WSJ Claims iPhone XR’s Delayed Release Is Strategic

Tripp Mickle, Yoko Kubota, and Takashi Mochizuki, reporting last week for The Wall Street Journal:

Last year’s release of the high-end iPhone X came six weeks after Apple’s other two new, less expensive smartphones because of what The Wall Street Journal and others reported were production delays involving its advanced organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen.

This year, according to people familiar with Apple’s production plans, the company prioritized production of its two pricier OLED models, the iPhone XS and XS Max, whose prices start at about $1,000. Both will hit stores Friday, followed five weeks later by the least expensive new model, the XR, which has an LCD screen and a starting price of $749.

The staggered release gives Apple a month to sell the higher-end models without cheaper competition from itself. It also simplifies logistics and retail demands and could strengthen Apple’s ability to forecast sales and production of all three models through the Christmas holidays, analysts and supply chain experts said.

One thing the Journal doesn’t mention is advertising. With a staggered release, Apple can spend a month advertising only the iPhone XS and XS Max. Then come mid-October, promote the hell out of the iPhone XR. The iPhone XS ads I’ve seen — TV, print, billboards — focus entirely on the new gold finish and the fact that there are two sizes of the same phone. The tone is luxury — dark backgrounds, dramatic lighting. Just a guess but I’ll bet the colorful lineup of iPhone XR models gets a more playful ad campaign.

I have no idea what’s really going on, how much of this is deliberate on Apple’s part and how much is the result of actual production problems. For all I know Apple really did want to get the XR into stores last week, alongside the XS. But marketing-wise that doesn’t make much sense. A staggered release gives both the XS and XR time in the spotlight.

(And the XR deserves a big ad campaign. It’s not last year’s phone at a lower price. It’s an all-new iPhone with cutting edge specs and features and an all-new design.)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018