Apple loses the plot with iPhone XR

In a New Year, Apple reveals that iPhone sales are softening. With a new ad, it also reveals it doesn't know how to market the iPhone XR.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Color me indifferent.

(Screenshot by ZDNet)

Happy new trade war.

Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that trade tensions incited by the US have contributed to a slowing iPhone market in China.

This isn't, though, the whole story.

Last week, it was worth wondering whether Apple was having trouble marketing three new iPhones, all more advanced than the iPhone X.

And then it released a new ad for the iPhone XR.

Also: The 10 best smartphones of 2018

Here we have hordes of humans wearing variously-colored jumpsuits, parkouring through a tough neighborhood.

Because that's what you do in tough neighborhoods.

Theirs is a very curious invasion. Some have been trapped in white vans for possibly hours, yet their purple jumpsuits are remarkably clean. Others leap from heights in order to keep up with the fleeing masses.

They break down barricades, too. Where are the police when you need them?

Wait, what has all this got to do with the iPhone XR? I'm very glad you ask, as I suspect viewers might be perplexed too. At least for the first 52 seconds.

It's only then that the words "Make room for color," appear on the screen.

Ah, so this is all about the fact that the XR comes in all sorts of bright, pretty colors, and the XS in merely a couple of restrained tones?

Well, perhaps. The next words on the screen are "Liquid Retina Display." So the display is quite nice and reveals bright colors in all their glory, even if it's not quite as good as the XS's?

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Ah, so it's a poor man's version of this very famous Sony Bravia ad that, instead of colorful humans rolling through the streets, had colorful, bouncy balls.

It's odd to see Apple mimic an ad that won almost every award going in 2006.

Cupertino has tried offering a few different reasons for buying the XR. It's the display. It's the battery. It's the colors.

This doesn't mean that the phone is selling badly. Apple insisted at the end of last year that the XR was the best-selling iPhone every week since its launch. I confess I bought one because it seemed appreciably cheaper and, for my purposes, just as good as the XS.

Still, one gets the feeling that Apple hasn't managed to offer clearly delineated characters for its three new iPhones.

With this ad, the dilemma is entirely exposed.

Buy the iPhone XR for its display? Ah, if only Apple's premium positioning would allow it to talk about price.

iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets

Previous and related coverage:

Apple iPhone XR review: Lower cost comes with camera, reception compromises

Apple switched up release strategies a bit in 2018 with the two high end $1,000+ models released initially, followed by one priced $250 to $350 less. The iPhone XR arrives in six color options and honestly it may be the best option for the masses.

Apple's iPhone XR: Bad marketing or sneakily clever?

Do people know what the iPhone XR is for? Or is it serving its purpose, as one study suggests, in attracting Android users?

iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets

Get to know your iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR better using these handy cheat sheets. Discover secret button combination, shortcuts, and gestures to make using your iPhone even easier.

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