Will Going Cheap be Apple’s Undoing?

Cheap and classy are not siblings.

Au contraire, they’re usually antipodes.

Apple’s enduring appeal to millions owes to the essential fact that its products are classy.

iPhone, iMac, iPad and iPod touch are shining examples of Apple’s commitment to designing great devices that induce euphoric shock and awe.

Each device is a delight to behold and use.

But Apple’s products have never been cheap. Beyond the fanboys and the well-off, Apple’s products attract only a wistful longing.

While it has often been the quality, design, ease of use and profit leader, Apple has rarely ever been the market leader (at least not for long as the diminishing market share of iPhone and iPad demonstrates) because of its high price.

Apple Embarks on Cheaper Road
Cheaper iPod touch

Cheap Road

Now in a desperate drive for higher revenues Apple is embarking on the cheap road.

The company launched a cheaper 4-inch iPod touch with Retina display today.

And if the rumor mill is right, a cheaper iPhone and cheaper iPad Mini will hit the market in the second half.

In my not-so-humble opinion, going cheap means making sacrifices.

Sacrificing quality, design, features and the whole nine yards.

Nothing will convince me that great products come cheap.

For instance, the new cheaper iPod touch Apple launched today for $229 lacks a rear camera and a lanyard hook.

When a rear camera is de rigueur in handheld entertainment devices, Apple yanked the camera away (the regular $299 iPod touch has a 5MP rear camera).

By moving into cheap territory, Apple risks losing its appeal to, and over time the loyalty of, its demanding customers and ultimately its cachet as a company delivering extraordinary products.

Going cheap is taking the easy way out in life.

Far harder is to design new features, unleash jaw-dropping innovations or enter and disrupt a new line of business with classy products (the way Apple has done in the past with the iPhone and signed the death warrant of Blackberry and Nokia).

Taking the cheap road is a slippery slope that does not bode well for Apple.

For Apple, there’s no retreating from the cheap road and the inevitable damage to its brand down the road.

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