The Macalope Weekly: Jaded

Forgive the Macalope if he sounds jaded, but when you’ve been in the pundit-skewering business as long as he has, you’ve pretty much seen it all. This week, the brown and furry one tries to outsource a takedown with lousy results, schools Forbes on the oldest trick in the marketing book, and even takes to task the employment of overused tech industry tropes against Apple’s competitors.

Pundit cage fight!

Rumors are swirling (like things that belong in toilet bowls are wont to do) about Apple shipping a cheap iPhone by the end of the year. Naturally, the crack punditry class is taking this as a done deal, and they’re ready to tell you why it’s both a great idea and the worst idea ever.

And you know what? The Macalope’s tired of doing all the heavy lifting. Let’s let two pundits fight it out!

IN THIS CORNER: BUSINESS INSIDER’S HENRY BLODGET WITH:

“Apple’s Cheap iPhone Is A Great Move For The Company”

AAAAAND IN THIS CORNER: THE STREET’S ROCCO PENDOLA WITH:

“A ‘Cheaper’ iPhone: Absolutely Awful News for Apple” (Pendola still gets a link.)

Gentlemen, the Macalope wants a clean fight. No hitting below the … actually, scratch that. Go to town. Seriously. Please.

Mr. Blodget, you’re the one whose name doesn’t sound like he was born to the ring, so you get to throw the first punch.

At the end of this year, when Apple’s cheap iPhone comes out, it is going to be amusing to listen to all the Apple fans who consoled themselves about Apple’s loss of market share by dismissing competitors’ phones as “cheap plastic crap.”

Aaaand he swings wide, trying to punch Apple fans instead. That’s pretty typical of Blodget’s style.

Pendola comes out of his corner!

So, Apple revolutionizes multiple spaces with iPod, iPhone and iPad. The lowest-end Mac proceeds to outclass upper-echelon PCs. Now, with true innovation standing slightly still at Apple, other companies have the opportunity to pounce. What do they do? Absolutely nothing. That’s awful news.

Ah, it’s the old “Apple used to ship an industry-revolutionizing product every 15 minutes under Steve Jobs!” argument!

Blodget surely knows that old saw.

(Presumably, Apple fans will regard Apple’s cheap plastic back as having been designed perfectly, unlike the usual cheap plastic crap.)

OK, he’s still bashing Apple fans. Back to Pendola.

We have no idea what’s going on with the company’s living room plans. Worse yet, we don’t really know if Tim Cook has any idea how to move forward with Apple TV.

How horrible! Tim Cook isn’t giving fireside chats to keep us up-to-date on Apple’s top secret plans OH WAIT…

Let’s see if Blodget’s in this fight yet, or if he’s still having his personal fight with Apple fans.

Apple’s decision to offer a $99-$149 phone will reduce the amount of profit that Apple makes per phone. And, relatedly, it will likely reduce Apple’s profit margin.

But that’s okay.

Well, at least Blodget’s consistent in his “market share is the only thing that matters” mantra. Consistently wrong, of course, but consistent. That counts for … well, nothing.

Pendola:

But, forget everybody else, on its own, the idea that Apple would use, as the WSJ calls it—“a … less expensive body” with “a … shell made of polycarbonate plastic” for a “cheaper” iPhone, not the “aluminum housing” deployed for iPhone 5 should scare the hell out of you.

Because the iPhone 3G/3GS form factor was such a colossal failure.

Blodget:

Apple’s profit margin is still extraordinarily high—the highest in the industry, by a mile.

Which is apparently a big problem. Somehow. It’s odd that Blodget had to pay the SEC millions of dollars to settle a securities fraud case. One would have thought it was related to simple business dude malpractice.

Well, this fight just goes on like this, and there are no winners. Not Blodget, not Pendola, and certainly not us. Because neither one of them are right: Apple may release a cheaper iPhone, but the Macalope will eat his stylish suit if Apple guts its very real profits in order to chase the fairies of market share. And the company won’t make something that’s a complete piece of crap, either.

Tiger Beat survey says

Forbes has been on a tear of late, and that should be pronounced “teer,” as in the tears of laughter that fall from the Macalope’s eyes as he reads the articles there. This week is certainly no exception.

“Is Apple’s iPhone No Longer Cool To Teens?” (tip o’ the antlers to Jay York)

Larissa Faw, let the Macalope introduce you to a little thing called “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.” Larissa, Betteridge’s Law. Betteridge’s Law, Larissa.

On the sliding scale of coolness, teens place most adults firmly on the uncool side.

What about Psy?! Don’t tell the Macalope that Gangnam Style is no longer in style! Although, it has indeed had more than its allotted 15 minutes. Certainly seems longer, anyway.

And unfortunately for Apple, this teen logic may also apply to smartphones.

Note the use of the qualifier “may,” because most of the actual evidence shows that kids love Apple products.

They want the latest, greatest phone that speaks to their generation. Samsung’s Galaxy and Microsoft’s Surface have recently introduced new and never-before-seen devices, whereas the first iPhone came out in 2007 (though new models are released each year).

What the? Wow. OK, Samsung does pretty well selling their devices certainly, but the Surface? Now you’re just making things up. Refer to the Nielsen survey the Macalope linked above. Apple products take four of the top five spots. Samsung Galaxy is 22nd and the Surface is 24th.

Ultimately, in the eyes of today’s youth, massive popularity has watered down Apple’s coolness. “Teens are telling us Apple is done,” says Tina Wells of the youth marketing agency Buzz Marketing Group. “Apple has done a great job of embracing Gen X and older [Millennials], but I don’t think they are connecting with Millennial kids. [They’re] all about Surface tablets/laptops and Galaxy.”

You know what teens think are really cool? Dancing with cool dudes in t-shirts and hats, inexplicably getting paint all over your face, and really boxy laptops. And pop-ups asking you to subscribe to our email newsletters. Those are the awesomest, according to teens Buzz interviewed. Apparently.

The Macalope had never heard of Buzz Marketing before and guess what?! Now he has! Mission accomplished!

The signs that youngest smartphone audience has cooled on Apple have been steadily accumulating over the past few months. Apple, for instance, dropped several spots or remained flat on several teen brand opinion polls, including marketing agency’s Smarty Pants’ Young Love survey.

Note that Faw does not tell us what Apple’s rating was in those polls, or by how much they fell. Also, she had seemingly never seen the Nielsen survey.

And while 67% of affluent teens still say they intend to purchase an iPhone as their next upgrade, reports Piper Jaffray, Samsung pulls in second with a strong 22%.

Less than a third of Apple’s results is the new “strong.”

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that it was unthinkable a mere 12 months ago that any teen would prefer any phone to an iPhone if given the option.

Or even a month ago!

Meanwhile, Research In Motion (RIM) is attempting to move back into the youth space, and has aligned with a few youth-oriented brands, including Extreme International, to develop Blackberry-specific apps and mobile programs aimed at 16-20-year-olds.

Try to remember all the way back to the start of this article, back when things made sense and there was sunshine and happiness in the world—before everything went dark. Faw first told us that teens didn’t like the iPhone because it was a stodgy old person phone. Now she’s is telling us that Apple faces competition with teens from the favorite phone of balding middle management types.

Why? What? Who? Dorp?

Here’s what probably happened: Budding teen marketing agency no one had ever heard of decided it needed some press, so it sent out results of an anti-Apple survey it conducted (because it’s not like Apple’s ever going to hire them), and Forbes jumped on that like a starving dog on raw chuck, despite the fact that we know nothing about how the survey was conducted, that other studies debunk their findings right in the eye, and that another teen marketing agency that Faw quotes notes that Apple’s future is pretty secure, so what the heck are you talking about and how did you get this number?

Phew.

Tired tropes are tired. Like that one.

Just because a writer uses a tired trope in favor of Apple or against an Apple competitor does not mean it will fall outside range of this mythical beast’s withering glare. Here’s two that need to be confined to the dumpster like a “YEAR OF THE NETBOOK” CES banner.

“Sorry Microsoft, I am breaking up with the Surface”

ZDNet’s James Kendrick makes a pretty good case for why he’s shelved his Surface, but the Macalope could do without the tired “Dear John letter” format. (If it’s not tired, how come the Macalope can almost cover one breakup note to Apple a week?) Also, it’s just weird, like calling devices sexy.

Attention gentlemen of the Internet (and possibly the ladies, too, but it seems to be mostly the men): Just because you spend a lot of time in front of something with your pants off does not mean you are in a relationship with it.

To Kendrick’s credit, he confines the metaphor weirdness to the title and the last paragraph. Most of the piece is about why the Surface doesn’t work for him. And it’s not like he’s alone in that assessment (tip o’ the antlers to The Loop).

Meanwhile, Bloomberg asks the Betteridge’s Law-breaking question “A $99 iPhone: Could It Be A Samsung Killer?”

Really? You’re asking if a cheaper iPhone could kill a gigantic chaebol that has its fingers in everything from toaster fridges to uranium fracking? (Disclaimer: The Macalope doesn’t know if Samsung is in the uranium mining business, he just likes using the word “fracking.”) Realistically, a cheaper iPhone wouldn’t even kill Samsung’s smartphone business. The company makes like a kajillion different kinds of phones. (And that’s not just the Macalope using a word he likes, that’s the actual number.) A better question would be “A $99 iPhone: Could It Be A Samsung Denter?”

Yes, yes, the horny one knows that doesn’t get clicks, but at least come up with something original. Here, the Macalope will give you one for free, Bloomberg:

“A $99 iPhone: Could It Make Samsung’s Shorts Ride Up?”

You can totally use that. No charge. Just stop it with the overused industry tripe.

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