“We would like to thank all of our customers for making this our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin. While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.”—Tim Cook, announcing that Apple sold over 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus’ over the weekend.
A few days after the launch of the latest iPhone and we still have lines out the doors of Apple Stores around the world. I was in this one on Friday. It truly was insane.
This stands in stark contrast to the recent news about RadioShack. Impending bankruptcy will probably drag this out for years, but the writing on the wall seems clear: the once-dominant consumer electronics retailer is going to die.
And that’s too bad. I, like so many people of my generation, have fond memories of the chain from my youth. It was the place to go and discover that anything and everything was possible with electronics. It was, in a way, the Apple Store of its day.
Okay, that’s probably a stretch. But if consumer electronics had been as mainstream in the 1980s as they are today, there’s no reason to think RadioShack couldn’t have been the place to be for everyone, beyond just the geeks.
Instead, RadioShack morphed into what was essentially a cell phone outpost pitted against the long-term interest of the carriers. Hence, the situation they’re now in.
No one is asking, but my plan to revive RadioShack would be to harken back to the old days with a twist of the way things currently are. I’d create an “Apple Store for everything.”
Yeah, yeah with Apple now the crown jewel of retail, everyone is trying to do this. But RadioShack has two distinct advantages. 1) This love of gadgetry is in their DNA. 2) They already have the retail presence.
And actually, number 2 has been a huge point of weakness for RadioShack. They’ve tried to close a large amount of current stores, but their investors won’t let them. So it may be time to turn the perceived weakness into a strength.
Yes, Best Buy and others have been trying to do this to some extent as well. But those stores are way too cluttered and intimidating. Radio Shack stores seem to be just the right size. The key would be to curate only the best-of-the-best Android devices, Google devices, Microsoft devices, Sony devices, etc. Not everything, just the best.
Then lay those items out around the store to let people try them out and compare. And have experts around to help. Experts not paid on commission. Experts who aren’t fucking clueless (go into a RadioShack store now, most employees are clueless about current technology). Actual experts in the various gadgets and ecosystems.
Yes, Radio Shack seems to be doing some of this with their new store strategy. But I’ve seen one of those new stores – they don’t go far enough. They’re just trying to be actual Apple Stores (including the emphasis on Beats). They should be more like Bizzaro Apple Stores.
Again, don’t offer everything, just the best things. Partner with The Wirecutter or someone who excels in this type of curation. Be the place people trust to sort through the gadget clutter.
And maybe mix in some new, exciting tech. Things like Oculus, 3D printers, etc. Things that excite the public’s interest and things they want to see in person.
If you can establish yourself in this way, I think the lines out the door on launch days (of select products) may follow.
Remember, when the first Apple Stores launched, they were ridiculed as a failure waiting to happen. Apple did a lot of smart things to get to where they are now, but the focus on quality products is what ultimately made the strategy work. We may not be able to rely on other consumer electronic giants to do the same on their own, and that’s where RadioShack could step in. To curate. The Apple Store for everything else.
“It’s a little surreal in one lifetime to go from running out of money at the end of every month and living on macaroni and cheese, which is what I did when I came to San Francisco, to having all this money.”—Larry Ellison, in a 2003 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. Ellison, who "stepped down" as CEO of Oracle this week is currently worth roughly $50 billion.
“There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know. If you can’t be bothered to show up, why should anybody show up. It’s just the end of the fucking world.”—Anthony Bourdain, telling Men’s Journal about the two types of people in this world.
Lost amid all the talk about how much the Apple Watch will cost is an equally important and equally unanswered question: how much will the Apple Watch bands cost? Drew Breunig on the matter:
While the band mechanism itself was mentioned only briefly last week, I think it’s one of the most important components announced. The connector allows Apple to address the luxury and mass markets, allows them to ship a personal product by isolating the part which will go obsolete, and locks up a lucrative market which will provide margin cushions for the Watch itself, allowing for competitive pricing.
My guess is that these bands could range anywhere from $50 (for the sports bands) to $500 (for the high end ones) or maybe even more. Again, that’s aside from the watch itself.
And yes, the margins will be insane here for Apple. But these bands will also presumably be usable as Apple continues to iterate on the Watch itself. I assume they’ll come out with new bands over time, but it seems like these original ones are being engineered to last.
And it sure seems like Apple has engineered them with the notion that you’ll probably own at least a couple, and will swap them in and out as situations dictate.
Fascinating profile of Michael Larson, the head of Cascade Investment LLC — aka, the secretive fund that invests most of Bill Gates’ wealth. A couple fun tidbits from Anupreeta Das & Craig Karmin’s reporting:
The firm owns at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and other states—or an area seven times bigger than Manhattan.
Cascade employees are expected to be frugal. Even though Mr. Gates owns nearly half of the Four Seasons Holding Inc. luxury-hotel chain through Cascade, the investment firm’s executives stay at less-expensive hotels, even when traveling on Four Seasons business.
They also own the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, and a 490-acre ranch in Wyoming once owned by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
“And let’s not even talk about the paste icon, which is ridiculous. First of all, it’s a glue bottle. Second of all… look, let’s just move on.”—Nilay Patel, who seems to love most everything about the iPhone 6 Plus except the new landscape keyboard.
The initial reviews are in, and no surprise, everyone seems to love the device(s). There are definitely some strong opinions as to which one people prefer (example: John Gruber vastly prefers the iPhone 6 while Nilay Patel loves the iPhone 6 Plus).
Two other interesting tidbits reading the reviews:
1) A lot of folks seem to feel like the iPhone 6 Plus is more like an entirely new device than just a bigger iPhone. It’s a sort of hybrid between the iPhone 6 and the iPad mini. I find this interesting. I wonder if we’ll see more Plus-specific elements, like the landscape keyboard.
Like many others, I wonder what this means for the iPad mini as well (incidentally, I’m typing this on an iPad mini, but I’ve always preferred the iPad Air). I assume Apple will update it with the other iPads (next month?) but do sales plunge with this new device out there? And if so, does Apple shift the iPad line to go bigger (as has also been rumored)?
2) A number of reviewers bake in these weird, pre-emptive apologies to fans of other devices because they say they love the new iPhones. I mean, I get it: no one likes to be trolled, especially by commenters. But you should never apologize for your honest opinion. That’s why we’re reading the review!
While the removal of Steve Ballmer and the ascension of Satya Nadella has gotten all the headlines, the changes to Microsoft’s board in recent months also seems extremely important.
The board is now quite different from just a year ago when I wrote this post — they have five new board members and a new Chairman (John W. Thompson, who had been a board member, but replaced Bill Gates as Chairman last February). And that strikes me as a very good thing.
Last week Apple only demonstrated a portion of Apple Watch’s functionality, gave a vague shipping date of only “early 2015”, and announced only a $349 “starting price” that I believe has grossly misinformed the expectations of many people for the prices of the steel and gold models.
I agree. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how much I think the high end Apple Watch is going to cost. When my response is that I would guess it will be “thousands, not hundreds of dollars” they tend to gasp.
By only announcing the pricing floor, Apple is setting a certain expectation. And that expectation, rightly or wrongly, is that the high end Apple Watches will be within hundreds of dollars of the cheapest variety (as is the case with the majority of their other product lines). Like Gruber, I do not believe that will be the case here.
I think we’ll look back and laugh at the time that people were outraged when the rumor was that the device may be $400. Apple, as usual, was thinking differently.
One other point from Gruber:
But Apple Watch is not just a piece of jewelry, and it’s not a mechanical device. It’s a computer. And all computers have lifespans measured in just a handful of years before obsolescence. If you buy a $6,000 mechanical watch and take care of it, you can expect it to outlive you and become a family heirloom. Paying even $1,000, let alone a multiple of that, for a premium Apple Watch seems like folly if it’s going to be obviated by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions in just a few years. And I don’t see how it won’t be replaced by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions, because that’s how all computer technology goes. Apple Watch is not a tech product, but technology is what distinguishes it — and computer technology gets old fast. A Rolex purchased in 2007 is every bit as good today as it was then. (Arguably even better, given some of Rolex’s questionable design decisions of the last decade.) An iPhone purchased in 2007 is 85 times slower in CPU performance than an iPhone 6, and I don’t even want to think about how much slower EDGE is than LTE networking.
This is the biggest question mark about the high end Apple Watch, in my opinion. With all their products, Apple is on a regular hardware update cycle — and quite often, that’s yearly. Given the computer aspects of the device, you’d have to assume the same is going to be true for the Apple Watch. But who on Earth is going to pay $5,000 a year?
It’s possible that this is a new way for the super rich to show off their wealth: by upgrading their gold Apple Watches yearly. Or it’s possible, as Gruber briefly mentions, that they’ll be able to take their watches to an Apple Store and have the innards swapped out for new components, while the outside remains the same (perhaps just polished in store).
Either way, it sure seems like Apple doesn’t care much about the notion that a watch is something most people only buy once or twice in their lives. Before the iPhone, people also didn’t upgrade their phones each year (I had my pre-iPhone device, a Motorola Razr, for almost three years before I got the iPhone — imagine that upgrade cycle now). This is different, of course. But I wouldn’t write off something Apple is doing simply because it’s different. That’s often when they do their best work.
As I noted on Twitter a few days ago, one of the weirdest things about this iPhone upgrade cycle is how hard it is to choose which device to get. I feel like I know exactly which of the “millions” of permutations of the Apple Watch I want (this one). But deciding between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus has been an exercise in agony.
The thing is, this is really the first iPhone cycle that doesn’t have an obvious “winner.” Apple has long taken the “good -> better -> best” approach with the distinctions demarcated by price. But this year is less straightforward.
Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus is the more expensive model. And yes, it bears the “Plus” moniker. But there are trade-offs.
“Plus” doesn’t necessarily mean better here. It means bigger. With its 5.5” screen, by almost all accounts, it’s massive. So large that it will turn away many buyers.
And that includes those of us who would normally default to the more expensive variety of iPhone, assuming it’s the best one money can buy. This is now more subjective than ever before.
Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus has slightly better battery life (thanks to the additional volume) and a slightly better camera (thanks to room for optical image stabilization). But beyond those two features, the device is identical to the iPhone 6. And to many people, that device’s 4.7” screen is actually the plus.
Last year, there was also a choice between the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. But Apple made it pretty easy since the 5s had a not insignificant performance edge thanks to its faster chip. Even though I liked the design of the iPhone 5c a bit more, it was still ultimately a no-brainer to go with the iPhone 5s.
Again, this year not so much.
I have ultimately decided to go with the iPhone 6 Plus. My rationale is simply that the two factors I care most about: camera and battery life, are slightly better on the bigger device. But I’m not entirely sold. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may change my mind when I start to use the thing day-to-day.
As for color, I went with Silver. Gold is so 2013.
Update: Yes, because of the different screen sizes, the devices also have different resolutions. And yes, the iPhone 6 Plus screen also has a better PPI — but, oddly, a slightly worse contrast ratio.
“Because it’s tiny. Both Symbian and Blackberry have more users than Windows Phone.”—Markus “Notch” Persson, founder of Minecraft, speaking to Reuters last June about why they weren’t focused on creating the game for Microsoft’s mobile platform. We’ll see if $2.5 billion changes that. My hunch? Um, yes.
Hi MG. What's your take on the long lead time for Apple Watch availability? Can't understand Cook's logic here.
I think there are a few factors that could be at play here. Perhaps most likely is that Apple simply did not want the device to leak ahead of time. Had they waited until it was closer to launch, there would have undoubtedly been supply chain leaks out of Asia (and possibly even regulatory filing leaks).
These leaks are obviously now beyond rampant with regard to the iPhone, as we seem to know everything about these devices before Apple announces them. I imagine they care less about leaks in this case simply because the product line isn’t new and they care most about launching the iPhones in a quick and orderly fashion after the announcement.
Remember that when Apple first unveiled the iPhone in 2007, they did so six months before it was actually available — even more lead time than we’re likely to get here with the Apple Watch. That also ensured the device was at least somewhat of a surprise.
Unlike with the iPhone, Apple will be allowing for third-party applications from day one with the Apple Watch. So this lead time also gives developers some time to think, plan, and build some apps for when the device does launch.
Another idea being thrown around is that Apple had already promised to announce a new product line this year, so while the Apple Watch may not ship until next year, they wanted to get it out there now to keep their word. I’d put a lot less stock in this notion. Would Wall Street be disappointed if Apple didn’t announce a new product this year? Undoubtedly. But if Apple is really in the business of pleasing Wall Street and not their customers, I’d actually believe they’re in trouble.
Also, in the long run, who really cares when Apple announces the new product? The key is that it’s coming, whether the pay off is now or in six months or in a year. The only thing that will ultimately matter is if the thing is any good. And I suspect Apple took their time making sure it was good.
“I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”—Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, explaining why he sold his company and why he won’t be involved going forward — which, perhaps, shouldn’t be surprising at all.
As expected, Microsoft has announced the massive $2.5B acquisition. And good for them for saying they’ll continue to support all the platforms the game currently supports, including PlayStation, Android, and iOS (though, notably, Mojang itself seems to do quite a bit more hedging in their statement — saying, basically, everything is always subject to change).
What I don’t understand is why people think this deal doesn’t make sense. It makes a ton of sense. Microsoft already has a history of doing this type of deal with Bungie amongst others. That deal made the Xbox. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that without Halo, the Xbox would have failed.
But more importantly, I fully agree with John Lily’s take the other day: this is about access to the next generation of makers (developers, tinkerers, etc). More than once, I’ve been in a random place in a random part of the world and seen a kid glued to their phone playing Minecraft.
That phone, of course, was not a Windows Phone. And it’s probably too much to hope that now it will be — that battle has long been fought and lost, even if Microsoft won’t admit it yet. But if Microsoft is thinking about this the right way, this should be about more than phones.
“I don’t mind taking blows; frankly, my skin is so thick now that I’m a bit of rhinoceros from that point of view.”—Tim Cook, speaking to USA Today about the criticism he and Apple have gotten over the past few years.
JPMorgan Chase’s chief financial officer, Marianne Lake, took the stage at a financial conference on Tuesday under strict orders not to mention her company’s involvement in Apple’s new payment system.
But when Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, at a news conference in California at the same time, finally brought up Apple Pay, one of Ms. Lake’s deputies in New York took a green apple out of her bag and put it on a table on the stage, signaling that Ms. Lake was free to discuss the service.
Subtle. In other tradecraft:
From the beginning, the project was top secret, with what one person involved called a “code name frenzy.” The card companies had code names for Apple and Apple for the card companies. At Visa, the code name was another consumer electronics company, chosen to avert attention from employees who were not involved. Visa soon had about a thousand people on the team.
Would love to know which other consumer electronics company was served up as the red herring.
All in all, pretty amazing how much pull Apple proved to have over another massive industry. That’s was being the most valuable company in world gets you, I suppose.
During in-store transactions, Apple will be passing the cryptogram and token to merchants via NFC, and Apple will be paying a “card present” rate in NFC purchases, Lambert confirmed to Bank Innovation. However, when using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), presumably how the iPhone 5 and 5S will do payments, or when making an in-app purchase using Apple Pay, the transaction fee will be the equivalent to a “card-not-present” rate.
Interesting tidbit. And it again points to why Apple is using NFC here instead of just doing it over Bluetooth LE, which they had already been using for a while.
But that iPod event—the Apple “music” event—changed everything else that would come after, for Apple and the rest of us, too. Because like Steve Jobs said that day, with his dad jeans on, “you can fit your whole music library in your pocket. Never before possible.”
The iPod (the click wheel one) was the first Apple product I ever owned. Before that, I was a PC guy all the way. One may even have called me a Microsoft fanboy — true story.
I bought the iPod solely because I was about to drive by myself across the country to move to California. And I needed a way to play back every single song I um, borrowed via Napster in college. That iPod was a gateway drug for me. RIP.
“The most sought after feature on the iPhone 6 was a sapphire cover screen and Apple needs to deliver a sapphire covered iPhone sooner rather than later.”—
Matt Margolis, an analyst with PTT Research, in a new note this week. Margolis is the one who long said the new iPhones would feature such a screen.
Of course, they did not. Which is fine, I’m sure they will one day. But suggesting this was the “most sought after feature” of the iPhone 6 is beyond ridiculous. Most consumer would have no idea there was a difference. Actually, even more ridiculous may be the notion that Apple “needs” to do this. Sometimes, it’s better to just admit you were wrong.
“We got special shirts, staffed up for the launch — and then nothing.”—An employee at a Bay Area AT&T store talking about the Amazon Fire Phone launch. He estimates they sold 10 of the phones in total — likely a contributing factor in the 99.9% price cut.
“To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.”—Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH’s luxury watch division (Tag Heuer, Zenith Hublot, etc), talking about the Apple Watch. He also said the watches were “too feminine” and had no sex appeal. We’ll see if this come back to bite him.
In making a watch, Apple enters the rare industry that can match its own obsession over detail. That was immediately clear in the time Apple chose to display on the device: nine minutes past 10 o’clock.
The subtle implication: Apple is ahead of its analog competitors, which typically set their watch faces in advertisements and other public displays to 10 past 10 o’clock. Rolex is famously particular about its preference for 10:10:31. TAG Heuer sets its wristwatches to 10:10:37. Bell & Ross insists on 10:10:10.
Timex also uses 10:09, but Apple even beats them by six seconds.