Sunday, January 30, 2011

Apple do not just sell physical products - they sell a brand...

Why do millions of paying zombie customers stream out en masse, whenever a company like Apple launches a new product like the iPad?
It's a phenomenon that sometimes confuses me, because the answer is a rather complex one, at least in my humble opinion.

Here's how it normally works:

- Apple creates mass hysteria and media hype around a concept product that they are planning to release sometime in the near future.

- The proposed product features some cutting edge technology, but most importantly it features a famous and highly recognisable logo on the back - a stylized apple with a bite taken out of it. Young, trendy and highly mobile individuals all need to have a device featuring one of these sought after logos...

- The product launch date approaches and the marketing hype reaches fever-pitch. Customers around the globe scramble to try and get their hands on a pre-release edition of the device, or at the very least some inside info which will give them bragging rights when they go out for drinks. Conversations may range from "...A friend of mine got a beta edition of the iDevice..." to "...Well I heard from one of my friends that the iDevice has got laser beams that you can use to shoot at non-iDevices..."
That kind of thing.

- The device launches (officially) in the USA and elsewhere, and pandemonium ensues. Millions of units are sold in the first few milliseconds of the launch date. Supporters and critics alike all voice their varied opinions, but the device is a raging success by most standards.

- This is where the plot gets a bit blurry for me. The device in question will normally be toted as a "groundbreaking" device, whereas in fact it is not groundbreaking. For example, when the iPhone initially launched in mid-2007, there were other multi-function touch-screen cellphones available at the time, that could do everything that the iPhone could do, and a whole lot more.
I won't go into specifics here, but let's not forget that the initial iPhone only featured a measly 2MP camera (no optical zoom and no video recording) and no 3G... Rather average by 2007 standards actually...

iPhone, Apple Inc.Image by Cloud. via Flickr

- That brings me to my next point. It is now 2008. Having sold millions of iPhones, Apple then releases the "3G" version of the iPhone, which features an updated OS and 3G connectivity... and that's really about it.
Yet it is toted as a whole new device, resulting in a wave of suckers flooding out all over again to go and get their fix.

- 2009 arrives. Enter the iPhone 3Gs!!! OMG an extra "s" at the end of the name!!! This time it's a slightly better camera, improved LCD display, video recording, higher download speeds, a faster CPU and more RAM. While the Apple brigade will likely protest at this comment, it's still a whole lot of average going on here... Who cares! Let's all go and buy 8 of them.

- 2010. The famed and fabled iPhone 4 becomes a reality. This is the first real deviation from the original iPhone design, and it causes more excitement than ever before within Apple circles. Some wonder if the design will be too "square" as opposed to the previous design...
So what's inside the new beast?
Refreshingly, it does offer some decent progress on the 3Gs - a faster CPU and GPU, double the RAM, a higher definition display, a 5MP camera (finally Apple are catching up on this front...!), a front camera and a complete redesign, departing significantly from the original iPhone.

My New iPhone 4 Arrived today! - June 29, 2010Image by Patrick Hoesly via Flickr

- Despite the cons that I have mentioned inherent the product, especially in the original version, a consistent strong point of the device has been the app store - the number and variety of applications available for the device is truly amazing, and they serve to showcase the capabilities of the device in a way that only an Apple device can.
Truth is, the CPU inside an iPhone is always under-clocked, and therefore cooler running and less stressed.
That means that pretty much whatever you do on an iPhone will happen in a slick and effortless fashion. 
For example, try opening a full photo gallery on the Nokia N97 and you will be left waiting a good long while...

While this sequence of events may not necessarily apply to every Apple product, it certainly applies to the iPhone and more recently to the iPad.
The South African launch of the iPad and the pricing / availability thereof have been hacked to death elsewhere on the net, so I won't go into that here.

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory.Image via Wikipedia

What I will highlight is the fact that with the advent of the iPad in South Africa, I got on the phone to one of the buyers at Incredible Connection on Friday.
My reason for calling was to find out as much information as possible on the iPad 2 - the (rumoured) next release of the iPad.
Best guess launch date for the iPad 2 is somewhere in the next 8 weeks - huh???

So we have just received the iPad officially in South Africa, and the replacement is due out in something like 8 weeks? Sure this is just a rumoured date, but it comes from someone who knows a few things about launch dates...

Why then buy an iPad at all? Rather just wait for the iPad 2 surely?
I certainly would, that is if Apple decide to make the iPad 2 a decent upgrade from the current iPad - at the moment there is much talk of dual cores, a USB port (come on Apple, you are SO far behind), an SD Card slot, a webcam (which tablet PC doesn't yet feature a webcam???), and a few other enhancements and improvements.

This really is my whole point I guess, and I have said it before and will likely say it again as Apple continue to do what they seem to be doing very well:
Apple are not selling products as such. Yes, we go out and buy a physical device which fulfils some function and gives us a sense of satisfaction through its style and ease of use.
That device also gives us bragging rights, all because of that little half chewed Apple logo on the device - and that's what this is all about. A brand.

As I mentioned, many other devices do what Apple devices do - sometimes better.
Ah but it's not as simple as what the device can do. It's the whole package, and that is what Apple do so well.
Their marketing and the image that they have created is so strong, that their followers will buy into their products in a form of blind belief.

Just yesterday I was chatting to someone about the Nokia N8 - an incredible device which features (arguably) the most powerful camera on any smartphone to date.
When I mentioned this well-known fact (the phone sports a 12MP Carl Zeiss Camera!), they quickly retorted with, "Ah but what about the iPhone 4???"...
Well the iPhone 4 my good friend, while being amazing, only features a 5MP camera, which is pretty average nowadays.
It's a great example of how the hype around the device has created the illusion, that it is in fact the very best at every possible function currently available on a smartphone.

I guess it all comes down to personal choice.
So would you buy into the hype and get the iPad, or would you rather wait for iPad 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5) to arrive...?

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  1. What a moron! Apple doesn't sell products???

    You should change that to "Apple doesn't sell useless crap products like other companies do".

    Only a moron would say "Apple doesn't sell products" and incredible market and sales growth of Apple's products are somehow hypnotized (or coerced?) into buying and enjoying using those products.

    If you believe that you are the only "sane" person on the planet, and everyone else is being duped, that that in itself is a sure sign of your own insanity.

  2. Nope, not gonna change it sorry.

    This is a typical Apple-devotee response as seen all over the web.
    Quote those sales growth figures why don't you, and overlook the parts where I actually complemented the brand and the product.

    I for one, have used the iPhone 4 and the iPad in my line of work and if you would care to cast a gaze upon any of my previous phone-related posts, you would be able to actually take this post in context.

    That said, no kidding - I kinda realise that Apple sell products... no way - are those holograms on the shelf???

    I was merely commenting on the way in which Apple market themselves, but I obviously did it in a way which you simply could not understand.

    Your use of the words "everyone else" in your comment also implies that you think that the whole world sees things in the same "Apple" way.
    Trust me, there are many Apple-haters out there, and I am not one of them.

    Just making a comment :)

    Glad you stopped by to visit though, and thx for your feedback.

  3. There are other things that make a quality camera other than megapixels. Maybe you could explain to your readers what those differences are. If you don't understand those differences maybe you shouldn't comment on them. Apple is selling an overall package. You are talking about one feature or another. I for one think products should be judged on the over all package. All these products have shortcomings. It's just the nature of the beast. You have to make compromises to get a product to market at a reasonable price. What I find annoying is the lack of conversation about what other products are lacking when compared to Apple products. I always here about the features that other products have...rarely a comparison on screen quality, battery life, etc. & the usual if someone does not agree with your analysis you must be an "Apple-Devotee" response. Seems you could make your argument with out that bit of nonsense. As a platform the iOS devices are leading the pack, everyone else at this point is just making a phone & has a weak over all platform. It is not just marketing. The devices & products are also consistently rated high in consumer satisfaction. So your view may be valid for some but, in the larger picture i would say it is overly simplistic.

  4. @Anonymous - sure I understand the fact that megapixels are not the only piece of the camera puzzle.
    Fact is, seeing is believing. Having seen photos from both phones, personally and online, my eyes (and others) tell me that the N8 easily wins on the camera front.

    As you pointed out though, there are shortcomings in all smartphones and they are in fact a total package. I totally get that.
    For example, I'm peeved that Nokia stuck to a Symbian platform on the N8, but they did.
    If you check out a previous post here:

    You will see that I laid big praise on the iPhone OS - personally I find the OS is great to use, and that's big for a "non Apple-devotee".

    To say though, that "everyone else at this point is just making a phone & has a weak over all platform" is just a tad presumptuous. What fact is your statement based upon?
    Is this a world view then?

    What I find annoying, is how regardless of what Apple do or how arrogant they become, the worship continues.

    People just keep forking out the cash...
    Annoying, but clever I guess.

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