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Backstage: The iPod family, cheaper, but fewer pack-ins

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2005
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Back in January, I shared my suspicions that the San Francisco Macworld event would see some price changes for the iPod family - $149 to $599, perhaps $99 to $599, or maybe even $99 to $499. Truthfully, I never would have guessed that the numbers would be even lower - a $99 minimum and a $449 maximum. That just seemed too un-Apple. A $150 price cut on the 60GB iPod photo (that… I… just… bought…)? Impossible.

Well, that’s what happened this morning (see our front page news stories), and the world is hugely better off for it. iPods starting at $99, iPod minis starting at $199, full-sized iPods at $299, and color iPods at $349. I would use the words “insanely great,” but they seem a bit cliche. Lower prices = more iPod owners = more iPod lovers. And we love it when more people love their iPods.

There are only two little related jigs in the announcements. First, as with the fourth-generation iPod rollout, Apple accomplished the price breaks by dropping items from the boxes: mini owners lose power adapters ($29, for shame!) and FireWire cables ($19, okay), representing a - wait for it - $48 price difference. iPod photo owners lose the AV cable ($19, hmmm), FireWire cable ($19, okay), photo Dock ($39, ummm…), and Carrying Case ($29, eh), totalling $116. That one’s more acceptable, because these parts were each more optional - some way more optional - and there’s actually a bit of a price drop, besides.

The second and related point is this: we’re officially beginning to see the beginning of a backlash on the cost of iPod accessories, and this isn’t going to help matters. Most of the backlash is coming from the low end of the market, where prices are most sensitive, but people might otherwise be willing to buy reasonably priced extras. I think it’s going to be compounded by this pack-in decision. Having to buy your own AC adapter was just barely tolerable with the iPod shuffle. But will people feel the same about a $199-$249 iPod mini? And will having to buy an AC adapter for $29 sour someone on buying other (overpriced) accessories?

Apple had it right with the prior generation iPods: pack all the necessities into the box, and define necessities a bit loosely. Mac owners will want FireWire, PC owners will want USB, and the cables cost 50 cents a piece to make, so throw them in. The AC adapter? Costs a dollar or two, so toss that in, too - remember, some people (especially those with older computers) might not have powered USB or FireWire ports. Let people buy extra adapters and cables if they want to charge both at home and work.

When the new iPod mini was announced sans power adapter, it took about 3 minutes for people to message me with the first “what a bad move” gripes. While time will tell whether people -really- need the adapter or not, it would really stink for Apple to have any significant fraction of its new low-end customers feel like they’re being forced to buy a $29 adapter that other companies - and yesterday’s Apple - would have tossed in for free. Admittedly, I already have my 4GB mini and 60GB iPod photo boxes filled with the old pack-ins, and won’t be personally bothered by the missing items. What do you think?

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Comments

1

I can’t remeber the last time I used my AC adapter. Addmittedly, I got a laptop, but even before that, between car chargers, the ubiquity of computers, and the new ability to charge using USB 2.0, it’s not going to be a big deal.

But those people who need one will undoubtedly be upset to find out that it’s going to cost them $29.

The firewire cable omission is surprising—you’d think it would be worth Apple’s while to evangelize their interface.

I can also see omitting the photo dock, but it seems like at least the AV cable should be included.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on February 23, 2005 at 6:21 AM (PDT)

2

I agree with Matt that the power adapter isn’t that important. But omitting the firewire cord as you mention, Jeremy is surprising, especially given Apple’s long push for Firewire.

On the other hand now that all new Macs come with USB 2.0 maybe Apple is admitting defeat and accepting that USB 2.0 is perfectly fine for many uses, including the iPod. Either way it it is curious move.

All this reminds me of the experience of buying an inkjet printer (at a great price!!) only to be told that it doesn’t come with a cable to plug it in. What’s next? Just including the iPod in the manual without any cables (or headphones?)

Posted by Hadley Stern on February 23, 2005 at 7:24 AM (PDT)

3

Although I use it infrequently - weekends (and longer) away from home and a computer - the power adapter for my mini is something I’d class as an essential.

It sucks even more that the FW cable’s been dropped now too. USB 2 is still relatively new to Macs, is it not? I personally think that if your Mac (or PC, for that matter) is capable of working with an iPod (i.e. can run OS X) then the pack-ins should absolutely facilitate that.

Good grief, Apple.

Posted by Raskolnikov on February 23, 2005 at 8:00 AM (PDT)

4

Excluding cables and power adapters is a bad move whe you consider you can buy things like USB hubs for $0 after rebate that still include the ac adapters.  For a $200+ ipod I expect all the necessary bits. 
Since my house already has 2 ipods and the cables, personally the big headline I look for in new models is more about capacity and battery life. An extra 5 hour battery rating on a new model is probably going to calm any frustration over the lack of extras.

Posted by snappy on February 23, 2005 at 8:43 AM (PDT)

5

my ac charger has been packed away for about a year.

Posted by Tsunami Steve on February 23, 2005 at 9:28 AM (PDT)

6

I have to agree that Apple is on a slippery slope. If they keep lightening the boxes, more and more users will get home and find they’re missing an essential piece of the puzzle. At least, they need resellers to make it very clear what is needed in addition to the iPod. Lots of Mac users don’t have USB 2, and the AC adapter is a really essential piece of kit for most users.

Opening an iPod box used to be like opening a Christmas stocking; there was lots of stuff, and, even if you didn’t use it all, it was there, making your iPod look like it was part of a bigger world. Now, with just the iPod, a cable, and a pair of earbuds, it’ll look a bit desultory. But if Apple wants to keep the prices down, they have no choice.

Posted by Kirk McElhearn on February 23, 2005 at 9:49 AM (PDT)

7

“The AC adapter? Costs a dollar or two”

Um, no. They don’t cost $30, but they’re certainly more than a couple bucks.

Posted by audiogeek on February 23, 2005 at 10:24 AM (PDT)

8

Audiogeek: Certainly? Praytell, how much exactly do they cost?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 23, 2005 at 12:04 PM (PDT)

9

The first thing I noticed was that the iPod line-up is now nicely distributed—roughly every $50, you can get something that fits your budget.  Even better, it provides excellent opportunity for upselling—heck, for $50, you can get blankity-blankity-blank!  It’s like that XL popcorn at the theatres.

But I also noticed that they removed a lot of things, and pared the boxes down to bare minimum essentials.  And my initial reaction was that Apple had started “cashing in” on their iPod recognition, much like firms act when positioning their financial statements for a takeover: they cut out all the corners, reducing costs significantly, proportionally boosting profit views.  (I’m just saying.)

Frankly, I don’t use my AC adapter—I charge when I sync with my Powerbook.  I don’t use my USB cable either—just one is fine, and FW has my preference (for no particular reason).  But since USB2.0 is more popular across the board of Macs and PCs, it makes sense they chose to go with USB.

And as long as it’s clear that all they’re doing is making tiny incremental improvements, and that most of the difference is that you have the OPTION to pay for your accessories separately, it’s all good.  Instead of being “forced” to buy them all because they’re packed in, you have choices on what you want.

Finally, I’m just glad that my 20GB iPod was the only one that seemed untouched and has held its price point.  grin

Posted by concept on February 23, 2005 at 1:18 PM (PDT)

10

When the 20GB 3G iPods rolled out I ordered one immediately, and, as Kirk said, opening the box was like Christmas morning: beautiful packaging, and tons of toys. Granted I don’t use the case, all other included goodies made the iPod experience so much better. So, I personally believe the goodies should be included… even at a slightly higher cost.

However, there is merit in excluding the extras: it means you don’t have to dish out as much money at once if you don’t have to.  I can understand this when it comes to the case and even the dock, but the AC charger and FireWire (especially b/c Aplle pushes it so much)!  I guess this option is fine for people who are upgrading to a newer iPod (as I will be b/c my 3G died on me) b/c they will already have the hardware, but if I was a new iPod user I wouldn’t be too happy with this.  On the other hand, if I never had the iPod with the AC charger and FW I probably wouldn’t not miss them as much.

Only time will tell how consumers respond to this.

Posted by Sanjin in Baton Rouge, LA, USA on February 23, 2005 at 1:39 PM (PDT)

11

I bought my first 20 gig 2G when it was $499.99.  Eventually, I ended up returning it under the service plan and was given a 3G 30, sinc e they had no more 20 gigs (they were in the 15 and 30 gig mode at the time)  Then, when they reverted back to 20/40, they gave me a 40! (I had caught on by then…)  So, I traded in my 3G 40 for a 4G 40 for free under my service plan, bought my daughter a mini and my son a shuffle.  Anyway, I have a number of chargers/cables around the house, but would be quite upset to now buy a mini and find out that it did not come with a charger. (I’d be even more upset to buy a photo and not get the photo cable!!!)  I love my iPods beyond your wildest dreams, but I think the de-contenting it getting out of control.  Th eone thing I have always believed about apple is that they are thoughtful, excellent designers.  I hope this aspect stops, as it is saddening.

Posted by AndyDK in USA on February 23, 2005 at 6:29 PM (PDT)

12

AndyDK,

What service plan are you talking about that allows you to upgrade like that?

Posted by themaze333 in bham, al on February 23, 2005 at 7:07 PM (PDT)

13

The omissions are indeed intriguing. Part of apple’s and a power user’s troubleshooting tips included resetting using the wall charger. Without a wall charger, a hard reset is only possible when plugged into the computer BUT dismounted (‘m on a mac is this different on a pc?)

What about those without powered usbs?

Posted by ginalee on February 23, 2005 at 9:02 PM (PDT)

14

i have a PC and personally i think the USB should be the optional cord.  ipod being as popular as it is it would create popularity for firewire and people will buy firewire ports or a usb wire.

and macs (especially the macmini) has firewire built in!  unlike most PCs.  so people will buy more macs.  or something like that.  well, maybe.

the point is, firewire is cheap, throw it in.  and if you had to take something out, usb woulda been smarter.

Posted by Exvicious in Schaumburg, IL on February 23, 2005 at 9:57 PM (PDT)

15

well, i noticed that all the ipods sold now (from shuffle to photo ipod) are all usb based, instead of firewire. If this is part of a plot to get more pc users to use ipod, it is a good idea. usb is definitely more universal in the pc world. also, firewire in pc laptops is only 4pin and ipod stopped packaging the 4pin/6pin adapter when they came out with the 4g ipod. i’ve always saved my adapter when selling my old ipod.

I loved the fact that firewire is much quicker. (15gb transfered in 30 minutes)

but having all the ipods using usb to transfer and charge is good because then if people ever want to upgrade from one ipod to another, they can use the same charger.

thankfully, buy.com has the 60gb ipod with ALL accesories for $430 with free shipping. even CHEAPER than apple’s new stripped down 60gb

Posted by uicandrew on February 23, 2005 at 11:56 PM (PDT)

16

Something needs to be made clear:
Apple DID NOT TAKE OUT ACCESSORIES TO CUT COSTS. They did it so they’ll make more money. How? People are forced to buy the power adaptor and the cords for those insane prices.

It works out good for Apple anyway you look at it. If a lot of people don’t need them, they save a miniscule amount of money. $10 per iPod maybe (going from 3G to current)? If they need them, they make at least $20

Pretty soon iPods will be BYOHCDCPA
Bring your own headphones, case, dock, cables, and power adaptor.

Maybe not the headphones, but everything else.

Posted by Nate (the original) in Berkeley on February 24, 2005 at 12:16 AM (PDT)

17

i think they took the accessories out to sell more ipods (make them more affordable)

but they are NOT cutting the cost of the ipod at all. If you wanted all the accessories that originally came with the photo ipod, you’d pay VERY close to the original price.

all the “news” articles out there are hailing the fact that the photo ipods are cheaper. They are still charging the same amount for the ipod, but everything is now ala carte.

original nate, with the original photo ipod, everyone was FORCED to insance prices for the accessories because it was all bundled. it’s just that you had no choice. you either paid for the expensive accesories, or you don’t get a photo ipod.  Now you get to determine how much of your money you give to apple

Apple just gave you more choices, but they did not make the actual ipod cheaper.

Posted by uicandrew on February 24, 2005 at 4:58 PM (PDT)

18

Is firewire faster on the Mac? Because in the “PC-world”, USB 2.0 beats Firewire by a pretty good margin. If that’s true in the Mac world as well, and the fact that new Macs have USB 2.0 now, I would imagine that Apple is silently saying “USB 2.0” is the way to go. With iPods getting bigger and bigger, speed is paramount.

Posted by Aaron Paulley on February 24, 2005 at 10:15 PM (PDT)

19

i think the transfer speed can depend on many things. i transfered 15gb in 30 minutes using firewire on my compaq laptop. I used the apple 4pin-6pin adaptor that was included with the 3g ipod. then i tried transferring files with a generic 4pin-6pin adapter from ebay. it went noticibly slower (but i didn’t time it).

usb 2.0 is definitely the slowest for me. from what i’ve been told, the overhead for usb is higher than firewire. so even though the theoretical speed of usb is faster, in reality, firewire is faster

Posted by uicandrew on February 25, 2005 at 12:02 AM (PDT)

20

i think it’s not that much a bad think that apple removed Ac adapter or cable from some ipod because now for the people who don’t need this things(most of us), they can have ipod for cheaper and for the other one it’s like the price didn’t change or just a little bit

Posted by AntoineB on February 25, 2005 at 7:16 PM (PDT)

21

With out my ac adapter I would not be able to survive! The camera card adapters really drain the ipods battery, so when I’m out and about taking pictures, its crucial for me to be able to charge while being away from my computer.

Isn’t linking to a tv the main feature of the iPod Photo? Why wouldn’t they include a way to connect to a tv?

Posted by tumblingwall in u.s. on February 26, 2005 at 5:18 AM (PDT)

22

No. no, no! you guys have it all wrong! Apple cut out the cables and ac’s in order to recive more outlets! Think about it a store only makes about $15 on an ipod (same with PS2 and XBOX’s). The only way the store makes money is by the insane accessories for those product. Like cases, or games for ps2 ect. It is true at cost ipods used to be 415 cdn, when in the store they were 430. This way more places will see the point in putting a $500 peice of metal out on the shelves in order for people to have to buy th accessories!

Posted by MitchMitch on February 26, 2005 at 10:45 PM (PDT)

23

I bought a 20Gb 3rd Gen just over a year ago, and it came with a remote, a dock, and a case. I got it replaced after 6 months due to the headphone jack being loose. Just after the 1 year warranty ran out, my friend lost it. He bought me a new one, which at the time, i put in extra money, and now own a 4th Gen 40GB. I now have 2 AC bricks, 2 docks, and a whole lot of cables. I haven’t used the power brick in a long time, except for the odd occassion where i am away without my car/access to a computer.
From experience, all the accessories that came with my original 20GB are not necessary. This is a good move by apple, and i’m sure we’ll see big things with the introduction of the 5th Gen.

Posted by Harrison in Melbourne, Australia on February 28, 2005 at 6:00 PM (PDT)

24

The only reason anyone is whining about this is because it is taking away something that once was included. Used to be, printers came with cables, SCSI drives and scanners came with cables, etc. The original LC actually came with an extra power cable, in case buyers bought the current 14” monitor, rather than the 12” designed for it. Why? Because the 14” only came with the cable which would pull power off your computer, not a standard power cable, and the LC had such a whimpy power supply, it couldn’t support a monitor power port. So, no matter which monitor you bought, you got an extra power cable. That’s wasteful, and guess who pays for that waste? (Hint: it’s not Apple!)

Moral of the story? Don’t put a bunch of junk that folks may or may not use in the box. Just put in the essentials and keep the price down. The iPod has to connect to a computer to download music, so using that port for power makes sense. Does it need a case? My first run unit didn’t come with a case, and the current user of that unit wouldn’t even accept my nice leather case - she preferred to sew her own.

So, no pack-ins, but please, don’t try to make the add-ons a profit center in their own right. Make them add-ons, but price them reasonably. I’d buy an extra cable if it was $5-$10, but at $19 + S&H, it’s a bit pricey. Tell ya what I’ll do - I’ll trade the worthless earbuds, case, power adapter, and dock for two cables right now. Anyone game?

Posted by Smitty on March 2, 2005 at 10:52 PM (PDT)

25

Something had to give for those prices. I know that there are going to be some really pissed off new iPod owners when they get these new “cheap” boxes home, open it up and realize that they don’t have the stuff to get the iPod up and running! Oh man… the look on those folks faces when reality sets in = PRICELESS! LOL!

And the profanity that will spew from behind clintched teeth as they head back down to the store and see the prices for ESSENTIAL “accessories” like a damn cable or an AC adapter = PRICELESS! LOL!

Apple won’t be winning new fans by housing the poor folks that aren’t smart enough to realize that they are truely getting what they pay for so get the “accessories” at the store before leaving with your new iPod… oh, and don’t leave home without your American Express. LMAO!

Apple is going to make a boon on those overpriced AC bricks and cables. Nice move Apple… fruther pad your pockets with accessory sales at the expense of some clueless customers. /sarcasim off.

Posted by FallN in New York, NY on March 6, 2005 at 10:31 PM (PDT)

26

Personally, I’m one of those that would have liked to have the extras (particularly the iPod photo Dock) with my new Feb ‘05 release 60GB iPod photo. And what’s with shipping a single USB 2.0 sync cable only? My Gigabit Ethernet Power Mac doesn’t have USB 2.0; luckily, my son was willing to swap the FireWire cable from his iPod Mini for my USB cable, since he only uses it with his power brick for recharging. Whether I really “need” the accessories isn’t the issue; I wouldn’t have minded paying extra for them, just to have the choice of not using or needing them if I chose to.

Having said that, I am not too proud to admit that it really didn’t impact me that the accessories didn’t come with my new iPod (except for the photo dock), until I read the review here of the initial 4G iPod release, and saw the wealth of accessories the buyer received at purchase… confused

Posted by ipodmac in San Antonio, TX on March 7, 2005 at 7:32 PM (PDT)

27

I recently joined the frey. I bought an Ipod mini. A day later the price dropped by $100. I was peeved to say the least. On top of which the retailer gave me a hard time when I mentioned “price match”. ANyway to make a long story short, I ended up buying a 4G 40GB for $419 CAD and I am verfy satisified. Not sure that I will ever fill up the 40GB.
That being said I rarely use the wall charger. MoSt times use the the USB (I have three USB ports on my notebook). However I can not seem to find a 6 to 4 pin adapter for my FW. I am not sure whether you can charge with the FW -so not a biggy. I would have never used the Apple supplied case. SO all in all I feel that I have benefitted from the new price points.

Posted by targa88 in Calgary Alberta on March 12, 2005 at 7:45 AM (PDT)

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