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Blog: Apple’s marketing kicks into (low) gear – getting desperate?

Allan Swann
March 21, 2013

After years of having journalists and pundits fawning over every iteration of the iPhone, things sure have changed quickly since the launch of the iPhone 5.

While a successful launch by any other company’s standards, it was bogged down by a poor iOS6 launch (which deleted Google Maps, replacing it with its own failed Apple Maps) and a general disinterest from the community as a whole.

The iPhone 5 was little more than a processor upgrade for Apple fans, long crying for ‘the next big thing’. Samsung have used the same period to stamp their authority on the smartphone market ‘ its piece of marketing cool – “the next big thing is already here” – worked a treat, and mocked Apple fanboys queueing for the latest iPhone.

That, combined with superb products coming out of Sony (Xperia Z) and HTC (HTC One), and the imminent launch of Samsung’s high profile Galaxy S4 flagship ‘ has seen, for the first time in maybe five years, Apple not being the focus of the conversation when it comes to the future.

We aren’t particularly enamoured by Galaxy S4, which is also looking to be ‘more of the same’ ‘ with victory to be determined on the marketing front.

We uncharacteristically saw Apple’s VP of marketing, Phil Schiller, lash out at the fragmented Android eco-system (and Samsung) last week, followed by the launch of Apple’s ‘Why iPhone’ website.

For a company used to having the public and the media coming to them for information, this is a big marketing step: The bombast, the arrogance, the hype has been muted. It’s the first time Apple have had to come to the table and start the conversation, rather than having the conversation come to them.

So what have we learned? Very little actually. The page is a mixture of truths, half truths and waffle. Have a look and see what you think.

Even the heading gets off to an odd start.

HEADER: “There’s iPhone. Then there’s everything else.”

A truism.

SUBHEADER: “What makes an iPhone unlike anything else? Maybe it’s that it lets you do so many things. Or that it lets you do so many things so easily. Those are two reasons iPhone owners say they love their iPhone. But there are many others as well.”

Read: People like iPhones cos they do lots of stuff. Waffle.

1) “Iphone has received eight straight J.D Power and Associates awards for customer satisfaction.”

Its true. Not terribly sexy or a major selling point for most tech savvy consumers (and not one I’d put at the top of the page), but OK.

2) “Every detail has been considered” ‘ discusses the design and durability of the iPhone, stating “it’s made with a level of precision you’d expect from a finely crafted watch, not a smartphone.”

Apple may have once been streets ahead in their industrial design, but looking at the stunning design on the new HTC One, this is no longer a unique selling feature.

3) “Only iPhone has the Retina Display.”

Rubbish. Yes, Apple technically does have the only ‘Retina Display’ in town (by virtue of a trademark on the term), but it’s technology has long been surpassed by rivals. The iPhone 5’s 640×1136 on a 4-inch screen equates to 326 pixels per inch. The new HTC One has 468PPI (on a 4.7-inch screen) and Samsung and Sony have gone to 441PPI (on 5-inch displays). They have all surpassed Apple’s offerings ‘ and can watch movies in full 1080P HD.

4) “Great battery life. Without a great big battery.”

True, in the sense that the battery is ‘fine’. iPhones have long been famous for poor battery performance. iPhone 5 is not any poorer or better than others on the market. It has a 1440mAh battery. Samsung’s S4 will have 2500mAh. The HTC One is 2330mAh, as is the Sony. To be fair, these are powering larger screens, but the iPhone certainly doesn’t outperform rivals in a manner that suggests drawing focus to it. Perhaps to draw away historical criticism? If so, still not good PR to draw attention to past failings.

5) “The A6 chip is powerful, but not power hungry.”

True, in the sense that the entire iPhone package ‘ from battery to chipset to OS – is all built in-house, which allows it to be optimised to suit. As with #4, the A6 definitely works more efficiently with its battery. The processors available now are all fast enough for anything, so anyone buying a new phone in 2013 will have parity. If only for the simple fact that anyone building apps or games wants them to run on as many devices as possible ‘ no one’s chipsets have been pushed to the max, and nor will they be. These apps and games still need to run on an iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S3 to make money.

6) “iPhone gives you ultrafast wireless and LTE”.

I would’ve perhaps explained that LTE is a 4G mobile network (rather than descending into Wi-Fi technobabble). But then again, every modern phone has these capabilities.

7) “The world’s most popular camera”.

True, but worrying. Popular does not always equate to good – look at the state of what’s on your television. This might’ve been a good spot for Apple to discuss how they have defined consumer photography for the past few years, not lament the opposition’s megapixel race (and draw attention to their deficits).

8) “Millions of ways to be entertained. From one trusted source.”

True. The Apple App Store/iTunes is the best app, movie and music store in the world. It is also pretty secure compared to Android.

9) “iOS6. The world’s most advanced mobile operating system”

It is pretty much the same OS you’ve had for 2-3 years, with more bloatware. By that, I mean Passbook and Game Centre (which no one really uses) and other undeletable icons, such as Stocks, Newsstand and reminders. Why iTunes and App Store haven’t been rolled into a single app yet, escapes me. Siri is a toy for a laugh, but hardly useful for work. It is nowhere near as flexible as Android Jellybean (but that has its own complexity problems for non-boffins). So while I wouldn’t call it the most advanced, it still remains the easiest to use.

10) “Only iPhone has Siri”

No one really cares Apple. Really. I pull Siri out every now and then for a laugh, or to show to my elders to wow them, by most of the time I forget its even on my phone. I have never used Siri to send a text, check the weather or find me Richard Nixon’s middle name (It’s Milhouse by the way) ‘ typing is still better.

11) “iCloud puts your content on all your devices.”

True, and it does it very well for an automated service. Too well. I do get sick of it putting my iPad apps on my phone without asking, and vice versa. iCloud’s backup service remains essential. However, the lack of control over stored data (such as a Dropbox or Google Drive option) remains a weakness. Therefore, those multi-platform options remain superior. Also, HTC, Sony and Samsung all do their own cloud back ups these days.

12) “…Support from real people.”

Why isn’t this near the top? In a tech world full of useless repairmen, crappy service desks and warranty avoiding scamsters, Apple’s customer service (especially if you need to learn, purchase or repair) is the best in the business.

Conclusion?

All up, this is not the Apple apocalypse the blogs have been making out. It is a tad desperate, which is very un-Apple, but then again Apple has never really had any smartphone competition before. It’s basically just gone about its business embarrassing the incumbents and winning on its own terms. Now the playing field has been levelled, its had to come back to the table and do some marketing to remind everyone why something now so ubiquitous (the iPhone) is still interesting. I imagine Henry Ford had the same problems with the Model T 100 years ago.

However, to fill the page with a muddled bunch of half tech speak, half soothing PR waffle isn’t the way to do it. Its more like a shy, introverted teenage girl trying to discuss why she’s pretty, rather than the bolshy, bossy authority figure Apple really is – much like Samsung started doing last year.

Isn’t it odd to think of Apple as being out of touch, and the faceless giant Samsung as the one everyone’s looking to for a human face, a giggle and a dose of the cool?

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