Ten Rules for Buying Apple Products, Briefly Revisited | iLounge Backstage


Ten Rules for Buying Apple Products, Briefly Revisited

Back in September 2006, we published an article titled Ten Rules for Buying Apple Products, which included one simple question that could help with Apple product purchases, and ten pieces of information that reflected time-tested truths about Apple’s release strategies. A reader wrote us today to ask how this applies to the iPad, so here’s a brief answer or two.

The simple question presented in the article—“does the product available today have the features that will satisfy me?”—remains as appropriate today for the iPad as it was back then for iPods and Macs, presaging the release of the iPhone. Once you have a chance to use the iPad in person, you’ll know whether it does enough to meet your needs, and you can safely assume that roughly annual iPhone OS software updates will expand the software functionality of the device for two or three years to come.

What about the ten rules? We’d be most concerned about number 8—“Beware of First-Generation/Revision A Models”—and number 10, “Big Changes (Typically) Come in Six-Plus Month Cycles.” Even having watched Apple for years, we were surprised at how quickly the original iPhone dropped in price and how completely the company discarded its widely liked original enclosure for the glossy, crackable plastic shell of the iPhone 3G. There were arguably good reasons for Apple to take both of these actions, but the price changes whipsawed early adopters, and the casing changes—particularly when cracks appeared in iPhone 3G units—caused some later adopters some concern.

These iPhone changes are just a couple of recent examples; we’d expect similarly bold actions from the company with the iPad. Apple now works actively to build market share for new products, and has proved increasingly willing to make rapid price, capacity, and engineering changes in the early stages of a new product’s lifespan if they’re necessary to boost sales and reduce complaints. Consider the first-generation iPod nano, released as a brand new product in 2005. Some of Apple’s changes to that model were very subtle, like the secret addition of an anti-scratch coating to the original iPod nano, while others were more obvious, like the early 2006 addition of a protective case to its package, and still others were huge, like Apple’s late 2006 switch to more durable aluminum in the second-generation iPod nano, and the late 2007 addition of video with an entirely new body design. Even if the changes don’t appear universally positive to consumers, like the switch to the glossy plastic iPhone 3G bodies, they’re always done for some relatively important reason, and generally make sense later on. Apple sold far more of the discounted, cheaper-bodied iPhone 3Gs than it did original iPhones, and the same was true of later iPod nanos relative to earlier ones.

So should you buy an iPad now, or wait? We’ll obviously have a lot more to say on this in our review—it’s way too early to judge right now. But go into the decision well-informed of the reality that the iPad, like all other Apple products, will only improve over time. That’s a guarantee.

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really?  You’re discussing how apple made it cheaper for future purchasers to get an iphone, and implicitly supporting early adopters’ “whipsaw” experience, and not calling that whipsaw experience a simple case of envy?  C’mon, iLounge: I’ve been reading you guys for years and years, and you’ve always been head and shoulders above the general media (as evidenced by your company’s apparent remarkable growth), and especially incisive in your critical commentary on apple while in general supporting the corporation’s products.  The simple fact is, that at the time those early adopters purchased their iphones, iPhone V.1 (or iPhone 3G, price v.1) did meet the “simple question” criterion—namely, “does the product available today have the features that will satisfy me?”  If it didn’t, they wouldn’t have purchased it in the first place.

Now, I guess you could just be reporting on prevalent consumer emotions.  That certainly IS a fact, but to not recognize/call out the obvious envy when someone else gets to get the same thing you did for a cheaper price seems disingenuous to me.  Maybe you just hit a hot button for me, personally, on this, as I’ve been grated by people complaining about this “cheating/screwing/taking-advantage-of” over the years, and perhaps you’ve even written an article about it that I missed.

Now, in the end, would I suggest someone purchase an iPad on day 1, knowing that prices will likely drop? No, I wouldn’t, necessarily, for the same reasons you mentioned.  But, if they *did* purchase one (as I plan to), it seems clear to me that they felt that that purchase *did* meet your “simple question” criterion. Period. Case closed.  Price might drop tomorrow, you never know—one has to make decisions based on the information available, and judge value accordingly.

Maybe I’m just a little more forward than you guys—which may be part of the reason *I* don’t have a successful tech site. :)

Posted by shawn on March 1, 2010 at 10:55 PM (CST)


I’m not try to be sarcastic, but I don’t quite understand what shawn is trying to say. Perhaps he can clarify his thoughts on the early adopter matter? Is he unhappy on how early adopters complain about how today’s high-priced products are cheaper and/or better in the future? If that’s the case, I certainly agree with him on that point.

I don’t have plans to pick up iPad v1.0, as I’m not sure yet what niche it will fill for me.

And I really miss the iPhone original metal back—I hope that the new iPhone sports the same aluminum shell as the Macbook Pros and iPad have.

Posted by cxc273 on March 1, 2010 at 11:17 PM (CST)


#1: If I understand your issue (count me in with #2 on this one - it’s a little confusing), your comment is basically “how can you simultaneously say ‘buy it if the overall package looks good’ but also ‘beware of quick price drops?’ ”

The argument you’re having isn’t with us, but with your fellow customers. We’re just providing some information that will help people make more informed purchasing decisions, with the understanding that this information will not lead every reader to the same conclusion. As you understand already, there is no one-size-fits-all way to satisfy every person who buys Apple’s products; to the contrary, different people react in different ways to the same events and information. Some people bought first-generation iPhones on day one and loved them so much that a $200 price drop a little while later didn’t matter at all. Other people flipped out and demanded refunds. Still others didn’t buy in until the price drop and felt glad that they waited, and other groups waited until the iPhone 3G or 3GS to make a purchase.

The one simple truth that runs through all of these groups is that waiting longer always results in lower prices and better functionality—Steve Jobs himself made a similar point in addressing (the significant number of) disappointed iPhone early adopters in the wake of the price drop. If you were willing to wait two years for your 8GB iPhone, you could have saved $500 on the phone, added 3G speeds and GPS, and so on, with the offsets of a cheaper chassis and higher monthly service fees. But the question of whether to buy in on day one, day 60, or day 365 is a purely personal one, which we can’t make for any individual reader. Only you can decide for yourself whether the first-generation MacBook Air, which turned out to be comparatively expensive, glitchy, and underpowered relative to its successor models, was worth owning for the brief period that it was an object of “envy.” Ditto on the first-gen iPhone, etc. etc.

Our goal is not to say “go out and buy, everyone,” but rather, to equip our readers with the proper perspective they need to make the purchasing choice for themselves, and not regret it later. Going into the iPad knowing what Apple history has suggested—namely, the very real prospect of near-term hardware and price tweaks—will hopefully reduce the number of “I got screwed!” complaints that so often seem to follow new Apple product launches.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 2, 2010 at 9:51 AM (CST)


As with cars, so with electronics, Apple i___ (Mac, Pod, Phone, pad, etc.) included: NEVER buy the first model year.

Posted by Herr Doktor on March 2, 2010 at 10:26 AM (CST)


For number 8, don’t forget about the iPod shuffle. I still believe the first generation was the best. I didn’t have to worry about having the syncing cord or having the right pair of headphones. I don’t understand their reasoning for removing the built-in USB plug and the buttons. I hope they can bring back these features for the 4th Generation.

Posted by Oscar M. on March 2, 2010 at 11:37 AM (CST)


sorry for the confusion.  beer+hastily typed and non-proof-read comments *will* do that.  I tried to post this comment a couple days ago, but then had some issues with iLounge—now, I’m actually thinking it was ad-block that was causing the issues, though I still am having problems seeing the captcha occasionally, and the ‘subscribe to this discussion’ checkbox has never worked for me (all via latest firefox, beta build)

Yes, I am taking issue w/ early adopters complaining that they “got screwed,” because they precisely did believe, at the time of their purchase, that the product was what they wanted.  I felt (now, I believe, unfairly) that iLounge was supporting that mindset by not criticizing it, especially when the only criterion necessary for purchase was (or, is implicitly, given revealed preferences) answered by the “simple question” posed by the original article: namely, “does the product available today have the features that will satisfy me?”

The people that “flipped out and demanded refunds” were rife with childishness. It’s probably not iLounge’s job or desire to call that attitude what it is—envy—but for whatever reason, it seemed at the time that this article implicitly supported that sort of attitude.

I agree with Jeremy’s response, that “going into the iPad knowing what Apple history has suggested—namely, the very real prospect of near-term haradware and price tweaks—will hopefully reduce the number of ‘I got screwed!’ complaints…”.  I wanted some criticism for the whiners, but this is not the appropriate forum for it.

My apologies for being critical-out-of-line.

Posted by shawn on March 5, 2010 at 7:45 PM (CST)

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