Apple is finding out that its soon-to-be-shipped iPhone 6 Plus is in even higher demand than the company thought it might be. The new phone, which is being offered at a higher price than the standard iPhone 6, has still sold out well in advance.
Reports are coming in from all over the United States about month-long delays in promised delivery times for the 6 Plus. Meanwhile, the regular iPhone 6 can still be ordered for delivery on the first day of availability.
The reasons for this lack of availability seem to be complex. Apparently, the company had supply problems in the larger size, which meant that fewer were made in advance of the Sept. 19 release date. In addition, it’s possible that the company simply didn’t realize how many people wanted the larger, phablet-sized iPhone.
And make no mistake, the iPhone 6 Plus is a phablet. Its screen is only slightly smaller than the Galaxy Note 4 that Samsung is set to ship soon. The Note 4 is marketed as a phablet, just as the earlier iterations of the Note were.
For whatever reason, the iPhone 6 Plus is being marketed simply as a phone. But what’s really more important is that Apple has finally caved and offered a screen size that its customers wanted.
It’s worth noting that Apple is years behind Samsung in offering larger screen sizes, something that may explain the company’s lagging sales numbers, compared with Android devices, many of which have larger screens. So why does Apple seem to be so far behind the curve?
Part of the answer, of course, is that Apple only really launches one phone a year most years. Last year, it was the iPhone 5S, which was physically little different from the previous iPhone 5. It’s hard to keep up with the light-speed changes in the phone industry when it takes a company a year to make a substantive change.
Apple’s arch-rival Samsung, on the other hand, seems to have an inexhaustible supply of new phone types and launches them to fill any conceivable, and some inconceivable product niches.
But it could also be due to Apple’s established culture of doing only what the company believes it needs to do, regardless of what customers may indicate what they want. The concept of limiting customer input into the design of Apple products was part of the legacy of Steve Jobs, who fostered the idea that Apple knew best.
In reality, of course, customers know best about what they want and need, and it seems that Tim Cook recognized this and is taking steps to pay closer attention to what customers demand.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Arrives Late to the Screen Size Competition
But it takes time to change the direction of a large company, and Apple is no exception.
Making matters worse (at least, in a sense) is that Apple doesn’t do anything halfway. While the iPhone 6, for example, may not have the gee-whiz features that Samsung puts into its phones, they are beautifully engineered. And I’m not sure that some of those features, such as having the phone watch your eyes to see if you’ve nodded off while reading, are really in demand.
But there needs to be at least some attention paid to what customers really want. Screen size is a perfect example. When I bought an iPhone 5 some months ago, I quickly returned it simply because the screen was too small to use when browsing the Web and much too small for my hands. Phones with larger screens, such as the BlackBerry Z30, worked much better for me.
Obviously, they worked a lot better for a lot of users, as demonstrated by the hot sales of the Samsung Galaxy S smartphones. Now that Apple has a phone with a larger screen, initial sales of that model are already outpacing production.
But there’s an underlying problem here. Given the pace of change in the wireless device market, can Apple afford to wait years for significant developments?
Phones with large screens have been out for a while now, yet Apple is just now releasing its first. As time goes on, the pace of development will increase. If Apple stays on this once-a-year refresh cycle, how long before the company drops hopelessly behind?
Already, there have been any number of online jokesters suggesting that the iPhone 6 is the best new phone of 2010, and while that’s not true, the fact remains that Apple seems to be bringing up the rear in many technology features.
Right now, many of those features found in competing phones are of dubious value. For example, ultra-high-resolution cameras in a smartphone are of questionable value. But that’s not true of everything.
So the question has to be, how long can Apple afford to take such a leisurely development pace before some other manufacturer, whether it’s Microsoft or Samsung, arrives with some compelling feature that it will take Apple a year or more to deliver?
At the current state of development, that could be too long. Apple needs to find a way to pick up the pace, or it could be permanently too late to the game.