Time Magazine has an interesting article up on Apple's ongoing success with the iPhone in not only a poor economy, but in face of competition like Nokia, Palm, Sony/Ericsson, etc. doing badly, even when they offer much cheaper alternatives.
BlackBerry is enjoying similar success with their higher end products, leading Time to speculate that it's based on brand, a multi-factor and mysterious currency that companies spend fortunes earning so they can make even greater fortunes exploiting:
A lot of people think that consumers who buy brand are suckers, the kind people WC Field used to mock in old movies. Samsung builds a smartphone that looks and works a lot like the iPhone. It is called the Instinct and Apple owners think it is junk.
Where the article falls off the rails, however, is in it's conclusion:
All Apple cares about is that their customers have enough money to buy an iPhone, iPod, or Mac. Suckers have money, too.
It would be a mistake -- and likely one other companies are still making -- to assume "suckers" buy on brand absent other factors, rather than brand embodying the factors customers want to buy. (Even when Apple states just this much during every quarterly conference call.)
Could it be consumers are smarter than many companies -- and perhaps journalists -- give them credit for, and in tougher times they tend towards better products? A junk phone that provides daily frustration and requires monthly or yearly replacement is in no way a better value than a highly refined user experience with tremendous build quality that's offered year-after-year free software updates and a previously unimaginable stream of ever-new applications, creating not only great initial value, but great sustainable value as well.
A better closing would likely have been:
"In tough times, smart customers make smarter choices on where and when to spend their money. Apple realizes this and makes sure their products are ready and waiting... in elegant, inviting little boxes."