AH Tech Talk: Did Apple Ever “Think Different”?

| January 21, 2013 | 5 Replies

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Can Apple once again become the company that told us to “Think Different”? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read some variation on this question over the last few weeks. We all remember the famous Apple commercials from the last twenty-five years. I won’t take the time to re hash those marketing schemes ranging from the “Think Different” campaign to the once-popular “Mac vs. PC” series. I don’t really need to go through each of these marketing efforts again, because we all remember them. No matter how much you may dislike Apple’s products or corporate culture, if you work in marketing and think you have nothing to learn from Apple’s advertising and branding, you are dead wrong. The picture that Apple painted was simple: PCs are boring and stodgy, your parents use PCs and look at how sad their lives are. But Apple products are cool, out of the main stream and different. Sure, there were the occasional attempts at actually discussing features of Apple products. There were vague, statistically irrelevant claims about durability or virus protection. And as consumer electronics became increasingly complex, Apple sought to simplify and streamline the consumer’s experience. Buy your products and software from Apple, have your Apple products serviced at an Apple store, buy your content from iTunes, and download it to your iPod, iPhone, iMac and Macbook. Sure, we charge a premium for products with mediocre specs, but look at how pretty it is. Everyone in Starbucks will know how serious you are taking your screenplay if you are tapping away on a $1500 Macbook Pro instead of a $400 Dell like some kind of chump.

I won’t take the time to discuss my opinion of Apple, their customer base, or their products. Because that isn’t what this article is about.  There is no question that over the last decade Apple has been hugely successful in building a brand and monetizing it effectively.  Apple boasts the largest profit margins by far in the consumer electronics industry, and that doesn’t come from offering premium products at a premium price. Wide profit margins come from offering cheap, pretty products with enough features to keep someone happy, but few enough that they will be willing to buy an upgrade next year.  And Apple has some of the most loyal customers in any industry. Nearly 88% of Apple’s customers said that they are planning to upgrade to the next iPhone, and that is before they even know what the next iPhone will look like. Any company that makes a consumer product would kill to have that kind of customer retention. And yet in 2012 Apple’s customer satisfaction fell for the first time by 5%.  Apple’s aggressive litigation and abuse of the US court and patent system has failed to stop its main competitor, Samsung, from far outselling the iPhone in every country in the world. And as Apple’s market share among smart phone users has plummeted over the last 2 years many are beginning to wonder if Apple is still a company capable of innovation.

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But that is the wrong question to ask. Apple hasn’t ceased innovating, Apple never began innovating. Yes, the iPod was a revolutionary product in some respects, but Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player. It didn’t invent selling downloaded music online, or even the type of interface the iPod took advantage of. Apple simply took existing technologies, bundled them together into something pretty, jacked the price up and sold it to people who were still using portable CD players. From a business perspective this is brilliant, of course. Let other companies spend billions in R&D inventing  new technologies and then repackage them, refuse to licence that technology and then sell that product at a massive markup. Then when your competitors catch up to your design, sue them for not licensing the technology that you originally borrowed to use in your product. Use the billions you made from using other company’s technology to keep your competitors from bringing superior products to market. Apple has proven that this is a profitable business model, but as someone who loves the tech industry, it is sad to see our courts punishing innovation instead of rewarding it.

Apple certainly did a lot to popularize the smart phone and the touch screen. But no matter what their high-priced lawyers tell you, Apple didn’t invent these things. Apple made them very pretty and very expensive and made a mind-boggling amount of money from them. Apple wasn’t the first to make a touch-screen smart phone, or a smart phone with a web browser. But Apple did help to create that market. Yes, the iPad is essentially a giant iPhone, but Apple got many talented developers and designers on board early to create beautiful apps that take advantage of the extra screen real estate. Amazingly, tablets are beginning to replace the laptop for many of us. And although increased competition from cheaper, faster, and more powerful Android tablets had taken a chunk from Apple in the tablet market, the iPad continues to dominate for the moment.

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So back to the original question: Can Apple once again be the company to “Think Different”? The answer is no, because that was only a marketing slogan. Apple will continue to make products that appeal to customers who crave simplicity and high prices over flexibility and control. But as the average consumer demands more and more from their device, the iPhone and the iPad will continue to fall further and further behind in terms of both hardware and software. One needs to look no further than the recent Apple Maps debacle, or the launch of the iPhone 5 without NFC or any new features to speak of, to see that Apple simply doesn’t have the creativity to bring exciting new products to the marketplace. Innovation will continue to come from Google, Microsoft, IBM and other companies in the Silicon Valley and although Apple’s glory days are not yet over, they are certainly numbered.

Category: Android Manufacturer News, Android News

About Doug Scudder ()

Doug has been a fan of Android ever since he got his hands on the OG Droid a few days after it came out. Android and the mobile industry were his favorite hobbies long before he began writing about the mobile industry professionally. Doug currently resides in Chicago and you can find his musings about various TV related topics at www.dougtvreview.com.
  • http://scribblepeople.net Mike

    apples mobile division has not been thinking differently for a while. The new ipod that they released is very different but not very good.

  • Brian

    APPLE as always sucked its the people who dont mind spending the big bucks to simplify there needs lazy people want iphones and DEVs and flashaholics wants android we dont mind taken the time to customize to are liking were as apple wants people to use there product how they want you to use there product pay top dollar and still get caught in the legal mess they got going on most iphone users dont even use there phones as android user tend to use there phone thats why are battery size is going up with every phone coming out APPLE lost there innovation back with the iphone 3gs keep uping the prices on $H!T when there products dont cost that much to make apple gets rich when they sell you product samsung /google sell there product and keep making money after the fact apple has been digging there own grave for years if they thought people would stop buying because they sue huge companies your only making yourself look real desperate and it shows apple is scared there numbers keep plummeting lower and lower so yeah INNOVATION is def gone with MR Jobs might have to wake him up real quick and put and MRI to his brain to see what he is thinking LOL

  • Rob

    This article states it simply and beautifully. I dont think anyone could have summed it up better

  • flamencoguy

    Here is one of the patents they just added to their portfolio that already includes:

    1. slide to unlock

    2. tap to zoom

    3. Scroll bounce

    4. Page turn animation

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/apple-patent-uspto-ping,20521.html

    That’s thinking different ? They are a joke with big time failures (maps, purple hazy camera, battery issues, wifi issues, antenna issues) and yet succesfull but not for long.
    People are disgusted with their practices and price gouging.

  • Dustin Scott Garza

    people said the same thing about Microsoft ..and they were right just as you are, but your just critics…how about instead of profiting by righting techno gossip columns (very original), you do something original, like suggesting some new ideas…a better product….and do it for free as you obviously don`t want to pay for it.