By: Zorais Naroo
$550. Some bring up how this is as much as the highly sought after Playstation 5, at $500, along with a game. Others bring up how this price offers many premium headphones made for music hobbyists from Sennheiser, Bose, Sony, and others. Many also bring up the fact that this is the AirPods Max’s price, Apple’s newest product in their AirPods line, but not as a good thing. Daniel Zheng, a junior at Glenelg High School and Android user, says, “[The] AirPod Maxes are absurdly overpriced. And [are] not amazing headphones either.” He elaborated that for $550, they were terrible in terms of value.
This wouldn’t be the first time Apple has tested their consumers with selling their products. Way back when the iPhone 8 was released, they received scrutiny for removing the headphone jack, seen as taking a step backward. The release of the original AirPods also received scrutiny. The public called them out for being very easy to lose and looking very similar to the stock earphones that came with most phones. Especially in schools, people became wary of using them for worry of theft.
Their newest iPhone, the iPhone 12, doesn’t even come with a charger while every other phone before it did. Though Apple claims this is an ecological move to reduce waste, this makes a shockingly bold claim. Anyone who would want to buy an iPhone 12 would already have to have an iPhone or similar device just to use their current Lightning cable with the new device; obviously striking at any Android user wishing to change!
Huzaifa Naroo was one of those who recently bought this device. Upgrading from his iPhone 7, which was long overdue for a replacement, he splurged a whopping $1300 in total on the phone and it’s accessories. Yet, when asked about potentially buying the new AirPods Max, he remarked, “Why? I already have good headphones; that’d just be a waste of my money.”
These aren’t examples of consumers getting used to change. On the contrary, these show how a company slowly but surely, can lose touch with its consumer base by changing few things and expecting consumers to react as if it were some breakthrough in technology.
Some might tell you that the AirPods Max, along with recent Apple products in general, shows just how Apple is testing the waters with new ideas and innovation. If they were solely focused on innovation, they would focus on it and turn into a think-tank for ideas. Obviously, as a business they need to factor in consumer tastes. Lauren Zhang, a Junior at Glenelg High School who currently uses an iPhone, explains, “I don’t think [AirPods] are worth it but a lot of people have them… [Apple]’s cool, but not as cool as most people think. [They’re] less innovative nowadays, convenient in America but not on a global scale… I’m pretty sure Apple isn’t even in the top 3 globally.” According to Business Insider, Apple is now just the fourth largest phone manufacturer in the world resting behind Samsung, Huawei, and Oppo.
Apple originally sought to produce luxury goods and breakthroughs in technology, though their massive and wide popularity has now made them a go-to for the casual consumer and enthusiasts. Trying to straddle this line brings us to today and the AirPods Max, where Apple limits potential innovation to keep prices relatively consistent and general consumers happy. Self-proclaimed audiophile Snazzy Labs made an in-depth review where he discusses how Apple has matched flagship headphone producers such as Sony with features such as noise cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity, but makes the AirPods Max unappealing with their larger price over competitors’ options. Though their prices are relatively consistent, they are still consistently high.
There is another factor which has only recently emerged. Imagine, if you were roaming the halls of your high school and had a new pair of the AirPods Max taken from you or otherwise lost, how would you deal with it? Buying a new pair isn’t something many can afford, and unless you have Apple’s absurdly expensive insurance system, you’re basically set back half a thousand dollars for simply using Apple’s product in public. With their pricing, replacements aren’t something many Apple users have in mind. Grace Whitkin, a Junior at Glenelg High School whose previous pair of AirPods recently broke, remarks, “The price def[initely] seems super high, compared to Best Buy prices for other brands, these are $200+ more, and that’s without insurance fees… I like [Apple’s] products, I like that they’re advancing tech in some ways, but it seems like they’re super capitalist in… a bad way. Their products are increasingly becoming only accessible to the upper socio-economic class.”
Though Apple’s pricing model is consistent with prior years, they do not account for ongoing crises which may cause people to have less to spend. Shockingly, Apple products aren’t exactly a necessity! So the majority of people won’t sign onto their AppleCare plan like some other form of insurance. But repairs for cracked screens alone, which many Apple users complain about, can cost between $200 to $300 without insurance!
As is with many companies, Apple’s purpose is first and foremost with making a profit. In releasing new products annually at high markups, they appeal to their core base and fulfill this need. But in doing so, they blatantly restrict their appeal to only the richest of consumers who want to feel like they have quality goods.
If you’ve ever walked into an Apple store, you’d understand this feeling they try to create. Their stores give off this sensual vibe of futuristic development and relentless innovation, something which few other phone manufacturers can successfully accomplish. Mr. Reigel, an economics and psychology teacher at Glenelg High School discusses how, “If they make it look like you can’t live without it, then people will buy it. It’s brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not great for the consumers. Apple doesn’t play fair, and they want [consumers] to join their social psyche. I think we ought to have more choice, not less.”
In the age of monopolistic competition across virtually every field, something has to change. Apple’s fame might fade with their consumer appeal as people grow bored of the same-old.
In 1965, Gordon Moore detailed how technology development was set to become twice as advanced every two years. Whether Apple still thinks that is the case is for the future to decide.