selling better

Choice: Why iPhones Are Selling Better Than Ever

One upon a time, Apple only released one new iPhone each year. This remained true until 2013 with the dual release of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. This meant iPhones were selling better than before with twice the choice. Even though Apple changed their strategy, there was still only one true flagship phone – the 5s. The 5c, although just as new, instead served as both a replacement for the discontinued iPhone 5 and as a discount version of the more premium 5s.

This spawned a new age for Apple, the age of choice.Only a year later, Apple went “all in” and released two simultaneous flagship devices: the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6 Plus. Here Apple made a clear decision to differentiate the two flagship phones – they could have simply offered the new “iPhone 6” in two size configurations much like they offer a choice in colour or storage capacity, but instead the larger device got its own name and some exclusive features such as optical image stabilization in the rear camera.

As we look into the future for Apple, it seems that this trend will continue with iPhone variations selling better. The 2015 iPhone 6s and 6s Plus flagship phones added the Rose Gold colour variation. And in March 2016, Apple introduced the iPhone SE, a return to the 4-inch iPhone model with the internals of an iPhone 6s. One only needs to look at the Apple Watch to see that giving customers more choice and configurations has become a priority for Apple.

The question becomes, is more choice a good thing?

Another thing that has happened recently is that Apple’s profits are better than ever; they recently reported amazing Second Quarter results, driven largely by record iPhone sales. Of course this correlation by itself does not prove anything, but it fits nicely into Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on choice and consumer happiness.

Malcolm Gladwell argues that there is no one perfect product that will make everyone as happy as they can be. In other words, not everybody is the same, so forcing only one choice will ultimately sacrifice everybody’s happiness.

Until recently, this is more or less what Apple was doing with the iPhone. There were a few options, such as colour – but overall there was one-device-fits-all mentality.

Gladwell says that that if we instead provide different versions of a product designed for different “clusters” of the population, then more people will be able to have the version that is best for them, therefore increasing their happiness and causing the product to be selling better.

It seems that Apple is beginning to move toward a similar mindset to what Gladwell describes, especially when it comes to screen size. Consumers have different sizes of hands, and different priorities for what they want in their device. By offering different sized models, they can please those who want as big of a screen as possible, as well as those who value being able to use their phone one handed.

Barry Schwartz, on the other hand, is critical of the effects that too much choice can have. He argues that as choice increases, our ability to make and be happy with a decision becomes more difficult, adding stress and confusion to our lives. His theories are often talked about in conjunction with “buyer’s remorse.”

He goes on to say that people are less satisfied with their decisions when there are more options to choose from.

As more options become available it becomes more conceivable that, somewhere, is the perfect option for “me.” With raised expectations for what could have been, consumers become less satisfied with the choices they make, even if it is technically better than what they would have gotten if there was no choice to begin with.

Essentially at a certain point, more choices can cause more harm than good.

Counting for model, colour, and storage size there are currently 29 different variations of the iPhone that you can purchase right now from the Apple store (not to mention all of the other past combinations that are no longer for sale). This number of variations of the iPhone is probably reasonable – however as Apple ads more options, it is not hard to imagine the number of variations to quickly get out of hand.

The iPhone a product that people spend a lot of money on and are committing to keep for at least two years, so making the right choice is more important than choosing the perfect salad dressing.

If a consumer does finds themselves unhappy with their purchase, they aren’t completely stuck, however. Luckily, the iPhone you choose doesn’t have to be a permanent decision – second-hand markets like Orchard allow users to trade up, change colour, or get more storage relatively easily, softening the potential negative impact that too much choice could have.


For now it seems like choice is a good thing. Apple’s success can’t be solely attributed to the wider selection of iPhones – but it certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt.


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