Apple used to be the most secretive company in tech (apart from those working for the CIA, anyway). Apple still is secretive, of course, although there have been leaks. I don’t really count the iPhone 6 as a significant leak – I mean, iPhone 3, 4, 5 … what was the next one going to be? Swift, which was under development for four years without the media finding out, was certainly kept very quiet. That’s a long time to go without leaks.
Of course the supply chain can’t be as tightly monitored – no matter what agreements are signed, Apple can’t control it directly, whereas what goes on at Cupertino is kept at Cupertino. Visits to the Apple HQ are not encouraged, at least if you’re media. It’s invite or nothing. But as Apple settles down under the quite different guidance of Tim Cook, that’s changing too – media invitations have changed. Apple Inc invited Daniel Eran Dilger of Apple Insider through the doors of Infinite Loop to show off the the latest iPads and Macs, along with other members of the media – they used to be directed around the back of the Cupertino campus to the Town Hall door. This time they were greeted at the front door and led through the private campus courtyard – anathema under Jobs.
Dilger wrote “The uncharacteristic media micro-tour of Apple’s headquarters is part of a new experiment in dialing [sic] down the company’s reputation for excessive, nearly paranoid-level secrecy that it has maintained since its recovery in the late 1990s.”
Dilger’s take is that Apple is no longer the beleaguered underdog Steve Jobs took over to revitalise almost 18 years ago. More importantly, Apple doesn’t feel like the beleaguered underdog any more. Meanwhile, other managers at Apple are increasingly coming out of the shadows and talking about things they didn’t used to talk about. Walt Mossberg and Ina Fried talked to Apple VP of iPhone, iPod, and iOS Product marketing Greg Joswiak. He covered Apple Pay, the new Apple any-carrier SIM and the company’s rather regrettable rollout of buggy iOS 8.0.1. This little problem possibly impacted on the adoption of iOS 8 — it took nearly six weeks for iOS 8 adoption to break 50% of installs. iOS 7 was at that point after a week (iOS 8.1 seems very stable and introduced several new features, especially if you have Yosemite on your Mac as well).
Other Apple metrics are stronger than ever. Mac sales are up: the ‘middle-aged’ Mac (in the Wall Street Journal’s words) showed a surprising 21% jump in unit sales and had Apple’s computer line leapfrog the sagging iPad to become the company’s second biggest-selling product line in revenue terms, just behind the iPhone, in the last quarter. I don’t think anyone predicted this. The Mac line generated revenue of US$6.625 billion in the quarter; iPad revenue was at US$5.316 billion.
The new iPhone is popular, too, even in surprising places: in South Korea, iPhone 6 had 100,000 pre-orders. The new Samsung (Samsung being one of Korea’s flagship companies and successes) only had 30,000 pre-orders of its new Galaxy Note 4s in a similar same period when it launched in September. Apple isn’t exactly top phone there, though, not yet: in the second quarter, Apple’s handset market share in Korea was only at 6%, fourth with Samsung first at 63%, LG Electronics Inc at 22% and ‘Pantech’ (what, who?) at 7%.
Interestingly, it may be because Samsung’s only real point of difference with the iPhone previously was larger screens, according to Lee Seung-woo, an IBK Securities analyst in Seoul. He reckons the 6 could well rise dramatically against Samsung as a result. As for the bigger 6 Plus not selling as well as the slimmer 6, demand is so strong that supply is constrained, iPhone 6 Plus resale prices are currently higher than new, at 124% of its retail price on sites like eBay. Apparently the constraint is due to overwhelming demand. The new iPhone also holds its value better than competing smartphones from Samsung: Piper Jaffray research shows the Galaxy S5 worth just 81% of its retail price after 42 days; the Galaxy Note III was at 67%.
All good for the future, then.