pin power connector. The cord also provides USB and headphone connectivity. This works great in Apple’s constant quest to streamline and simplify their gadgets, but it ultimately means consumers have no choice but to buy other Apple products that also support the Lightning connection.
But proprietary hardware causes other issues, too. As recently reported, Apple is already expected to drop support for the Lightning format in favor of USB-C. These changes will only affect the iPhone 8; users of the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus will still have to work around the limitations of the Lightning connection.
This kind of confusion and backtracking is enough to drive consumers away from most brands, but Apple has a large and dedicated customer base that stretches around the globe.
Frequent Software Updates
Apple also deploys frequent software updates in nearly all their consumer products. Many of these patches are necessary, either to fix security vulnerabilities or to introduce new and useful functions, but it’s no coincidence developers release a new operating system for their mobile devices every year. Of course, the newest OS is always designed to work best with the latest hardware, so consumers have the continual motivation to trade in their current devices for the latest and greatest versions.
Some of us Apple’s critics even accuse the company of purposefully slowing the performance of older iPhones every time they release a new model or OS update. There’s no hard evidence to support such claims, but it’s gained enough traction that reports show up in mainstream media coverage.
The overall life expectancy of an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch averages three to four years for first-time owners. In contrast, the average lifespan of the operating systems developed for Apple’s desktop computers is much longer. Not only do desktops tend to last longer than mobile devices, but most of them are 100 percent compatible with older operating systems.
Others place the blame directly on the consumers. With so much pressure to own the newest, nicest and most expensive gadgetry, many shoppers eagerly open their wallets or checkbooks whenever a new Apple product hits store shelves.
This trend is currently evident in the release of the iPhone X. Meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Apple iPhone line, the device carries a price tag starting at $999 – making it the most expensive iPhone to date. That’s quite a stretch from the previous offerings, which have their most expensive iPhone retailing at just under $800, but Apple is confident their users will make the leap with them.
And just like all their past products, the Apple team already has a strategy to convince consumers to buy the new iPhone. Borrowing inspiration for wireless carriers and service providers, Apple offers the iPhone 8 on a monthly payment plan spread out over a full year. Users will still have the ability to choose a service contract so they won’t be forced into any particular service agreement.
Staying Up-to-Date In An Evolving Technological Landscape
Apple isn’t the only brand that uses proprietary hardware, frequent software updates and consumer trends to maximize their profitability, but they are one of the largest and most popular. While this level of public interest and attention has shaped their very business model to this day, competing technologies and brands might affect their strategies in the future.