The iPhone is a severely constrained product. We’re used to thinking that it’s production constrained—and it is, but it’s also distribution constrained. It has a business model that is almost completely dependent on operator subsidy. Few end users pay the $650 average price that Apple obtains and that price point has held for a remarkably long time. This price point is largely invisible to the user.
In this regard it’s very different from all the other products Apple sells. Historically, the company has preferred having its customers to also be its users and maintained a direct relationship with them, strengthening that relationship through its own retail channel for the last decade. Pricing is used by Apple as a signal to clearly illustrate value to the user and pricing is part of the communication about the product that Apple makes very explicit. This has been true for the iPod and Mac and is still true of the iPad. But this is not so for the iPhone. The entire marketing strategy for the iPhone (and hence the entire product concept itself) is “off message”.
Why is this?