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Identity Crisis: Is Apple a luxury brand?

Apple recently revealed a slew of new iPhones, including the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS, and the iPhone XR Max. These new options boast better performance and larger screens than their older counterparts. What is most surprising about this reveal, however, is that Apple seemingly discontinued four older versions of the iPhone without much fanfare, including the iPhone X.

The four models no longer being sold through Apple’s website are the iPhone X, the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 6S Plus, and the iPhone SE. It’s unsurprising that the iPhone 6 line is being discontinued, as Apple usually phases out iPhone models that are over 2 years old, and the line has been replaced by both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8. It should, however, be noted that the iPhone 6 line featured the last models that included a headphone jack, a feature that Apple killed off, starting with the iPhone 7.

The discontinuation of the iPhone SE came as more of a shock. The SE was a popular choice for consumers, as it was a small and relatively inexpensive iPhone compared to other models. Currently, the least expensive iPhone being sold by Apple is the iPhone 7, which is $450 compared to the SE’s asking price of $350.

The discontinuation of the iPhone X came as the biggest surprise to most. It’s only been available for about a year, debuting last November. The $999 iPhone, a first for Apple, debuted to high sales and positive reception. The iPhone XS will sell for the same price and has been revealed to have slightly better specs than the X.

new iphones

The axing of the affordable and popular iPhone SE and the obsolescence of the premiere iPhone X after only a year shows that Apple is shifting their focus away from the average consumer and towards the luxury market.

While Apple has always focused on the more affluent consumer base, they have always had a less expensive option that allowed the average consumer to afford one of their products. Even back when the iPod was all the rage, Apple offered the more affordable iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano. While it makes sense that Apple is phasing out older models of their products as the technology becomes less shiny and intuitive, leaving out a less expensive option alienates a huge part of their potential market reach.

Apple’s careful shift to a luxury brand has seemingly paid off in the short term. According to Yahoo Finance, Apple’s revenue from smartphone sales last year rose 13% compared to the previous year, due almost entirely to the higher price point of its smartphone line. Despite increased short-term revenue, it’s possible that Apple’s long-term profits will suffer due to a lack of consumer trust.

As Apple quickly phases out older models and slowly increases the price of its “affordable” models, consumers will likely hold on to their phones longer instead of upgrading in fear of obsolescence. If Apple truly wants to be a luxury brand moving forward, they must be prepared to sacrifice their huge average consumer base.

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