Why The New iPhone Will Be Roundly Panned And Why It Will Still Sell Like Crazy

by John Kirk   |   September 11th, 2012

What would you say the new iPhone’s greatest feature or features will be? Will it be the hardware? The operating system? A new service like maps or passbook? Nope. It won’t be any of those things. The truth is, the new iPhone’s greatest feature already exists right now, today, before the iPhone has even been announced.

The greatest thing about the new iPhone will be the very same thing that Apple’s customers love about their current iphones – every added feature will work seamlessly with the whole. The iPhone is not about its parts, it’s about making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

PUZZLED PUNDITS

Analysts, journalists, and industry observers always seem bewildered by this.

They’ll look at the new iPhone and say: “It’s the same old design” or “It doesn’t have as many features as my phone does” or “Its operating system is looking old and dated” or “It doesn’t allow me the freedom to run any content or any app I want”. Then they will be dumbfounded that a phone that they’ve deemed wanting will have such stellar sales. “That can’t be right,” they’ll say. “That phone is inferior to mine. It’s not rational. iPhone customers must not be rational. iPhone customers must be stupid.”

PARADOX RESOLVED

Here’s the resolution to the seeming paradox that haunt’s the iPhone’s critics: Apple doesn’t WANT the phone with the best features – they want the phone with the features that work best together. It’s not about the quantity of features, it’s about the quality of the experience.

SATISFACTION

Pundits may not get this, but iPhone users sure do. They consistently give the iPhone satisfaction ratings so high that they are in nose bleed territory.

UNDERSTANDING

With the iPhone, it’s not about how the features work, it’s about how the features work together; it’s not about any one thing, it’s about the whole thing; it’s not about the phone, it’s about the Apple ecosystem. The critics may not see it that way, but the potential buyers sure do. The secret to understanding the iPhone is to understand that people aren’t buying a phone they’re buying Apple. And that makes all the difference.

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John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Rich

    So many times I’ve read that the iPhone is “getting long in the tooth.” Hey, if I’m Apple I’m happy to have a phone that’s long in the tooth if my user satisfaction percentage is almost 3 digits. And anyway Apple is about to release a phone with a bit shorter teeth…

  • immovableobject

    I agree with this article, but I think you got that expression backwards. In the case of the iPhone, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    • FalKirk

      You are 100% correct. I fixed it.

  • rj5555

    I have been an iPhone user for years, last year after the iPhone4s announcement disappointment I decided to try something different. I tried a windows phone during a week which I returned (that OS is just not for me) and then a Samsung Galaxy S-II… the first days I was really lost in Android and was on the verge of returning to iOS but looking back now I´m really happy I didn´t. While the OS still have some rough edges it´s underlying ideas makes features work together far better than iOS.
    Let me explain myself a little; After installing a brand new app, for example a photo editing app from an independent developer, I´m able to send pictures directly to this app from the photo gallery. The photo gallery was programmed before the app existed and have no special code to support the third party yet this new app appears directly in the menu of the gallery. The same happens with other apps (dropbox, facebook, whatsapp) and not only with the gallery. share a webpage to somebody using whatsapp, send the text of an email to google translate ect, ect. Also highly working together are contacts calling, texting, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, whatsapp are all directly available from the contact list and if there is tomorrow a new social app it will be there as well, without having to wait for Google or Samsung to integrate it into the OS (alla twitter of iOS)
    I have no doubt the new iPhone will sell well but touting “the features working well together” as the biggest advantage shows either lack of knowledge on other OS´s or a writers bias because in reality it´s exactly one of the areas where iOS is getting long on the teeth at

  • tenfootninja

    The author makes it sound like every Apple customer is a deep philosophical thinker. Only they can appreciate the depth of Apple products.
    I think ppl buy apple products for the same reason they buy BMW’s: the brand. BMW’s aren’t necessarily the best cars for their class. When in doubt, buy the brand

    • CPA01

      No, not really. The author makes it sound like people simply want what works out of the box. They don’t want to have to learn the nitty gritty of how to use their device. I take it you only use Android products? Does Apple have the latest and greatest? No. But do they have the fragmentation problems Android does? No (with a minor caveat with devices that aren’t supported by the newest iOS)

      • tenfootninja

        When the author says ppl like their iphones because “every added feature will work seamlessly with the whole”, He’s moved beyond it merely “just works” to something more complicated

        I don’t think regular ppl are familiar with fragmentation, nor do i think they care as they can only see apps that work on whatever device they have. I also think every mobile OS is basically the same now from a user’s perspective: a sea of icons, that’s all most users interact with

        • CPA01

          I think most are unaware until they buy something and then find out certain things don’t work. But let’s be honest here: Most Amazon and Apple users are pretty darn lazy when it comes to their devices. They want what works off the bat and don’t really want to spend the time to actually get to know their product. The “pros” on the Kindle Forum have this notion that their users are dumb and they are the dictators of what should be told to users. Try bringing up a root and they go bonkers.

          But you’re right that it’s now just a sea of apps. But when you find your app doesn’t work, then you get annoyed.

  • Tyler J

    This article reads like a typical conversation with an iRobot. There’s absolutely no substance here. “They’re not buying a phone they’re buying Apple”, that doesn’t mean anything. There’s better phones out there, period. “Better” meaning newer technology, up to date software, innovative features, user flexibility. That’s my classification of better, what’s yours? The iPhone is shiny and an 80 year old can figure out how to use one. Those are good things but in general don’t equal bang for your buck. Apple is riding off hype and their fan base but if you look at the devices 1 on 1 objectively the iPhone is probably #3 or lower.

    • CPA01

      What is “objective” to you? Purely basing things on hardware is not a good measure. Nor is basing it on software. Furthermore, sometimes flexibility is a bad thing, IE too much choice. Apple Detractors always seem to work purely in the statical and capabilities, not on the user experience. Most Android Detractors have never even picked up an Android product and dislike is because it’s what they’re suppose to do.

    • http://profiles.google.com/kolb.steve Steve Kolb

      Tyler J hit the nail square on the head; they are only buying apple. It’s not about the phone and its features; it’s all about owning an iphone no matter what the latest device brings to the table…

      • Rich

        So what would you say owning an iPhone means to the people who buy one?

        I suggest you think very carefully about your answer.

    • FalKirk

      “”Better” meaning newer technology, up to date software, innovative features, user flexibility. That’s my classification of better, what’s yours?”

      Highest user satisfaction ratings.

    • KathySmith

      I disagree. I own, and have owned both iPhones and Androids. iPhones are slick and work well, things work the same, very easy to learn and use. Androids often have newer technology, but require a lot more learning, because everything works differently, and frankly, feels like trying to learn Unix instead of MacOS.

      But the biggest difference for me was in OS updates. NOT ONE, and I repeat NOT ONE of my Adnroid phones has ever received a new OS version. Sure, they get minor updates, but as new Android releases come out, these phones are quickly left behind, and ALWAYS long before my contract is up. My last HTC phone was old in less than 6 months, and did not get the new Android OS.
      On the Apple side, I am getting new OS releases, even back on old 3s phones, and thus, new features. Not all features on all phones, but many improvements each time. My phone does not feel as old, and is not left out of upgrades. Yes, Apple has left a few old phones behind, the key word being “OLD”. They still update the iPhone 3s. How many years old is that? Yet my 6 month old HTC did not get the latest Android.

      • Grwisher

        Regarding: “But the biggest difference for me was in OS updates. NOT ONE, and I repeat NOT ONE of my Adnroid phones has ever received a new OS version. Sure, they get minor updates, but as new Android releases come out, these phones are quickly left behind, and ALWAYS long before my contract is up.

        I agree. A friend, who is an Android fan, and I were talking about the iPhone 5 and were going back and forth over the advantages of both platforms. For every advantage I came up with he had a counter argument. When I said that iPhone fans like the idea that they can get free updates on a timely basis for iPhones that are several generations back, he had nothing to say. I knew in advance that the lack of Android upgrades was a problem for him.
        IMHO, this is a tremendous advantage for iPhone fans. Just think, you can upgrade your phone to have basically a new one without any additional cost. With Android, in most cases, you have to buy a new phone.

    • jfutral

      “”Better” meaning… up to date software”

      Of course the only way for the vast majority of Android devices (thus users) to get that “up to date software” is to buy a new device, which is to say that the Android user base is more likely artificially inflated and not as large as their quarterly sales market share might lead one to believe.

      So far, Android devices are out of date within a year and some within 6 months (based on frequency of new model roll outs by the hardware makers). If one were to simply look at how many devices can _update_ to the latest Android OS, almost all of them are obsolete.

      Joe

  • jamie

    The boys and girls over at RIM engaged in the same kind of apologetics as their incredibly loyal blackberry user-base was falling off a cliff.

    • Rich

      If your point is that Apple’s user base is falling off a cliff, you’re not dealing with facts at all.

      • jamie

        Just saying that the only people who believe apple still has the advantage in terms of “unified experience” or whatever you want to call it, are people who have never actually used a modern android phone. The whole “people don’t want sexy new features, they just want everything to work well together” argument this writer is putting forward sounds like it was lifted directly from a RIM press release, circa 2009.

        • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

          Please check the 2 year lag in Android phone buyers getting a current OS (if at all) and then please come back when 80% of Android users at any time are on the most current OS.

        • Rich

          I think you need to watch the sales numbers on the new iPhone that Apple is about to release.

          • jamie

            The blackberry crowd was deluded until the bottom fell out as well. The way you completely missed the point is proof the same thing can happen here if they’re as complacent as this article suggests.

          • jfutral

            “if they’re as complacent as this article suggests.”

            I don’t see this complacency suggested in the article and I certainly don’t see any complacency at Apple, but I don’t work there and have no contact with their operations. Maybe they are complacent, but their product roll outs don’t seem to suggest that.

            The problem with the RIM comparison is it wasn’t just market share that was shrinking before their very eyes, everything was shrinking—profits, user base, 3rd party developers, sales. I don’t see any of that happening with Apple. With the iPhone in particular, the seasonal down turn just before release has always occurred. Now if any of that shrinkage extends beyond the new model introductions, I will be right there with you sounding the bell weather.

            Falkirk’s point about user satisfaction is no small point, though he doesn’t fully flesh that out. It isn’t just die hards who are happy with their iPhone, it is everyone, plus the number of Android users waiting for this iPhone (25% last I saw). Desire for the iPhone extends beyond just some conceptual shrinking base of die hards. There are a lot of other positives than some rabid minority, that RIM never had as they continue to shrink. Which really makes me sad because RIM had good stuff. They just didn’t know what to do in the face of Apple and Android.

            Joe

        • jfutral

          Who said the features aren’t sexy?

          Joe

  • vbeek

    Yup, always had iphone’s. Til the 4s. Then I tried a Galaxy S2X because of my neice. While I do miss some of the things I was used to (look, feel), but I’ve been having waaay too much fun with it. Hopefully the 5 catches up and I could have it all. I’ll just jailbreak the sucker, but it’s got to be better than the S3.

  • Dinesh

    I am a happy 4S user, and I have to say this article brings a lot of clarity for everyone who reads it to understand the Apple’s intention better. Including me. Thanks.

    That said, I’m wondering if it is just me or does this article sound like a very well placed PR piece? The main competitor Android isn’t mention specifically, comparisons made to iPhone users not the product itself (by supposed competitor users no less)
    ““That phone is inferior to mine. It’s not rational. iPhone customers must not be rational. iPhone customers must be stupid.””

    and sentences end with glorifying compliments. Here:
    “Then they will be dumbfounded that a phone that they’ve deemed wanting will have such stellar sales.”

    “Apple doesn’t WANT the phone with the best features – they want the phone with the features that work best together”

    “With the iPhone, it’s not about how the features work, it’s about how
    the features work together; it’s not about any one thing, it’s about the
    whole thing; it’s not about the phone, it’s about the Apple ecosystem.”

    Tight sentences aside, if this is a PR piece, then I suppose the key message here is Apple is better because its works best as a whole? Unless I’m wrong which then I apologise and good job.

    • FalKirk

      I asure you, Dinesh, this was not a PR piece. These were an expression of my thoughts and my thoughts alone.

  • Uvindu Perera

    “The iPhone is not about its parts, it’s about making the sum of its parts greater than the whole.” That’s the last card that companies can pull before they die, especially one in technology. Blackberry had the same issue. iPhones were a neat little polished packages before Android Gingerbread and WP7. People who weren’t interested and not tech savvy could just pick an iPhone up and get the ball rolling without hassle. But that time is long gone. If Apple prefers sitting on top of their wealth and justify releasing 12-24 month old technology to their loyal customers for a premium price, that’s just too bad. I see another Blackberry story in Apple.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      Yeah. Sure. That makes sense.

    • Rich

      That’s as likely as you being struck by lightning in the next 5 seconds.

      Nope. You weren’t.

    • FalKirk

      “”The iPhone is not about its parts, it’s about making the sum of its parts greater than the whole.” That’s the last card that companies can pull before they die…” – Uvindu Perera

      With 71% of the sector’s profits and satisfaction ratings in the nineties, I doubt Apple is going to “die” anytime too soon.

      • jfutral

        Additionally, to this point, that’s the last card most every mobile company can pull because, unlike Apple, it isn’t there from the beginning. Apple doesn’t pull this card last, they pull this card from the get go, even before the product is released. It is what makes Apple, Apple.

        Joe

    • jfutral

      I bet RIM wishes Apple’s story was theirs, too. At least they would be “dying” on a pile of cash.

      I am also not sure what technology you think Android devices (and of course only certain devices because they are all not the same) have that isn’t 12-18 months old, either. A bigger screen or a faster processor is not really new technology, just variations on a theme, evolutionary, not revolutionary. Hasn’t really changed how people use their smartphones. NFC is old technology, too, it is only now finding its way into certain Android devices (again, not all of them, not even all of the newest devices).
      Joe

  • AdamChew

    John,

    Judging from the comments Apple have failed. And now they are more people defending their android phones and same at the blog by Philip Elmer-DeWitt.

    But then I don’t expect them to do otherwise and who would say their homes are worse than their neighbors’ and the mother of the ugliest baby will say hers is the prettiest.

    But anyway to each his own.

    I love my iPhone and the best thing about it is it is not a dead end phone.

    • FalKirk

      Thank you for the link, Adam. When the iPhone’s user satisfaction ratings start to fall and/or when the user satisfaction ratings of competing phones start to be comparable, then, possibly, Apple will have “failed”. That, plus profits, in my mind are the two canaries in the coal mine.

      Until both profits and user satisfaction start to fail, Apple will keep on happily chirping away. But let’s keep a close eye on those two birdies, shall we?

      • Grwisher

        Exactly!

    • jfutral

      “it is not a dead end phone.”

      Personally, I think this is the biggest driver of Android market share and a particularly huge difference of philosophy between Apple and just about everyone else in the mobile industry. The OS is considered a check list feature, not part of the whole. So if you want the latest OS (and who doesn’t want the latest?), you have to get a new phone or tablet.

      Joe

  • jfutral

    Here is the thing about nay saying/sayers. It really is the safe position. If things really do go bust, they can say they tried to warn everyone. If things improve they can say that if they hadn’t sounded the warning nothing would have changed.

    Being positive is what is risky.

    Joe