Apple Has a Long History of Screwing Early Adopters

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Nothing Steve Jobs announced this morning was as surprising as the $200 price cut to the 8 GB iPhone and the discontinuation of the 4 gig model (currently blowing out at $299 while supplies last — deal of the century). Less than three months on the market, Apple chopped the price by more than a third.

Readers of the blog (and lots of other sites) are screaming bloody murder, throwing about accusations that defenders of the price cut are Apple employees, demanding refunds and more. I would love to join in on the outrage, but this is entirely typical of the way Apple handles truly new technologies.

The very first Mac debuted in February 1984 for $2,499 with 128k. Just eight months later, the company rolled out the Mac 512k for $3300 in September. That would have been fine, but the Macintosh Plus, with 1 meg of RAM, came out in January 1985 for just $2,600. Anyone who bought a Mac 512k got hosed even worse than the earliest adopters.

When the first iMac came out, it shipped in August with a 233Mhz processor and a stunningly under-powered graphics chip for $1,299. Two months later, a revision tripling the video ram came out for the same price. It was the difference between playing Myth at all and not, on a non-upgradable machine.

The multicolor edition shipped in January for the same price, a 266Mhz chip and a significant better graphics chip. By may, 333Mhz chips rolled for the machines. And then it all got replaced by the iMac DV, which included FireWire, completely obsoleting the previous line.

Perhaps the most egregious recent Apple screwing consumers moment came with the iMac line in 2005 and 2006. The iMac G5 with ambient light sensor shipped in May 2005. Then it was replaced by the iMac G5 with a built-in iSight in October, just three months before the transition to Intel chips, when an identical but much-faster machine came out for the same price.

And, of course, the AppleTV was on the market for just two months before Apple brought out the 160-gig model, with four times the storage of the non-upgradable original.

I’m still paying the price for getting a first-gen Powerbook G4 12″. I got no SuperDrive, no DVI port and no USB 2.0, even though I bought just two months before the upgrade.

At this point, if you buy a first-generation Apple product, you’ll probably see either a huge price drop or feature boost within a couple months of your purchase. It’s nasty, it’s mean and it’s capricious, but it’s the way Apple works. If you want to get the most from Apple, wait for their products to mature and drop in price.

It’s entirely likely that a 3G iPhone with a 16gig drive will be announced in Europe in September. That’s just the way Apple operates. I think the reason it’s so upsetting in this case is that the company always introduces its products with flair and says to the world, “This is the one! This is how it should be done!” And we believe it, we overpay, and watch in dismay as Apple introduces One More Thing after One More Thing…

  • Thomas

    I call on you to support us crying bloody murder by displaying a sticker/badge/mark of any sort, draw one up, or I’m sure someone here has the creativity inside of them to draw it for us. A simple sticker calling for $50-150 iTunes credit. Anything that Apple can do to say “Sorry, we sort of stuck it to you…”

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  • Joseph

    Screwing early adopters is a really unfair way of putting it. I think all consumer electronics makers need to be constantly improving products and cutting prices to stay competitive. It’s the nature of the business. If people think a product is too expensive, they shouldn’t buy it. The same box of Cocoa Puffs I bought yesterday for 5.99 is on sale today for 3.99, but you don’t hear me crying and running to the supermarket for a refund.

    If you’ve been enjoying and gloating over your iPhone for two months (or even 2 weeks) but now are suddenly crying about the price cut, you need to get over youself and your self-pity.

  • Joseph

    And no, I’m not an Apple employee. I just think early adopters are being unreasonable if they expect to have all the benefits of early adoption with none of the costs. If you want to be the first person to own the latest coolest thing, of course you should expect to pay a premium for it.

  • Mike Mc

    It’s always a bummer when a manufacturer bring sout the product you have just bought for a cheaper price or with better specs, but that is progress and it happens across the whole of the computer and electronics markets – It is nothing new. If you always held out for the next best product you would never buy anything.

  • BdeRWest

    Joseph said: “Screwing early adopters is a really unfair way of putting it. I think all consumer electronics makers need to be constantly improving products and cutting prices to stay competitive. It’s the nature of the business. If people think a product is too expensive, they shouldn’t buy it. The same box of Cocoa Puffs I bought yesterday for 5.99 is on sale today for 3.99, but you don’t hear me crying and running to the supermarket for a refund.”

    But Joseph, that box of Cocoa Puffs that’s on sale is not any more delicious, filling, nutritious or useful than the $5.99 box.

    I bought my MacBook Pro in July 2006. In Sept/Oct, Apple rolled out MacBook Pro version 2, which included everything that was missing from my MBP (Firewire 800, dual-layer DVD burning, extra USB port, cooler running temp). I’m still happy with my computer, don’t get me wrong.

    I think because of the secretive nature of Apple these product updates sting even more. We all “know” a new version of what we’re about to buy is right around the corner, but it all boils down to Apple saying – with gall and panache – this is the best thing you’ll ever known, while whispering behind our backs “suckers, shoulda waited until next week.”

    Pete’s right, though. That’s how they do things.

  • Electroboy

    Upgrading a product line is expected, especially if the older product has been on the market for quite some time. Apple upgrades it’s products fairly regularly, which you should expect from a cutting edge high-tech company in the computer business etc. If you decide to buy an apple laptop that has been on the market for around a year, you can expect that they will probably release an upgrade pretty soon afterwards.

    What you shouldn’t expect is for Apple to pull something like the iPhone price cut. I’m fine with them lowering prices after an appropriate period of time. Even if they had cut the iPhone price yesterday by $50 to $100, I would have understood it on some level. But to cut the price by a third after only 2 months…..that’s too much. There’s absolutely no reward for loyalty to Apple as a brand.

    If Microsoft had tried to pull something like this, there’d be riots. Sadly, a lot of the Apple-buying community will probably let it slide. A shame really. It’s a bit like defending an abusive husband because he has a history of violence. It’s sort of expected of him, so it’s kinda ok.

  • qjqqk

    How could you leave out the tale of the IIfx and all the drama, the hysterics that greeted the release of the Quadra?

  • Avalon0387

    If the early adopters were happy with the iphone when they bought it for the price they paid for it, then what’s the problem? What has changed? If Apple had not dropped the price, does that make their iPhone any less useful or cool? No, it doesn’t.
    People need to grow up.

  • Marc

    Of course you early adopters have been screwed.

    BUT:
    You guys in the US are lucky: You’ve got the iPhone already.
    Here in Europe we will be able to buy the iPod touch (which is basically a castrated iPhone) before the iPhone.
    Just image how that must feel.

  • Jimmi

    Well, people paid even more than the original asking price when they bought them on Ebay. The truth is that people wanted instant gratification. You want it now, yesterday was too late. So for your money, you got to be the first on the planet to have the iPhone. Some people would have sold their right eye for it the day it came out. So, don’t bitch, now.

    To Electroboy re; Miscrosoft. Well, because it is Microsoft, you would know not to buy anything from MS with a 1.0 on it. Microsoft is notorious for delivering crappy products on the first roll out. The very first Xboxes over heated and crapped out. Same with Xbox 360. Vista is a nightmare of bugs and it is just terrible.

  • C Rolls

    Okay, all you early adopters — you knew the price would be cut soon enough (seeing as the holidays are just around the corner). And no, this isn’t just Apple sticking it to their customers — plenty of other consumer electronics companies do the same thing.

  • d0b3rmann

    After sleeping over this, and ensuing a recurring nightmare of Steve announcing a 3G 64GB iPhone for free with a one-year contract starting today, I realize that yes, the second I handed my CC over to the Apple store guy I just knew the 16GB iPhone was just around the corner (bet you a $200 rebate it will be available for $499 when the Touch hits the shelves this month), so I figure we only got $100 of “unforeseen” sting, so with my .Mac not renewing, we’re even Steven…

    BTW, I aaaalmost got dinged with the Apple TV, I had forgotten about that one, and Myst is, was and always will be awesome, as well as Marathon (only on Mac), ah memories

  • razmaspaz

    This is tech. Early adopters get screwed and pay a premium for being on the bleeding edge. People only complain about Apple doing it because they don’t have a competitor. If you want a Mac you have to buy it from Apple. On the PC side, nVidia will release a new graphics card only to be bested by ATi tomorrow. Everyone who bought the frist card will groan and move on. Apple doesn’t have a competitor so all the products that outdo the last one come from Apple. We can either complain about getting screwed or we can live with never getting anything new. It sucks sure, but if you’re gonna be the type that complains about getting screwed, you should consider waiting a while to at least get version 2 or 3, so whey version 4 comes out you aren’t left holding old tech.

  • Scott

    My getting screwed by Apple goes back to ’95 with the purchase of a Centris 650. Only days after purchasing, it was discontinued and replaced by the Quadra 650 (faster processor, same price). I’ve decided to call my 4G iPhone “Centris”. Regardless, my brand loyalty remains in tact.

  • Danielito PantalonDelFuego

    all it takes is one experience like this and youll be just like me.
    first of all, i am happily a part of the apple demographic…but i never ever buy the first of anything within the first few months for this exact reason. anyone who has been using apple products over the past 20 years knows that they do this all the time.

    i learned my lesson when i purchased my 22″ cinema display for $2300 and 3 months later the price dropped $1000. i could not believe it and i haven’t been an early adopter of apple products since. luckily in the case of the iphone, it was AT&T that prevented me from adopting early. i probably would have been there on day one for that one…im smart enough not to sign a 2 year deal with the devil…especially now that the iphone is an “exception” to their contracts that provide unlocking after the contract is up…eff that! they could drop the price $500 and i still wouldnt do it.

    to apple noobs, just get used to it. they have done it for decades. it keeps the new stuff fresh and makes you feel like you need to upgrade sooner if you are a gadget geek.

    im STILL using my $2300 monitor over 6 years or so later, it looks as sharp and beautiful as ever, and my dual processor G4 quicksilver is still a great machine and i use some pretty heavy design and video apps. the thing is 6-7 years old!! even though i got the $$$ shaft, the life and performance of the product has been excellent and it has been worth every penny.

    i am sure the iphone will live up to the cost you paid at $600. it is sorta funny, though.

  • kraig

    cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it

  • Ann

    Hey Joseph, we can all tell you’re just bitter that you STILL don’t have an iPhone, so don’t even try to sound so smug.

    Apple has only hurt their own image…this huge price cut smacks of desperation. I certainly don’t have any warm fuzzies for Apple after this.

  • crosswiredmind

    The problem here is that it breaks a pattern. Apple has always upgraded its product lines. I expect that. But Apple has, in recent years, kept the price point stable. I don’t feel too bad when the next best thing comes along with a similar price tag.

    But this is just plain wrong. Same product + lower price + timing = major ammount of suck.

  • chazlee

    i think the price drop on the iphone is great, and i have always been and always be an early adopter i have been burned before but i guess, i know it’s coming as all my first gen products i never keep i bought two iPhones day of release one for me and my gf it’s just the price you pay for having the latest greatest. one thing i would say to everyone if you plan on owning anything apple make for a life time. don’t buy it first gen.

  • KyKid

    Add to that, that they were developing this product for two and a half years. They had to have some kind of rollout plan for the product, and it’s replacements. If knowing that they were gonna hose the early adopters just like that was part of their plan… it’s just spiteful. Thanks for the loyalty.

  • beeDevil

    Off the AP newswire:

    Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said anyone who purchased an iPhone within the past 14 days and has the receipt can get a full refund under Apple’s return policy if they haven’t opened the product. If they have opened it, they still can get a refund of the price difference.

  • Andrew DK

    Hmmm, so most of the people who willingly bought an iPhone before the price cut were actually just whiny 12-year-olds? O_o

    I did not know that.

    It’s time to take responsibility for your actions.

    That’s what grown-ups do.

  • Andrew DK

    All tech companies continuously upgrade products and drop prices.

    It’s called “progress”.

    Whether you think progress is a good thing or bad thing; it’s reality.

    Remember reality? That’s where we all live. You people who got “screwed” should drop by sometime.

  • Bill Coleman

    If you look at the all-up cost of the iPhone for two years, it’s not such a dramatic cut.

    Consider: In addition to the $399, you’re going to pay $60/month for two years. So, it’s not a price change from $599 to $499, it’s from $2039 to 1839. That’s about a 10% price change.

    Further, remember all the pundits who decried the iPhone as being overpriced for six months before it ever shipped? Well, maybe they were right. And Apple has corrected the situation.

  • Rey

    I agree with “Church of Apple”. I’ve been screwed by Apple before as well. (just not this severely) It definitely shows progress when the products are made more affordable. I feel for everyone who bought the last version of a G5 iMac, G4 iBook, or G4 Powerbook. They were screwed out of a faster chip and built in iSight camera. If you’re not pleased with Apple’s decision, then sell your current iPhone and await the 16GB that we all know is coming. Chances are that it will be outdone by the iPod “invisa” anyway.

    :D

  • Greg

    Oh, Boo-Hoo. Those who bought the iPhone have been walking around with the coolest technology on the planet in their pocket for possibly two months. They’ve had experiences of showing this thing off to friends and to strangers, and so, by extension, they could also be thought of as cool and hip. Isn’t that partly why they bought the phone?

    Apple didn’t twist anyone’s arm – they just made the iPhone so drool-worthy people had to have it. That’s not screwing the users, it’s doing what Apple (or any company, for that matter), is in business to do – sell products. People who paid the money thought it was worth the price, or they wouldn’t have bought the dang thing.

    Early on, the components for this phone (e.g., the flash memory, screen, chipsets) were expensive. But by leveraging these components into new products, Apple can commit to greater quantity from from manufacturers, driving costs down. I’m grateful Apple’s chosen to pass that savings onto the consumer, rather than simply pocketing the difference.

    Apple (again, like any other company) has a goal and duty to its shareholders to increase market share. Making the phone more affordable helps to meet that goal. The iPhone is now the bar by which all other phones are now measured. Other phones will certainly challenge the iPhone, and the Apple will respond by improving its product. This is called progress.

    Those who are concerned about newer, better, cheaper, should take responsibility and educate themselves about the market, company events, and even the calendar (the holiday season is coming…) before they make their purchases. I’d like a new iMac – and I know the new OS, Leopard, is coming. I’ve been waiting all summer so I won’t have to drop another $130 in October when it’s finally released. And I know that there will be new stuff announced at the January ’08 MacWorld. And I may have buyer’s remorse then – but ultimately, it’s my choice when I buy. Just as it was the choice of the early iPhone adopters.

  • d0b3rmann

    HELLO PEOPLE!!!!

    http://www.apple.com/hotnews/o

    I love Steve

  • Joseph

    Hey Ann, bitter because I don’t own an iPhone? That’s an interesting interpretation of my comment. It seems to confirm that you’re a self-indulgent whiner. I mean “Apple has only hurt their own image…this huge price cut smacks of desperation.” Desperation? LOL.

    I live in a country where the iPhone hasn’t been released yet. Am I bitter because I can’t buy it yet? Not at all. I’ll buy it as soon as it’s released. But I’ve bought plenty of devices from Apple and other companies where a better or cheaper version is released a month or two later. Again, if you want to have the latest coolest thing before everyone else, you should expect to pay a premium for it. In an industry like consumer technology, that’s the way it works. Buyers of computers, TV’s, or mobile phones, etc., should be sensible enough to know that much.

  • sdude

    Tempest in a teapot. Let this be a lesson to all early adopters: apple sh*t goes down in price as it gets better. Haven’t y’all heard of the Moore’s Law?

  • Michael

    It’s funny how so many people are treating this price reduction as something on the order of an abuse of human rights. Why don’t you actually spend your airtime on something that really makes a difference in this world.

  • Richard Bussiere

    This is the price for being an early adopter! Yes, I too would be disasapointed with the $200 price drop but that’s the way it is with technology. Those who did buy the iPhone early did certainly enjoy the pleasure of having one of the first to show off to friends, co-workers and family, and this is indeed a pleasure that many will pay a premium to have. Additionally, even though the price reduction was fairly soon after the products introdution, it absolutely should have been expected.

    In fact, I applaud Apple for constant product updates. This means that, at any one time, you are getting the best possible product that you can buy – indeed a snapshot of ‘state of the art’. At the end of it, you get the product that you paid for and that product delivers the features that attracted you to it in the first place.

  • Alan Sawyer

    Yeah get over it. What’s Apple supposed to do? NOT release a product in case they have a better product down the line waiting to come out? If I had been Steve Jobs I would have told the early adopters to take a hike. again, what is Apple supposed to do? Not release new products when they are ready? How long do you suggest they wait before they release a new product. Get OVER it