Gary Meyer is the MD of iClinic, a digital strategy and management consultancy, a technology lover and amateur futurologist.
On a recent visit to my parents’ home, I had an interesting conversation with my mother that really got me thinking. It started with her excitement at telling me that her iPhone (which she’s had for 3 years now) could play music. This was of course shocking to me. My mother is one of the smartest people I know. When she doesn’t know, she has the skills to find information and learn and she’s also someone whose technological expertise far outweigh my own. How was it possible then for her to be unaware of something as simple as the iPod feature of the iPhone, arguably one of its core features. This told me there was a problem, and I wanted to try and understand where the break in information flow happened. Turns out, my mother’s never visited Apple.com, she’s never read the instruction manual nor has she ever bothered to ask anyone about the iPhone. When I asked her why, her answer was simple. “I had no reason to, my iPhone makes calls and I can send text messages. That’s really all I want it to do”. This really bothered me for sometime, as I felt I had let her down, she has this amazing device that she just wasn’t getting the full benefit of. It took me a long to time to accept the fact that, quite simply, she just didn’t care. It didn’t bother her at all.
My phone on the other hand runs my world. I do half my day to day work (both professional and personal) on my iPhone. I can’t imagine being able to work efficiently without it. It’s taken a very long time for technology to get to this point. I’m completely reliant on a piece of technology, and I’m very happy that I am. But it’s also made me realise that, because of this, I seek out ways and means to offload more of my day-to-day functions onto my iPhone. The idea of not knowing what my phone can and cannot do effectively is unacceptable. This is where I think the problem lies… I care too much and I try too hard to push the boundaries of what my phone can do and so I actively seek out this information, essentially forcing innovation. I also don’t believe I’m unique in this regard. The Android operating system is entirely dedicated to this ideal. The problem is that we’re very much in the minority. Apple knows this, and they’ve built an empire around it.
Apple doesn’t invent features and functions, it tries to make existing features and functions accessible.
Softly softly, catchy monkey. What we see as minimal evolution in product iterations is actually common-user introduction to the features we use on a daily basis. The iPhone doesn’t do anything your phone from 2006 couldn’t. The difference is that for the first time, your mother can use that feature, and more importantly, she can discover it for herself. Apple brings the same basic technology we’ve been using for years to the masses. The masses who don’t care enough to seek it out for themselves. That’s the market that Apple cleverly targets. Any feature loses its utility when it’s not being used, but as soon as it becomes accessible to someone who isn’t looking for it, it becomes magical.
If the Android operating system is the jack of all trades but a master of none, then the iPhone, and iOS in particular, is a master of the absolute basics.
Reviews of the iPhone 5 are a dime a dozen at the moment and they all seem to have one thing in common: the iPhone 5 is a great phone, but it’s starting to get boring. The problem with these reviews is that technologists/technofiles write them; people who actively work with and continuously seek out new technologies. These reviews are, therefore, only targeted toward a small selection of people rather than the ‘average Joe’ who could care less about what CPU a phone has. The fact of the matter is that iPhone reviews are being written by the wrong people for the wrong people. Here’s the kicker; if you’re reading this you’re also part of that group and Apple doesn’t care about you… they do love your mother though.
There’s a great article written by @Rianvdm on how Apple hasn’t yet reach the local maximum, which further alludes to this; it’s highly recommended reading:
The iPhone (as a product) will hit a local maximum when the current design cannot be improved any more. This isn’t necessarily the best product you can make in the entire industry, but it is the best iteration of the current product