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Apple dismisses Google’s criticism over turning privacy into a ‘luxury good’ (theverge.com)
43 points by Tomte on May 27, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 38 comments

Ridiculous criticism. If Google wanted to bring privacy to the masses for cheap, they could do it. Nobody is stopping them. If Apple makes it part of their sales pitch, regardless of the price of their devices, I see no problem with that.

The funny part is that it's precisely Google and friends who are giving Apple this position to make privacy a selling point.

Isn't it because Apple isn't able to make web services that use user data in an effective way? See the failures of Apple Maps, iCloud e-mail, iAd, etc.

How? Google respects privacy more than Apple does.

> How? Google respects privacy more than Apple does.

[citation needed]

Google lets you delete more of the things they record of you doing. Google gives you more control.

Please explain.

Google is making some moves towards increasing privacy [1], though we haven't seen the results yet. It's part of the same marketing message.

It seems like having Apple and Google competing on privacy could end up being a good thing, though where it ends up is anyone's guess.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/7/18535532/google-chrome-ad-...

Yeah exactly, it's like we're taking privacy a cheap or free good and making it non-existent (Google) but shame on your for offering it at a higher price.


It’s a bit weird for Google to complain that people who can’t afford Apple devices are forced to use the inferior Google offerings.

With Apple, it's pure marketing. Apple devices are far worse for privacy than all competitors. Try to develop apps for your iDevice without giving Apple your banking details or reinstalling weekly. Try not sending location data to Apple for AGPS (opt-in on even Google-flavored Android devices).

Of course, marketing works, so people fall for it. I've seen people blame Google for manipulating them with ads. Apple is just as bad — getting people to pay more for worse products. Nobody can offer a concrete reason for why Apple devices are better for privacy (because they aren't), yet they will still parrot that it is — right out of Apple's marketing talking points.

> Nobody can offer a concrete reason for why Apple devices are better for privacy

"Google servers communicated significantly lower number of times with an iPhone device compared to Android (45% less). However, the number of calls to Google’s advertising domains were similar from both devices - an expected outcome since the usage of 3rd-party webpages and apps was similar on both devices. One notable difference was that the location data sent to Google from an iOS device is practically non-existent. In the absence of Android and Chrome platforms—or the use of any other Google product—Google becomes significantly limited in its ability to track the user location."


> One notable difference was that the location data sent to Google from an iOS device is practically non-existent.

Instead, location data goes to Apple, as I mentioned in GP post. Worse, unlike with Android, you can't turn it off. Similarly, consider mapping apps. All map location links are required to open in Apple Maps, sending your data to Apple, and there is no way to change it. On Android, you can set a purely offline mapping application as default. And a similar situation arises with apps. Apple knows every app you've installed, whether you want them to or not. Not so on Android.

>> All map location links are required to open in Apple Maps

"These schemes allow you to launch the Google Maps app for iOS"


Unlike on Android, this is not up to the user but the app developer. If you want to use a fully offline maps app, good luck finding other apps that will support its URI scheme.

You can develop for the iPhone using an anonymous pre-paid credit card.

And Apple absolutely led the way in privacy. Differential privacy, secure enclave, rotating ad identifiers, randomising MAC address, UI prompts before apps can access data, on device ML models. And their implementation of fingerprint and facial recognition was significantly more secure than their competitors.

I’m not sure an anonymous prepaid credit card is a real solution

The fact that this criticism was uttered by the Google CEO is deliciously ironic.

I do think, however, that it is a valid point in general: I would love to see Apple selling low(er)-cost devices that appeal e.g. the Indian market, so that they too can benefit more from the privacy advantages of an iPhone. While I do see that, at first (and second) glance this would be hard to reconcile with Apple's general strategy and image, I'm sure a company with Apple's resources would be able to "sell" this move well.

Apple is selling older models in those markets e.g. iPhone SE/6.

And remember that India is rapidly moving towards a typical middle class society and so people want premium products to show off their new found wealth.

People look at older models as older models, even though they may be good enough and may provide software updates for longer compared to many Android phones in that price range. It also looks odd (to the purchaser) when one is buying something that's a four year old model. Android phones, with the range of hardware differences, don't yield to such simple comparisons, and many of them offer slightly better hardware Year on year at the same price points.

Apple probably needs to come up with newer, refreshed (hardware), low priced models to beat this. But I wouldn't hold my breath on such a move happening.

You can always get a last generation's phone for cheaper than the flagships.

The irony is so delicious, I think Alanis should update her song with this.

Apple’s focus on privacy is quite a smart move. Google can’t respond to it by tightening the privacy of their devices because that would undermine their business model.

I find both viewpoints laughable: That Google thinks it has any shade to throw at Apple over privacy, and that Apple doesn't think it has become a purveyor of luxury goods.

Apple's installed base is 1.4 billion devices. 1.4 billion of any consumer product isn't "luxury".

Words mean things and "luxury goods" are from brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Rolex, and Ferrari. Scarcity is an actual strategy for those companies. And if you actually consider the total cost of ownership rather than the upfront price, Apple products will either be equivalent or even cheaper than the competition.

Pichai and Zuckerberg have both tried this deflection now, and it just isn't a very good line of attack for the above reason. Apple products are too ubiquitous that everyone intuitively understands it's nonsense.

Right, that’s exactly the brilliant insight that made Steve Jobs the genius he was: offer a product that is unquestionably luxurious, yet somehow also widely attainable. Result: the richest, most successful people in the world are sporting the exact same iPhone as my mom.

Gruber has a great quote from Andy Warhol on the subject some years ago: https://daringfireball.net/linked/2012/01/03/warhole-coke

> 'Apple's installed base is 1.4 billion devices. 1.4 billion of any consumer product isn't "luxury".'

it's reasonable to argue that apple isn't a luxury brand ("upmarket" maybe), but citing global sales here isn't very compelling. for instance, 1 device per person would be less than 20% of the world's population, and probably heavily skewed to the richest 20%, so it's hard to accept that on its face.

global median income is on the order of $1,000/year, so most people around the world consider apple a luxury brand, out of reach of the common person.

i'd suggest refining your argument, rather than essentially resting on your perception of "everyone's intuitive understanding".

Perhaps the term is premium.

But that word doesn't have the implication of wastefulness they're hoping to attach to Apple.

I think a very coarse but useful way (for me at least) to think of consumer goods is that they tend to sort out into 3 markets: mass market, premium, luxury. In general, mass market is the 80-90% solution for most people, in which products are commodities and the big players tend to compete on price. Mass market products tend to have very low margins but make up for it with high volume.

The premium market is almost all of the remaining 10-20%. Premium should (ideally, but not always in practice) mean that nothing about the product is compromised or half-assed, while still costing not-insane amounts of money compared to the mass market alternatives. A consumer pays a premium price because they like the thing and/or they like being able to assume that it's premium quality even with respect to things they don't know enough to care about. Premium products tend to have fatter margins and lower volume than mass market products, but generally have the greatest success if they can justify themselves to premium consumers. Competitive advantage within a premium market is often value, ironically- best bang for the buck overall, there's just an assumed higher cost of entry vs mass market.

The luxury market is exactly as Despegar wrote. Tiny companies selling very small quantities of tremendously expensive baubles. Value is almost meaningless here. It's the opposite of mass market- it's the other extreme of trying to maximize (margin * volume).

I think the three tiers of mass market/premium/luxury represent local maxima that companies naturally gravitate towards by applied market forces, with perhaps a global maximum somewhere in the premium range. These sweet spots represent healthy places for businesses to be, for the companies, their customers, and their shareholders.

For example, the auto industry: Toyota and VW are mass market, Lexus and Audi are premium, and Bugatti and Ferrari are luxury.

Steak places: Sizzler and Black Angus are mass market, Ruth's Chris and Flemings are premium, and some place in Hong Kong that doesn't advertise or even have a name and that I will sadly never learn about or be invited to is luxury.

All of which is a very long-winded way for me to say that yep, 1.4bil devices is definitely not luxury. Mostly premium (in the higher-cost-of-entry-but-better-long-term-value sense) but still a huge number. Vertu was luxury, and they completely sucked on top of that.

Hehe. Apple _is_ the Gucci equivalent for phones. There are no better products. And while it's an affordable product for many US citizens this is not case for some EU citizens.

Until we get rid of the EU and Apple can lower their prices in poorer countries.

To be fair, the cheapest phone you can buy right now from Apple is an iPhone 7 which comes in at a hefty $450. For a large majority of the world's population, this is pretty much completely unaffordable.

People in developing countries have maybe $100 - $200 maximum they can afford to spend on a device, and that's often through a very long time spent saving. Such a purchase is more akin to buying a car for these people. You could see then how having the price be doubled in order to be able to get access to a new Apple device would scream "luxury" in many ways.

That Apple dismisses these criticisms so lightly shows to me, a lack of perspective, that is frankly quite concerning. The world is a lot bigger than just Cupertino or the Bay Area, and it seems like Google has managed to understand this point. I wonder when Apple will too. Perhaps a new CEO is needed? Someone like Sundar who has actually lived through the experience of growing up in a developing country, and truly understands the pain points and thus opportunities that come with it.

Luxury of course is a relative term and in many parts of the world a $450 device would be considered a luxury. I don't think Apple is lightly dismissing the point, however. Apple does not leverage user data in the same way and their profits are driven by sales of goods and services. Federighi implicitly states that there is an amount of private user data utilized by Google in order to subsidize the cost of the phones.

Apple is often compared with Google, but it'd be more appropriate to compare them against Samsung, Huawei, LG, or another phone manufacturer. They produce a limited amount of products that largely serve a higher end market. They produce all their own processors and they don't design low end versions of the chips like Qualcomm do.

Could they afford to design lower end chips and offer low end offerings that could serve a broader base? Perhaps, but I doubt they'd like to dilute their brand image in order to do so.

Google can say privacy shouldn't be a luxury item but until real action is taken on their part to eliminate their own exploitation of user's private data, it holds no value to me.

> exploitation of user's private data

You don't understand privacy. If Apple collects the same information as Google, that is just as bad for your privacy as Google collecting that data and doing something useful with it (e.g., allowing you to search your images by content or providing reasonable spam filtering). Of course, Apple collects more information, so it is actually worse (e.g., banking details for developing apps for your own device and location data for AGPS that cannot be disabled).

There is absolutely no requirement, moral or economic, for Apple to cover every single segment of the market. It is perfectly reasonable for different companies to specialize in different price segments.

Plus firing the CEO because he’s not selling enough products to developing nations is a patently absurd idea.

Hyperbole much? A new CEO because they make devices only for rich people?

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