I accidentally killed my Macbook Pro last Monday after spilling a glass of water all over it and then doing everything you are not supposed to do including not powering down immediately and charging it overnight so that the "insides could dry faster". I took it to the nearby new Apple store on Brompton Road in London's Knightsbridge area yesterday and was told that it would cost between £500-1,200 to fix, depending on the number of parts that needed to be replaced. As the entry price of a new Macbook Pro is just over £1,200, it didn't make sense to try to fix it. Bottom-line: I need a new laptop.
I decided to check out the latest iMac and MacBooks and quickly realised that my unwavering loyalty to Apple is fading. I have always been a big fan of Apple and have an old iMac (which is heading to the recycling pit), my dearly departed MacBook, an iPad Pro, four active iPhones (the challenges of being a Global citizen), an Apple Watch and Apple TV. What I love about the Apple ecosystem is how all my devices talk to each other and I no longer worry about losing data.
It was when I got my iPhone 13 Pro in Singapore back in December 2020, that my relationship with Apple started to change. I think they underestimated just how annoyed customers were to receive a phone without a charger and headphones. Opening the box of a new Apple product was a huge part of the experience and every accessory delighted customers as much as opening expensive Christmas crackers. They took that away and it was not ok. I mentally downgraded Apple from as a manufacturer that spoilt its customers and was in a league of its own, to just another phone maker. Apple had always been the leader and was now following the masses whose no-frills approach was the norm. The spell was broken. I will not be in a hurry to buy the latest iPhone 14 Pro which retails for at least £1,099.
I felt a sense déjà vu when I saw the new iMacs yesterday. Is it just me or do they look like the Acer computers from circa 2017? The sexy curves and the front Apple logo are gone. The only creativity is offering the iMacs in different bright colours from green, blue and orange. It made me want to hang onto my iMac relic for old times' sake. I left the store without buying anything and need to think about whether I want to continue investing in this one-sided relationship. Where is the innovation? And how long before customers start to realise that they can get better value elsewhere?
Apple knows its products no longer sell themselves. In 2015, the company surprised analysts by increasing marketing spend by 50% to $1.8bn. It no longer shares this information but one suspects the number is much higher given the growth in the number of stores and the fierce competition from the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi. A company that switches from product-led to marketing-led smacks of decline.
It is interesting to note that despite commanding 31% of the mobile phone market in Africa, there is still no Apple store on the continent. Over 52% of Apple's 521 stores are located in the US and the geographical coverage is limited to just 25 countries globally, despite claims that they are "present worldwide". It was reported back in 2019 that Apple was looking to open its first store in Egypt and they were rumoured to have purchased land in 2021. Samsung commands a leading 49% of the market share and has a regional office in Johannesburg. With Xiaomi, Huawei and other Asians brands offering affordable smartphones to tech-savvy Africans, one wonders if Apple is coming to the party a little late. Time will tell...