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Why phone manufacturers can’t catch Apple

In a world where enticing users to switch their phone relies on rolling out ever more must-have features, Apple has thrown in a hand-grenade that has literally exploded the market and left other phone makers scratching their heads and playing catch up.

The reason is simple. Apple don’t do features and don’t care who knows it – period. In fact Apple’s mobile devices have lacked features that other phones have had for years and yet this hasn’t mattered one jot to their awe inspiring market penetration.

How so?

Simple marketing psychology. Apple have spent years creating a contemporary aspirational lifestyle brand, given it an equally aspirational premium price tag, and shaped their products to have must have ‘sex appeal’ by rock-star product designers that make the rest of us drool and quiver with desire.

By bringing the same approach to mobile technology they have all but eliminated the competition simply because the telecoms players have no experience in playing that game. While the likes of Nokia, HTC, Sony etc have worked hard to squeeze ever more features and functionality into their essentially identical phones – which has of course been the same approach for technology manufacturers since technology as a product began, Apple have swept away all competition simply by majoring on desire (ironically the name of a Google Android handset – more later). This can be seen every time Apple launches a new product with would-be owners camping out for hours, sometimes days, to be among the first to own the new item. Bragging rights to one side owning an Apple device makes a statement to the world which is simply too compelling for them to ignore.

So what hope the rest? All is definitely not lost. Possibly because of their new found power, or possibly because they are under far more scrutiny, Apple have over the last year or so begun to arguably tarnish their previously untouchable uber-brand by enforcing cynical ring-fencing ploys on their customer base. Customers have discovered that it’s Apple’s way or no way at all. This has also been very evident amongst the developer community who have had to jump through hoops to get their applications published on the ‘i’ range (although this has relaxed slightly of late). The aggregate of this is an ever so slightly bitter taste and a groundswell of dissenting voices which Apple would do well to listen to.

But what’s this? Is this a white steed galloping towards us over the horizon in the shape of Google – or more of the same in a different guise? Interestingly Google, never an outfit known for aspirational marketing has been soaking up market share with it’s Android mobile operating system by playing Glee to Apple’s High School Musical. By appealing to the geekorati who want no part of Apple’s anti-feature walled garden they are gradually knocking on Apple’s dominance, offering an all you can eat without confines approach. The truth of course is that Google’s seemingly Robin Hood saves the day model masks it’s true desire (oops, there’s that phone again) which is to create the widest advertising platform the world has ever seen. However, as Mcdonald’s and those cute little cleaner fish that hang around with sharks all know – if you give something away for free with few conditions, your customer base don’t mind you taking a little back for yourself in return. 

Apple have a war chest the size of Bill Gate’s bedroom safe now though so it’s a sure fire bet they won’t relinquish their strangle hold that easily. That said, Google’s Italian lined leather wallet is fairly sizeable also – so a royale with cheese size battle is definitely in the offing between the two 21st century techno-empires.

Whatever the future holds for Apple, few can fail to be impressed by how cleverly they have played their game, literally developing micro-markets where before there were none. Whether this dominance will persist in a post-Steve Jobs world, or whether Google manages to reach global domination sweeping away all other comers remains to be seen, but one thing remains true for now, we love our iPhones and iPads and look forward to the next Jobs keynote with dribbly relish!  

If you are contemplating iPhone, iPad, Android, or Microsoft Phone development, please get in touch.

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