About three years ago, I dropped my iPhone 3GS on the sidewalk at the local playground and the glass shattered. I was trying to sell a house and the texts were coming in fast and furious. I couldn't respond. So I walked over to the nearest Apple Store -- about a half mile away -- and within a half hour they had me up and running with a 16GB iPhone 4.
I've loved it for the better part of three years. There's really nothing wrong with it.
But I live in San Francisco. It's one of the most expensive cities in the United States. I feel lucky to live here at all, and I have a very fortunate life -- at least I'm not homeless and getting scammed by some rich guy who promised to pay me $40 to wait in line for a new iPhone, as reportedly happened in Pasadena this morning. But on a day-to-day basis, I don't feel rich.
I'm betting most of you don't feel rich either. We've all been squeezed for the last few years by stagnant wages on one side and higher prices (gas!) on the other. This is a real change from seven or eight years ago, when a lot of us did feel rich, even if that feeling turned out to be an illusion based on unsustainable speculation and financial shenanigans in the housing market.
But I do have that iPhone. Which Apple is now offering me more than $100 to trade in.
A new 16GB iPhone 5S costs only $199.
I'm already paying my monthly phone bill. It won't go up because of the new phone. As long as I'm willing to stick with AT&T for two more years -- and their data service is frequently bad but not bad enough to switch, plus I'm grandfathered into the unlimited data plan, plus my wife and I have staggered contracts on a family plan that make it complicated to switch -- I can get a brand new phone for less than $100.
Not just any brand new phone. A brand new smartphone from the company that created the consumer smartphone category. The phone from the brand I've been (mostly) loyal to since I first bought a smartphone. It's got a faster processor that will apparently make all my apps scream. It's got a new fingerprint sensor that means I'll never have to enter another password. It's got a different look and feel that just screams "NEW."
And it comes in gold. The color of money. So everybody walking down the street will know that I've got it.
I don't mean to trivialize the technology behind the iPhone 5S, or condescend to the thought process of the people who were waiting in line this morning to buy one. (Believe me, I considered it.) Instead, I'm praising Apple's absolute marketing genius. The gold iPhone is exactly what it seems to be -- an outward indicator of quality, available for a bargain price. It's like parking a new Mercedes in front of your house, only without the sticker shock.
Unfortunately, the gold one is apparently sold out so if I really want it, I'll have to wait. A month or two.
Creating a high-quality product is only half the battle. Knowing how to sell it is the other half. Nokia and Microsoft could take a lesson or two from this one.