May 30, 2013
Less than two weeks before the tech world converges on San Francisco for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has thrown us an interesting curve ball. As previously reported, Cupertino has quietly released a new iPod touch that is less expensive than previous models. This is a big deal, but probably not for the reasons you may think. The new iPod touch 16GB looks exactly like the models first released last fall. However, it is priced at $70 less than the others. Those savings come at a cost. Unlike the higher-end models, the $229 iPod touch 16GB has no rear-facing camera. It also comes without the iPod touch loop. Beyond these modest changes, the new iPod touch is just like the others. It includes a Lightning to USB cable, Retina display, and dual-core A5 chip. Besides the lower price, why is this important? The iPod touch 16GB represents Apple’s first foray into the lower cost mobile device market. And this is why it is such a big deal. As reported often in recent months, Apple is likely to release a so called “iPhone mini” later this year, as well as drop the price on the second-generation iPad mini. These moves show that Apple is getting serious about competing in the lower cost market – even if it means downgrading the features these products include. Steve Jobs probably wouldn’t have done this as Apple CEO, since he typically put quality over quantity, even if it meant releasing more expensive products than competitors. However, Tim Cook has recognized, and rightly so, that we’re living in a different time. Companies, lead by Samsung, have figured out a way to create impressive products, but at price points typically below what Apple has been charging. As a result, Apple has been missing out on reaching a segment of the overall mobile market that is heavily influenced by price. Not anymore. Apple released the iPod touch 16GB with little fanfare. They didn't even send out a press release. I believe that this was a deliberate attempt by Cupertino to catch the competition off guard. It also proves that Apple can still surprise. Did anyone outside of Apple even know this product was coming? I don’t believe so. I expect that we’ll see other surprises in the coming months that go beyond the budget iPhone and lower priced iPad mini. This could happen at next month's WWDC, as well as at "special events" later this year. Things are about to get interesting, folks. Stay tuned. See also: The iPad mini's Incredible Shrinking Price, and There Is No Way Apple Would Release An 'iPad maxi,' Right?