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Has Apple fallen from the tree of style ?

October 22, 2012

Some companies sense of style seems to come and go, while others become a byword for elegant and well-designed products.

If you go to buy an Aston Martin, you know you'll always be getting sumptuous leather seats and a refined driving experience. You wouldn't expect to need to use anything as old fashioned as an actual key to unlock the doors or start the car either - these are the hall marks of normal cars and Aston Martin sell a bigger experience than just the car.

The same is true of popular consumer companies too.

Apple is famed for designing beautiful and unique looking computers (yes, and the occasional dud !) and mobile phones, and has done so for decades. And just like the Aston Martin car, this means they can command a premium price for their phones, computers and software

When Apple produced it's own phone and new operating system, this extended into these too. With even the address book designed to invoke the feelings of using an exclusive feeling leather binder, this was undeniably a very good looking set of applications. But this level of design requires constant attention to detail. The whole perspective of a luxury car would be colored if you could see frayed or uneven stitching, or if the newfangled key-less ignition system didn't always work. Unfortunately, Apple does seem to be taking it's eye of the ball as two recent problems have made clear.

You probably already know that Apple recently launched the new iPhone 5, and one of the most hyped features of the new iOS 6 included with it was the map application. This was very heavily promoted as Apple had invested significantly and developed it's own mapping system rather than using Google's as in previous releases.

I suspect Apple did this because it often finds itself competing with Google in other areas, so it was a strategic risk to have Google control what is increasingly part of the daily mobile experience, in all it's "where is that pub" moments! Unfortunately, as sites like The Amazing iOS 6 Maps have great fun at pointing out, Apple hasn't had anywhere near as many years experience as Google, and doesn't seem to have data as accurate or complete either - which is very important in a map.

Similarly there have been several issues highlighted by the new camera on the iPhone 5 and worryingly it seems Apple's response to this is much the same as with 'antenna-gate' in that it complains you are holding the phone wrong or otherwise not using it in exactly the right way.

Both issues seem to highlight that Apple is now pushing systems to market sooner, in the constant push to seem new and trendy as well as differentiated from the other slick phone experiences that are now flooding the market, even at the low end. And while users of Android devices seem more tolerant of 'updates to fix that are coming soon' and often remake 'well it's only version 1.0' Apple seems to be just trading on it's past slickness.

With Android 4 now seeing wide spread release on phones and tablets, and even RIM's delayed Blackberry 10 ramping up to release Apple is probably starting to feel squeezed and pressured into doing "more, faster" rather than sticking to it's heritage and doing "less, better".As the hundred pound gorilla in the room stirs and prepares to release Windows Phone 8 with several models from companies like Samsung as well as the tame Nokia one may wonder if this new attitude of Apple's will cause it problems down the line.

However it turns out that around a third of phone users would still look at getting an Apple device for them or their family, and the main reason not to get an iPhone is just that most smart phones are now so good, there's no pressing need to change, especially if you are locked into a two year contract. 

Which says something about the benefits of being a luxury brand, no matter if you are selling cars or phones.

Posted by Tom Chiverton

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