Since Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the company he co-founded, and they started producing beautifully desirable computers and gadgets with an eye for detail that few compete with, they have benefited from the Apple “halo effect”. This effect was the name given to impressive marketing and advertising that meant that even though Apple made the most popular and widely used mp3 players and laptops, that they were still perceived as “cool” and for the “creative people” – a label many like to associate with.
There was a very good reason that they built up this effect – it was years upon years of producing desirable products at expensive but attainable prices that were a breeze to use. Did you ever try using one of the mp3 players from Creative or their competitors? Finding the song you want to play and making a playlists was more painful than smashing your head at a brick wall. And yet Apple’s devices worked so easily. iPods stood as the pinnacle what consumer gadgets could be, and they were all about music – something which never goes out of style.
The came the iPhone, one of the most popular consumer devices ever produced, and one of the most profitable. Again, Apple had come into an industry that may have had the technology, but as the devices had become closer to mini-computers, they lacked the finesse that would make them pleasurable to use. Apple changed that. Apple made surfing the web easy and seamless – this was not the cut-down and ever disappointing WAP-internet, this was the real thing all their in your pocket.
The revolution and success of the iPods, iPhones, and later iPads meant that people began to associate Apple with quality. You believed that whatever the product was that you bought from Apple, that it was going to work out of the box, be beautiful and intuitive – everything Apple made was suddenly “cool”. Like every company, Apple has had the odd miss-step with products such as Ping, which never gained traction, or the Apple TV, which whilst a decent device was never given enough time or polish to shine and is overshadowed by its cheaper and superior competitors. But these were only minor devices or product add-ons and never central to Apple’s core.
The problem for Apple is not these small miss-steps where products didn’t take off, but actually the continued success of their other products like iPhones and iPads without any “wow factor”. The wow factor is what kept the early adopter crowd interested, and what made them stand out as fashionable technology firm when compared to the clinical soulless corporations such as Samsung and HTC, it was this that made Apple appear as the cool alternative company always disrupting the big boys, even though they are the biggest.
Everyone has an iPhone. Back when the iPhone 4S came out, iPhones were already everywhere, even my Mum has one – but the stunning retina display is enough for people to go “WOW!”. They were managing to stave off the boredom of ubiquity by making changes that their competitors could only drop their heads and follow. It may not have been “cool” and “alternative” to own an iPhone 4S, but people still wanted to see and play with it, and that was the “halo effect” in action.
Problematically, with the lack of innovation with the iPhone 5 – there is little that people are excited to look at or play with. No-one stares jealously when they see someone else with an iPhone any more, and now there is nothing new or shinier to look at – this could be the end of the halo. Yes the pre-order figures are better than ever, but there are also more iPhone users than ever that are due an upgrade right about now. How many are making the switch from an Android or Windows phone? How many are buying out of their current contract early to get their hands on the new iPhone? Not many at all from what I can see.