Delicate Feature Dance

It’s mid-September, and as summer swiftly comes to a close it seems like a great number of other things are wrapping up in my life as well. The crops are nearly ready for harvest, I just submitted version 1.8 of Snapthread, and in exactly one month we’ll be welcoming a new addition to our family. Apple is busy wrapping things up as well, having debuted its new iPhone and Apple Watch models this past Wednesday, and preparing to release iOS 12 to the public this coming Monday (and macOS Mojave the following week).

As I watched Wednesday’s keynote, I was intrigued by the decisions Apple made regarding the iPhone lineup, particularly the differences between the iPhone XR (this is where I remind your brain to pronounce it “iPhone TEN ARRR”) and its considerably more expensive counterparts. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “driving conversions” and how to nudge people to make certain buying decisions. Snapthread is becoming a freemium app on Monday, and as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I had a hard time deciding what features to gate off from my free customers.

Apple had to figure out where to draw that magic feature line too. The way I see it, if you have two models of the same product, a cheaper entry-level model and a premium one, you have two choices: present the cheaper one first and position the premium one as “this model has everything the first model has, PLUS all of these other must-have features,” or present the cheaper one second, and explain what features are missing, which kinda gives off a “sad trombone” vibe for anyone who can’t afford a >$1,000 cell phone. I’m fascinated that Apple chose to do the latter, and with a twist even: the iPhone XR is actually more compelling in some ways than the XS and XS Max. It has longer battery life, it comes in more colors, it has a bigger screen than the XS, all while sacrificing…what? Optical zoom and 3D Touch? An OLED screen? This phone is clearly meant for the masses.

It made me wonder what purchasing decision Apple is trying to drive customers to make, until I realized: they probably don’t care. Like, at all. Because regardless of which iPhone model turns out to be the breakout star of 2018, their average selling price goes up, up, up. My guess is that in the United States, the iPhone XR is going to sell like hot cakes. Everybody and their brother and their middle schooler is going to want one of those suckers, probably in yellow or orange.

Overall, the event made me even more excited for the iPad and Mac announcements likely coming in October. Will Apple make similar decisions with the MacBook lineup? Just like iPhones, MacBooks have gotten gradually more and more expensive. Will Apple make their entry-level laptops so fresh and compelling that choosing between them and a MacBook Pro is somehow more difficult? And what about iPad Pros? Certainly they’ve got more up their sleeve than just FaceID and edge-to-edge displays (or really really slim bezels, for the pedantic). It’s all very exciting, and if I weren’t having a baby in ~4 weeks I’d say the October event is the one thing I’m most looking forward to this year.

In the meantime, I ordered an Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS) in silver aluminum and a tangerine sport loop, which should arrive this Friday. There was something bittersweet about setting an alarm on my Series 0 for 1:59AM so I could order its replacement; on the other hand, I’m definitely looking forward to the enormous difference in speed and features I’ll get with the Series 4. I’m also looking forward to seeing what I can do with Siri Shortcuts to manage life with both a toddler and a newborn.

My list of potential blog topics continues to grow, so expect to read more from me soon!