After a year in which DJI launched multiple new products – including the spectacularly popular Mavic Pro – the company has been quietly ending the production and distribution of other models. The latest to be dropped from the line is the Phantom 4, which was released less than a year ago.
In fact, 2016 was a banner year for product announcements, including:
- Phantom 4: Obstacle avoidance and tracking
- Phantom 4 Pro: Better camera, front/rear avoidance, greater brains
- Phantom 4 Pro Plus: Integrated, daylight-bright monitor
- Osmo Mobile: Gimbal with intelligent software for smartphones
- Mavic Pro: DJI’s first foldable drone – and a massive sales success
- Inspire 2: High end, intelligent drone for cinematography
- The Matrice 600 Hexacopter
- The Ronin MX handheld gimbal for pro work
- X5S, X4S: Cameras for professional work
- Zenmuse Z30: Aerial zoom camera
- The CrystalSky super bright aerial monitors
That’s eleven major products in one calendar year (plus some smaller but significant bits and pieces, like the Tachyon racing drone ESCs and Snail propulsion system). And, arguably, the P4P, Inspire 2 and Mavic Pro were all great leaps forward as opposed to standard evolutionary upgrades. So it’s clear DJI has been, to say the least, busy. (So busy, in fact, that some consumers who pre-ordered Mavic Pros were not pleased to discover that production could not keep up with demand and there would be a wait involved.)
As for the P4, the news was revealed in an email to dealers. The part revealing the end of the line for this particular Phantom was short and to the point:
“The Phantom 4 production is terminated. We still have some stock left.” It goes on to say (as had been previously noted by their disappearance from DJI.com), that production of the Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional has also ground to a halt.
That essentially means the entire consumer drone line now consists of the Mavic Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro, and the Phantom 4 Pro Plus (the unit that ships with the super-bright monitor integrated into the remote). There is, at the moment, nothing in the lower end.
Why the culling of the herd? Well, you could make arguments either way. The P3 series, arguably, is outdated technology when compared with the intelligent features of the P4P and Mavic Pro. On the other hand, the Phantom 3 Standard sells for $470 US on Amazon and is currently the #1 Bestseller in its category.
Some speculate the company, which many have compared to Apple in its product quality and image, is following a pattern successfully implemented by Steve Jobs.
When he returned in 1997 to the company he’d founded some 20 years earlier, it had a sprawling product line that was confusing to some consumers. One of his first tasks, according to a biography and a 2001 article in Entrepreneur, was to review the product line and figure out what was necessary and what wasn’t. At the time, Apple was apparently selling a dozen variations of the Macintosh computer. According to that 2011 article:
“Jobs asked his team of top managers, “Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?” When he didn’t get a simple answer, Jobs got to work reducing the number of Apple products by 70 percent. Among the casualties was the Newton digital personal assistant.”
Jobs then focussed on just four products. He touched on this point in the biography written by Walter Isaacson. The book quotes Jobs as saying:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. It’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
The Mavic Pro has clearly proven a runaway hit – demanding all the production resources DJI can throw at it. And the P4P offers such significant improvements over the P4 (plus the addition or rear obstacle avoidance and even more brains), that there weren’t a whole lot of compelling reasons to buy the P4 anymore.
In the meantime, dealers can brace themselves for a potential slow-down of product shipments, particularly the Mavic Pro. The note to dealers points out that the Chinese New Year is approaching, and the company will effectively cease production for two to three weeks.
“At this stage,” says the email, “Please warn your customers that the stock of the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Pro Combo is severely limited, but we hope that by March 2017 DJI (will) get to the point where they have sufficient production.”
Finally, the elimination of the lower price-point models will undoubtedly lead to speculation DJI has something else in the pipeline. It’s hard to imagine the company leaving the considerable sub-$749 drone market completely to competitors.