Meeting customer demands for new products is an impossible task. But some companies try, with loads of products in their lineups that differ only slightly. So normally a TV maker will have several groups of products at different price ranges with various features and specs to separate the cheap, cheapest. mid-priced and the high-end, with possible variations between these broad categories. Each of those product lines will feature TV sets with different screen sizes. I suppose that makes sense, although the actual improvement between adjacent categories might be little or non-existent to most people.
Apple attempts to keep it a lot simpler. The current iPhone lineup consists of the iPhone 7, this year’s model, the iPhone 6s, last year’s at a reduced price. plus the 4-inch iPhone SE. Compare that to Samsung and its various Galaxy iterations once led by the now-discontinued and faulty Galaxy Note 7.
But in keeping the lineups a lot easier to grasp than the competition, Apple risks alienating customers who want the configuration that isn’t being offered. They can become quite vociferous in demanding that Apple meet their needs. The compromises don’t matter to them. It’s very much like telling Hyundai or Kia to offer a mid-sized sedan with a six-cylinder engine even though no such models are being offered.
With the arrival of the Late 2016 MacBook Pro, the clamoring for a specific configuration not offered by Apple has become louder than ever. So even though no previous model has come with a 32GB option — and soldered RAM makes it impossible to change that with a third-party upgrade even if it would actually work — some people claim that Apple made a huge mistake by not offering that choice.
As regular readers know, some have expressed their anger. You’ll find some of those comments in our comment section. One of our readers made a huge deal of it across several messages even though he made it clear he actually didn’t need a 32GB MacBook Pro.
But there is a point to this argument, which is that some PC notebooks do offer more RAM, and there are definitely advantages for some users, although the extra memory goes unused by most. That said, Apple has, on several occasions, made a strong case for not taking that route. It would require a slower memory controller and power-hungry RAM. It would mean much less standby time and shorter battery life, and there have already been complaints.
Speaking of those complaints, Apple made a change in there way battery life is displayed in the macOS 10.12.2 upgrade. You still see a graphical display and the percentage, but the “Time Remaining” indicator is history. According to published reports, the measurements weren’t terribly accurate. On a new computer, it supposedly took a month for the estimates to come even close to reality.
That said, it may well be that some of the complaints about poor battery life in the new MacBook Pros are the result of this inconsistent display. The 10.12.2 update reportedly fixed graphics glitches on the new notebooks, but nothing was said about battery life. A key question is whether the complaints are based solely on the estimated time that’s displayed, or someone putting a stopwatch to actually measure how long it takes from a full charge until the machine runs out of juice.
I suppose we’ll see what’s going on here once more people do timed runs as opposed to just reading onscreen battery life estimates. Maybe that explains why most reviewers reported that battery life on these products was within the range of Apple’s 10-hour estimate.
It’s not that Apple doesn’t do things to address complaints. So the new iPhones don’t offer less than 32GB storage, nor does the current configuration of the iPhone 6s. The iPhone SE does come with 16GB, most likely to keep costs down, but it strikes me as more about penny-pinching. Maybe next year.
Now I am concerned about the way Apple managed the last Mac mini refresh, in 2014. The quad-core CPU options were removed, and the ability to upgrade RAM was eliminated. It’s part of Apple’s move to remove most upgrade options on Macs, except for memory on the 27-inch iMac and the moribund Mac Pro.
So why is Apple removing options that that at least some Mac users want?
When it comes to RAM, Apple charges far more for upgrades than third-party options. Only there aren’t third-party options, so when you buy a new Mac — with the above exceptions — you need to make a final decision about what configuration to buy. You won’t be able to change it.
Of course, that’s always been true about the iPhone and the iPad, so Apple is merely expanding the appliance approach to Macs, mostly. But don’t forget that you couldn’t upgrade the original 1984 Mac either.
Now I do not know just how many Mac users want to upgrade RAM. It may be a very tiny percentage, so Apple’s decision makes some sense. Obviously providing an integrated system with soldered RAM and SSDs may result in somewhat more reliability. It shaves a little space too, although I’m not at all convinced that either is a significant factor. The savings in manufacturing costs are probably too tiny to matter.
Regardless, Apple is not going to change its marketing direction or product configurations based on a small number of objections. But if a reasonable number of customers indicate they want something, I suppose Apple might listen.