Quick. Can you name Apple’s least expensive Mac? If you answered MacBook, you’d be wrong. It’s the MacBook Air, a seven-year-old design that still sells, and the entry-level device’s $999 price tag tells us something about price points. A couple of hundred dollars matters.
The MacBook Air remains a viable product because of its entry-level price. $999 is Apple’s least expensive notebook, and mobile Macs make up 80-percent of all Mac sales. The MacBook starts at $1,299 and comes with a somewhat anemic Intel Core m3 CPU, but a Retina display. It’s also very light. The MacBook Air weighs a whopping three pounds, while the smaller MacBook weighs about two pounds.
Guess what? A MacBook Pro starts at… insert drum roll here… $1,299, the same as the smaller, lighter, less powerful MacBook. There are differences in SSD storage which help to account for the price similarity but I call foul. The Mac vs Mac price is a mess which doesn’t help customers make viable choices.
The entry-level MacBook is anemic relative to an entry-level MacBook Pro. The former comes with an Intel Core m3 CPU but 256GB SSD storage. The latter comes with an Intel Core i5 CPU but only 128GB SSD storage. Both models have 8GB of RAM.
Why the similarity and the disparity?
It’s all about a product marketing technique known as price migration. Prices and configurations are set the way they are to entice a customer to move upward in the product line. In essence, it’s a trick to get you to spend more money. Apple isn’t alone in pushing customers to migrate to more expensive devices. Every product manufacturer does much the same thing. Apple does it better than most.
Here’s the narrative that Apple hopes gets played out in a potential customer’s mind when deciding on a new Mac notebook.
Price. MacBook Air is only $999. But there’s no Retina display, and it’s a technology design that dates back many years. It’s Apple’s dinosaur notebook. $300 more gets you more choices. A MacBook is thinner and lighter than a MacBook Air, comes with a Retina display, has double the storage, about the same battery life, but weighs a pound less.
Is that worth $300?
The MacBook Pro vs. the MacBook seems to be a bridge or gap price. They’re the same at $1,299, but the latter is lighter, while the former has a more powerful CPU and double the number of USB-C Thunderbolt ports and weighs 50-percent more.
See the problem? Everything better is just a few hundred dollars more.
Want a Mac notebook but don’t want old technology? The MacBook is $300 more than the MacBook Air. Want more power and the same storage? That’s a few hundred dollars more. Need more USB-C Thunderbolt ports and that nifty but gimmicky Touch Bar and the very cool and safe Touch ID fingerprint sensor? That’s another $300.
Across the board, Apple plays a similar game with pricing migration. Every better iteration of a device– Mac, iPhone, iPad– is just a few hundreds dollars more. ‘More’ is the important word and products and configurations are created with a few obvious notions in mind. #1, more money for Apple. #2, refer to #1.
Nobody does this better than Apple.