This is a guest post by Melonie McLaurin.
To say that Apple invented the smartphone is a controversial statement, given that RIM’s Blackberry already had a strong foothold before the iPhone arrived. Yet everyone knows it is true, before the iPhone, there was nothing like it. It was a dubious sell from the beginning; what seemed at first to be a strange new iPod that could also handle calls, text messages, and email launched an entire mobile industry.
Now, smartphones are everywhere and Apple no longer dominates the market. Over 900,000 daily activations of mobile devices powered by Google’s Android operating system is proof of that. Even Microsoft has started moving in with Windows Phone, and it is rumored that Facebook will soon introduce a social smartphone. With so many choices, what is it that keeps iPhone devotees loyal to Apple?
One thing Apple has mastered that no other company can compete with is the elusive total package. People become enamored with Apple products for several reasons. Design and quality are only two of them. The rest has to do with the image that Apple products project, the deep integration of functionality and apps with iOS, and the unquantifiable feeling that is greater than pride of ownership and more akin to the first blush of true love.
Apple, in a very different way from its nearest competitors, specializes in delivering that which goes beyond circuitry and symmetry. People feel connected to their iPhones as though these were extensions of themselves. People don’t “use” iPhones – they experience them.
The secret to winning and maintaining market share has more to do with psychology and emotion than raw numbers.
So far, this has been sufficient to keep Apple at the forefront of companies producing the world’s most desired tech objects. Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder and former CEO, knew that the secret to winning and maintaining market share had more to do with psychology and emotion than raw numbers. Based on that insight, Apple has raised the bar high. But will it be able to maintain its leading role?
Google has recently emerged in the same space once occupied solely by the iPhone, invoking a similar spirit while providing Android users an increasingly cohesive experience across a wider variety of devices – variety that Apple refuses to offer, as it keeps careful control over its software by limiting it to the hardware it creates.
Until now not many devout Apple lovers seem to mind the limitations of either iOS or Mac OS X, or the fact that they have very few styles and types of devices to choose from. Yet, the few who do want to break out of the ivory tower now have several options. Many of them eventually try another platform such as Android or Windows Phone.
Also, the generation that grew up thinking smartphone was synonymous with iPhone is slowly being edged out by the first wave of consumers who have always known about Android and Windows Phone as well. Many smartphone buyers’ first choice is no longer the iPhone.
In order for Apple to maintain its valuable position, it has a lot more to live up to than it once did. Design may be a factor as larger screens and thinner profiles seem increasingly preferred. Frankly, the iPhone is looking a little long in the tooth compared with many of the new Android phones from Samsung and HTC.
It’s not just the form factor, but also the dated and seemingly immutable UI in iOS, and the closed nature of the operating system amounts to limited personalization options. This takes something away from the total package experience Apple aims to deliver.
Industry analysts predicted some mention of the new iPhone at the annual World Wide Developers Conference two weeks ago, but nothing was revealed or even hinted at.
We will have to wait and see where Apple finds itself in a couple of years. For now, all we can do is speculate whether or not Apple will be able to keep up with the rising standards of their competitors and the growing expectations of their users. Will Apple make a daring move in a new direction, or have they exhausted their emotional capacity? What do you think?