Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Mini iPods are a rip-off

Like just about every other news site at the moment, OnlineBlog has a summary of what was announced at the MacWorld conference. The big thing was the iPod Mini, a smaller version of the existing player with a maximum capacity of 10GB 4GB and a choice of colours (the bottom-of-the-range normal iPod will now have a 15GB drive with no hike in price).

So far, so good, but here’s the scandal. When it goes on sale in the US in the very near future, it will cost $249, which works out at around £138 – about the same price as many comparable players here. But in April, when the mini iPod is launched in the UK, it’ll cost… wait for it… £199.

No offence to Apple, but how can they justify increasing the price by £61 (nearly $110 US)? I doubt shipping and the extra value-added tax we have to pay here really amounts to that much of a difference – remember that we’re talking about a price that’s 30% higher. Unfortunately, with the iPod becoming a bit of a fashion icon on both sides of the pond, Apple may well get away with it.

Corporate greed was something that Apple die-hards seem to use against Microsoft, but is Apple guilty of it themselves?

Update I: Ben’s ranting about it too and it’s not just the iPod Mini that Apple have done this with – almost the full range of new products Apple are releasing will have huge price hikes when they are released in the UK and Europe.

Update II: Ken at Breaking Windows is also ranting about pricing, but this time from a US perspective. Including $60 for a one-button wireless mouse…

Update III: Since people have been saying it represents ‘excellent’ value for money, I’d like to point out that the Creative Jukebox Zen is the same price on Amazon and has a 30GB HD – more than 7 times the capacity of the iPod Mini. Stated battery life is also 14 hours as opposed to iPod’s 8, and the battery is actually replacable.

Update IV: Apple is to review the pricing after the outcry over the high price. Even with VAT added, the iPod Mini would be £38 more in the UK than the US.

21 Comments

  1. And for £50/$50 (*sigh*) more you can buy a proper iPod, with almost 4 times the storage.
    Are punters going to buy it just for the different colours?

  2. Its strange that there is an increase in price in the UK. It would be nice to be able to ask someone why. There very well could be a reason for the increase in price.
    You pay more for the regular iPod as well, so thats the reason the iPod Mini is more expensive. From an economists stand point Apple should only drop the price of its products by one ‘price point’ at a time so it doesn’t saturate the market or overwhelm demand. It appears to me that the UK store has a VAT of 17.5% included in the price (whatever that is), so that accounts for a little of the increase.
    In fact, correct me if I am wrong here, but don’t almost all of Apples products cost more in the UK? I tried converting a few of the other products and got that impression. Is it possible there is an added expense for Apple to serve that area? I don’t really know, because I don’t live there (obviously), so I am just bringing up some questions. 🙂
    Overall the U.S. price is not that bad for the market they are targeting.

  3. Actually, its cheaper than normal, as most goods get translated from $xyz to £xyz so it should really be �249 And people wonder why I brought so much electrical stuff in our recent trip over there….

  4. If you do not know anything about finance you should not be trying to sound like an expert. International finance and international commerce have hundreds of big and small factors that affect price, it is not just about exchange rates. It is about tariffs, local interest rates, higher income/corporate taxes, living standards, inflation, government requirements, labor laws for the UK staff, etc, etc, etc.

  5. It was a common practice not too long ago where electronic goods (from all manufacturers) would always be the “same price” on both sides of the pond – except where the dollar sign stood, they substituted it for the pound sign. Considering this, things have improved!

  6. The pricing leaves plenty of room for lowering the price later.
    And for people complaining about pricing – hey, you have to keep in mind when you get out of college and get a real job, it’ll be nothing. And for those of us who’ve been in the work place for a while, the new mini ipod is half a day’s salary so it’s nothing. So, before you bitch about the price of grown up toys – grow up and get a real job first.

  7. For those in the UK that aren’t familiar with the US tax structure it’s important to point out that all but 3 US states charge a “sales tax”, usually in the range of 5 to 9% (most are 8 to 9%) on most all retail transactions. Unlike the “value added tax” common in Europe US prices are quoted without the tax included. Thus the $249 iPod will really cost $271.66 ($249 + $22.66 in tax at 9.1%) at my local Apple store which translates to £148.96.
    At a straight conversion rate including VAT ($249 + 17.5%) the Mini iPod should cost £160.35. Throwing in shipping costs and import duties and I can see the £199 pricing. Yes, it is a bit high but not as far as it appears at first glance.
    If it’s any consolation, thanks to our current administration, the US dollar is plummeting like a stone so within a year or two the Mini iPod should cost about £1.99 :-).

  8. You Brits are always complaining about something.

  9. You are calling the iPod Mini a “rip-off”, but when you compare it with the competition, you might want to change your description to a “bargain” or at least “great value”.
    The Creative Labs MuVo2 4gb MP3 player is $299.99 US.
    You always pay extra for miniturization and the iPod Mini compared with the larger 15 gb model is an example. The original iPod started at 5gb. Do you think putting a 5 gb drive in the larger iPod would lower the price by more than $100? I think not.

  10. I don’t think the price, on either side of the pond, is that far out of line. Here in Canada the iPod was selling very well in December at a price that made little sense when compared with the USA. Today they cost $399, 549, 699 whereas they were flying off the shelves at $454, 604, 754 two weeks ago. That’s before the local 14.5% sales tax.
    In addition to being smaller and lighter, I seriously think the colour choices and durable case material will make iPod Mini a popular product. Another huge advantage it has over the larger iPod is the inclusion of the USB cable and the ability to re-charge over USB. Most Windows users, a major target market for iPod, do not have FireWire on their PCs.
    Finally I have to ask jbelkin how (s)he has the nerve to suggest that US$250 is half a day’s pay for anyone with a real job. What percentage of the population makes more than US$120,000 per year??

  11. Firstly, thanks to everyone for commenting. A few points:
    1. Yes, I’m aware Apple is not the only manufacturer that does this, but that doesn’t make it any more right.
    2. As I have added to the post, Creative make a much more highly specified player for the same price.
    3. Alan: thanks for the clarification, but I really don’t think import duties and transit will cost £40. And yes, hopefully prices will change as the pound gets stronger, but other bloggers have said that Apple is not normally a manufacturer who takes swift action when this happens.
    4. I find it somewhat offensive that I’m not allowed to bitch about ‘grown-up toys’ because I’m not a ‘grown-up’ – according to the law of where I live I have been officially an adult for 18 months now.

  12. Um, the Creative Zen referenced in the article is almost 3 times heavier than the iPodmini. As others have noted, miniaturization costs. Duh.

  13. Neil, I fully agree with you. I was really hoping for a $100-$150 iPod mini. Here is what it boils down to. Why would anyone spend $249 for 4GB when for a whopping $50 more, they can get 15GB?
    Now don’t get me wrong, 4GB is a fine size for an MP3 player. 1000 tracks is nice. However, my wife really doesn’t want 1000 tracks. She would be much happier with 250 tracks.
    Here is what I was hoping for… A “solid state” based player with 256MB or even 512MB and a slot for SD or some other flash card. Having the ability to put a flash card in allows users who want to spend the extra money or happen to have the supported flash card to have the extra capacity if they want it.
    Now having looked around the net at prices of solid state players, they aren’t all that cheap either. However, I saw a couple for $150.
    So will this new iPod mini sell as well as the regular iPods? I really think no. There will always be the person who has to have the latest/greatest thing, but will they sell a million “mini’s”, I don’t think so.

  14. the Creative Jukebox Zen does not work on Mac

  15. As a 4GB microdrive is about $400 retail and an equivilent CF player (if there was such a thing) is about $140, $250 for a miniPod doesn’t seem such bad value really. Just because some idiot “leaked” the $100 rumour and set an unachievable expectation, everyone is dissapointed with the correct price.
    The iPod mini is not expensive when you look at how much it costs in component parts. The iPod 15GB is just cheap.

  16. If you want a Zen, buy one – thats market forces at work. There will still be millions of people that want the iPod and its smaller sibling because it is, frankly, better. I need the space of the bigger iPods – I am happy with my purchase. There will be a load of people who want the smaller cuter form factor and will buy it for the look as well as the increased functionality it offers. IMHO; they will sell millions of the things.

  17. I never said the iPod was a bad player. I own a 20GB 2nd Gen, a 30GB 3rd Gen (now dead because I dropped the thing 3 feet to concrete), and a 40GB 3rd Gen.
    Why did I choose the iPod over the competition? Well pretty simple. INTERFACE. Prior to the iPods, I bought a Creative Labs Nomad 3 40GB player. It was great that it held my collection. However, I couldn’t easily get to any of my songs. Playlists were a pain to setup, and don’t even think about using it as a portable HD.
    What I think most people want is an inexpensive player that can hold a decent number of songs. $250 is not inexpensive.
    From what I have been reading and hearing, there are a lot of Apple “enthusiasts” that are very disappointed with the latest offering. That pretty much says it all to me. If an Apple “enthusiast” isn’t happy, “the rest of us” are really unhappy. 🙂

  18. Related to the UK price issue, I was looking through Mac News this morning and came across this little bit:
    An executive for Apple (AAPL) told the British newspaper The Guardian that it would review the prices that it charges for its new version of the iPod music player that will go on sale in the U.S. for $249. Apple earlier in the week said it planned to charge 199 pounds in the U.K., which drew complaints as it is more than the 162 pounds such a player would cost if the American price were converted and VAT tax was added…

  19. mini iPod already covered.. err.. yeah

    Oh no.. I am not even going to do a post about the mini iPod because, while I was sick yesterday, everyone else in the world did. If…

  20. does anyone no where i can get get an apple ipod cheap. or a low price in £’s

  21. ebay- simple as…