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Apple inflation: iPhone, iPad, and Mac prices all surge amid new launches

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In the past two months, Apple has launched the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPad Pro, Mac mini, and MacBook Air. The common thread? Apple is testing how much it can raise prices — and the prospect has Wall Street analysts salivating. Tech buyers may not be so happy.

Must read: Apple’s new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini: Can features, specs retain business momentum?

If we’ve learned anything about Apple in recent months and years, it’s that the company has pricing power. While Samsung customers may choke on higher prices and push the company into more of a value-oriented pitch, Apple remains the luxury device maker.

We’re about to find out just how far Apple can push price increases. To be fair, commodity costs have risen, and China tariffs are going to hit at some point. In many ways, Apple is just part of a broader inflation trend in the US economy. In other words, Apple isn’t the only company looking to raise prices to preserve margins.

Another point to ponder is that Apple has raised premium device prices, but offered other devices like the iPhone XR to appeal to those of us that don’t want to go higher than $1,000 for a phone.

Are Apple prices justified? Think the iPhone is expensive? The iPad Pro has it beat | Apple’s storage pricing oddities | Your old $99 Apple Pencil is now junk | iPhone XS Max: How much profit does Apple really make on each one sold? | iPhone XS Max teardown: Here’s what $1,249 flagship costs Apple in parts | Apple’s iPhone XS Max price tops out at $1,449 — and 8 other keynote takeaways | Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018): Impressive performance at a premium price

Nevertheless, Apple’s higher prices are hard to miss. Jefferies analyst Timothy O’Shea outlined the price increases following the iPad Pro and MacBook Air launch. He could hardly contain himself over the prospect of higher average selling prices boosting revenue.

O’Shea outlined what many of you are finding out as you configure Apple devices:

Hardware prices continue to rise across product lines. Starting at $799, the new 11-inch iPad Pro is 23 percent more expensive than the previous model’s $649. Starting at $1,199, the new MacBook Air is 20 percent more expensive than the previous model’s $999. And starting at $799, the new Mac Mini is a whopping 60 percent more expensive than its predecessor at $499. iPhone prices have risen 13 percent and 19 percent during the last two years.

O’Shea also noted that Apple has “clear pricing power in the near term” and is “clearly flexing its muscle here.” The other wrinkle here is that accessory prices are going higher, too. The Apple Pencil costs $129, or 30 percent more than the first gen. The Smart Keyboard Folio starts at $179, 13 percent more than the older version. “Bottom line, after you spend 23 percent more for this year’s iPad Pro, you also spend more on pricier accessories,” he said in a research note.

Also: Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

It’s a nice gig, if you can get it. In technology, Apple is one of a few companies that can maintain pricing power. Analysts aren’t going crazy raising their revenue projections for Apple, but they are likely to as soon as the company reports earnings on Thursday.

Apple is expected to report fourth quarter revenue of $61.57 billion and net income of $13.48 billion. For fiscal 2018, Apple is expected to report net income of $58.91 billion on revenue of $264.03 billion. And that windfall is before the full effect of Apple’s hardware refresh and price increases are seen. Here’s a look at Apple’s historical as well as projections for the future via Thomson Reuters.

apple-revenue-outlook.png

Apple’s financials — historical and estimated. (Source: Thomson Reuters)

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Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch

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Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.

The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.

The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.

So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.

Image Credits: Epic Games

At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.

Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.

Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.

Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.

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Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch

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What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.

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Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch

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Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”

The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.

“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.

The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.

The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

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