Opinion by Claire Reilly
Imagine this situation playing out in any retail store, anywhere in Australia.
A regular customer walks in to the store. They’re not necessarily technology savvy, but they know their Apples from their BlackBerrys and they’re fairly sure of what kind of product suits their needs. They walk to the counter and ask the friendly sales assistant to help them out by showing them the features on the new iPad.
CUT TO --
INTERIOR SHOT, LATE MORNING
Sales Assistant: Is that the new iPad or the New iPad that you’re after?
Regular Customer: I’m not sure. I just want to buy an iPad and I’ve heard that they’ve brought out a new one.
Sales Assistant: Well there’s the iPad Mini, but you’d probably know if you were talking about that one. It looks the same, but it’s slightly smaller. And the bezel is thinner around the screen. Then there’s the newest iPad, which has a faster processor and the old retina display. And then there’s the New iPad, which is actually the old iPad. But it looks the same.
IN UTTER CONFUSION, REGULAR CUSTOMER SELF IMPLODES
Alongside the launch of the iPad Mini – a scaled down iPad that promises all the great Apple features you know and love in a smaller footprint – Apple also launched what it calls the 4th Generation iPad. This follows the launch of the New Ipad, which was the third model to be released after the original iPad and iPad 2.
Now, just 7 months after the launch of the product that Apple said “redefines” the tablet category, it has released a newer version with slightly updated features. If you’re a consumer that queued up to buy “the most amazing experience” in Apple tablets – that is, the New iPad – then the 4th Gen iPad doesn’t so much redefine this category as make your 230-day-old piece of tech utterly redundant.
So redundant in fact that it’s not even listed on the Apple website anymore – the second tier iPad option on Apple.com is now the lower-spec’d iPad 2.
In another blow to loyal consumers, Apple announced the arrival of the Lightning connector cable with the launch of its most recent iPhone, which has also been rolled out on the 4th Generation iPad. So now, all the new accessories available for iPad won’t even work on the purchase you made in March. Third-party accessories manufacturers are hardly going to invest in making add-ons for an outmoded device.
But the issues for retailers may be even more problematic.
As technology and appliance aficionados, we at Current.com.au are across the exciting innovations that come with new product launches. And we make it our job to explain them to retailers and consumers.
But many consumers walking into electrical stores turn to their retailers for that kind of advice. They aren’t going to know the difference between the New iPad’s A5X chip and the A6X chip found in the 4th Gen device (or the A5 processor in the iPad Mini).
They may also find it difficult to swallow a sales spiel about how the newest device is the latest and greatest thing to come to Apple, even though it looks the same as something released 7 months ago. And how can they be certain that, if they walk out of the store with the product, it won’t be replaced by the newest best thing in a few months time.
Technology is all about bringing in new features, innovations, gadgets and updates to make our lives easier and more fun. And I’m certainly not bemoaning the arrival of a new piece of tech (otherwise I’d still be hoarding my VHS and Betamax tapes in a desert bunker somewhere).
But when an exciting new product makes it difficult for retailers sell its newness, or for consumers to know why they’re upgrading, then it’s time to rethink how we’re “redefining” these categories.