Playing for time while it puts the finishing touches to an all-new edition of iOS and a new iPhone model to go with it, Apple [AAPL] has attempted to change the chatter concerning its devices by publishing 12 reasons to choose an iPhone.
[ABOVE: Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to an iPhone is how easily you can speak to a human being if you're having problems with your device.]
Facts don't matter much
Somewhat predictably the usual critics who call the company's usual silence on such matters arrogant now term the firm talking about its own product as "weakness." Their approach puts me in mind of a street corner shell game -- whichever cup the company picks will be wrong and the stakes are high.
That's the environment, but what's Apple's message? Well, to begin the company points out: "There's iPhone. And then there's everything else." (Is that an existential statement or a factual one?) The company then proceeds to list just a few of the reasons iPhones remain the best choice for customers seeking a smartphone:
- Customer satisfaction -- JD Power has ranked the iPhone the "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Consumer Smartphones" eight successive times. That's why iPhone users actually use their smartphones.
- Design and build quality -- if you've been watching the iWatch chatter, here's why watches matter: "It’s made with a level of precision you’d expect from a finely crafted watch, not a smartphone. As a result, iPhone feels substantial in your hand and perfect in your pocket."
- Retina display -- arguably other smartphones offer similar quality displays, but Apple's keen to talk up the quality of its own, calling this a unique feature.
- Security -- while some users of some other platforms prefer to deny all the data that claims their platforms are inherently insecure, more level-headed consumers may welcome Apple's promise to review all apps made available via the App Store. "Other mobile platforms have a myriad of fragmented store options, resulting in availability issues, developer frustration, and security risks," the company (truthfully) points out.
- Other points include that the iPhone is the world's most popular camera, powerful and unique A6 chip crafted to work in close conjunction with the OS, and the device's unique battery technologies invented by "Apple scientists." Siri and iCloud are also touted as selling points.
Keeping it personal
Perhaps the biggest advantage in the eyes of many might be Apple's commitment to personal customer support. You can speak to "real people" on the phone or at an Apple retail store. This isn't how it works for users of other devices, who must run between pillar to post as they attempt to get some help, or, as Apple puts it:
"With other smartphones, you’re not sure where to go for help. Call the manufacturer, and they tell you to call your service provider. Call your service provider, and they tell you to contact the OS developer. Getting answers shouldn’t be that hard. And with Apple, it never is."
We are watching a change in the way Apple presents itself. That's in line with what Jean-Louis Gassee observes:
"Besides its ads, Apple says very little, confident numbers will do the talking. This no longer works as others have seized the opportunity to drive the narrative."
[ABOVE: Who can remember the iPhone 5 drop test? How well will a Galaxy S4 perform in such tests? If you were Apple would you test a Galaxy and run the results? I know I would.]
Backlash proves Samsung's fear
Apple's latest attempt to tell its own story has generated what now seems a customary backlash.
Rather than concede any of Apple's points (after all, the claims of customer satisfaction, build quality, security and support are hard to argue against), critics are panning the company saying its move to explain itself is a move of weakness in response to the threat posed by Samsung. It is worth reflecting also on how this kind of critical reaction hints at how concerned these self-same critics are that Apple might actually succeed in telling its story. Who is the weak one here?
In any case, it suggests Samsung's ads in which it insults iPhone users may provoke Apple to run a series of ads in which it becomes equally focused on the failings of products from its fallen friend.
CNet twists the tale to say that in publishing these points the company is somehow endorsing Samsung, arguing, "perhaps people aren't as excited by phones as they used to be".
9to5Mac's Mark Gurman (whose byline also pops up on sister site, 9to5Google) manages to claim that Apple's move to publish these claims seems "defensive," even though they are true.
Can you blame the firm for feeling this way? It seems everything it does is criticized out of hand at present -- even its recent Maps update generated the usual hostile clamor.
Forbes gave a guided welcome to Apple's new approach to aggressive marketing, writing: "I hope this is Apple waking up and deciding to put some moves on Samsung through the media. It’s all very well selling your phone from a stage when you launch it, but justifying the device over a number of weeks and years gives more information to the consumer, giving them a more informed choice, and gives the manufacturers an ongoing challenge to display and explain their competitive differences."
Apple's taking off its gloves
It would be nice to think that the final fate of the battle between iPhone and the Galaxy S4 will come down to user experience. This may not be such an equal struggle, given Samsung had hoped to introduce its device last month but was stymied by software problems. It will be interesting to see if that phone lives up to the bread and circuses with which Samsung shrouded the introduction.
So what's going on? It's pretty clear: Samsung has been trash-talking Apple within its marketing for months. With the new ad campaign and last week's statements from Phil Schiller, it seems clear to me that Apple is preparing to go on the offensive in its marketing activity.
I'd be completely unsurprised to see the Samsung Galaxy S4 put through a series of real-life user experience and reliability tests up against an iPhone.
It will be interesting how that plastic phone lives up to drop and display shattering tests, call quality trials, and extensive user reliability and satisfaction surveys in comparison to Apple's current or future iPhone. You see, I think these recent moves to go on the offensive indicate that Apple's had enough of being the foil to Samsung's marketing and negative media coverage, and I anticipate the gloves will come off as Cupertino seeks to regain balance.
It will also be quite interesting to see how receptive some of the more vituperative members of the anti-Apple Android cult are when faced with real-world, scientifically-proven tests of the kind I describe. While it is too early yet to predict if Apple's device will prevail in these tests, it's equally too early to predict how well other devices will perform.
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