With all of the clamor and discussion surrounding the much anticipated, newly released iPhone 6 and 6+ and the unveiling of the new Apple Watch collection, many pundits are droning on and on about Apple “finally catching up”. “Finally, they have a large screen phone!” “Finally, they have caught up to the rest of them with a watch or two!” All of this energy being focused on not “being first” into the marketplace got me to start thinking. The products that Apple is being lauded for innovating … were they first in the marketplace?
Let’s take a look at a couple of those products:
I remember the early MP3 players. I mean, I’m a tech guy. I also spent 20 years in the professional audio business in live sound, recording, installing and manufacturing audio gear. And for the life of me, I could not see the attraction. They were ugly. They were difficult to use (and I’m a tech and audio guy). And I did not understand why anyone would work so hard to “rip” (gosh … remember THAT term) their perfectly good CDs into an awful sounding file format of which these players could only really hold a minimal amount of songs. Adding to that, those things were ugly and hard to use.
Enter … the original iPod
A device so simple even my most technologically-challenged clients just simply got it! There was an application, iTunes, that simplified the ripping of your CDs into a pretty good sounding compressed file. And … Automagically synchronized them with your device. And because Apple waited until they could source the right technology (small hard drives, displays and batteries) and brought them all together with manufacturing processes to pull it off … they DOMINATED market and changed the meme for everyone else to follow. And lastly, they reframed why everyone NEEDED at least one iPod … when Steve Jobs uttered those magically crafted words: “A 1000 songs in your pocket”.
Being a tech guy … I was on the smartphone and Bluetooth bandwagon from the beginning. In those days you really only had a choice of two; Blackberry or Treo. I went down the Treo route although I supported both with my clients. Tiny buttons. Hard to read screens. Crappy mini web “browsers”. And the bain of my existence back then … keeping contacts and calendars in sync! It was a constant struggle!
Enter the original iPhone
Based on the evolution of the iPod technology with the iPod touch, the iPhone paved the way for all other smartphone makers to chase, eventually severely crippling them or putting their smartphone part of the business out of business.
Of course they were gorgeous. Of course they were sexy. Of course they were fashionable. However, the two biggest reasons why iPhone obliterated the competition were user interface and user experience. You could actually, easily and fast find what you wanted. There were apps that allowed you to do cool useful things and time wasters all the same. The biggest reason it was a success was that it was part of an Eco system in that, for the most part, everything just worked.
You could easily buy, download and sync apps and music. Being an audio dude, and at one point in my life being really serious about the quality of what I listened to, I knew that the tide had turned when I bought and downloaded from the iTunes Store an album I had originally purchased as a virgin vinyl, direct to disc recording. In these times, the audio quality was “good enough” and the sheer convenience of Apples Eco system made the trade off a no-brainer.
For really the first time, you could sync your contacts and calendars reliably. I distinctly remember how thrilled I was with not having to deal with “Palm Conduit” or “Blackberry sync”. And yes, nothing is perfect and there are many instances where there were syncing issues … but compared to what came before it … it was a miracle!
These are but two examples of how Apple not being first in the market space were brilliant strategies in world domination. First is not necessarily best. Apple figured it out … it’s not about the technology … it’s about the user experience!
So what are the earth-shattering user experience innovations that Apple-come-lately announced with the iPhone 6 and Apple watch? Click on the links below to read more.