Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apple's unseen advantage

The success of the iPod, iPhone and iPad has mainly been attributed to:
• Clean exterior design 
• Simplicity of use 
• Slick user interfaces 
• Strong battery life
• Apple's spot on branding

Apple detractors also count hype as a factor that drives their success.

There's something much more apparent though yet it is often overlooked: the nomenclature and simplicity of their model lineup.  A simple lineup with easy to remember names have played no small part in making Apple products ubiquitous in our everyday dialect.  Say "I'm buying the new iPhone" and everybody knows what you're getting.  Consumers (i.e. all of us) have come to expect that the only possible variance in any Apple range (except the MacBook) is memory size and the presence or absence of 3G.

Both the memory capacity and 3G capability are stated in the name of the model too e.g. iPad 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G or iPad 64GB Wi-Fi.  Furthermore the names make perfect sense when read out in full e.g. iPad 32 gigabyte with Wi-fi and 3G.  There can be no confusion then because the name explains the product you're getting 

A loss of memory, nothing more
There's an unseen benefit of having few differentiating features between your product derivatives: people feel more sure about what they're getting.  Between the iPad 32GB Wi-Fi and iPad 64GB Wi-Fi I know for instance that the only difference is 32GB of memory.  Everything else will be identical in these two devices and I will derive the exact same user experience from both.  This feeds into Apple's philosophy of focussing on the user experience rather than specifications and numbers.  I can glean the differences in specification between derivatives just by looking at the model name.  One doesn't need to do a side-by-side comparison of specification lists.  You cannot do this with any other competitor of Apple's.

And that's all you need to remember: there's this thing called the iPad or iPhone, and the only options you have to choose from are the storage capacity and 3G.  Beyond that you have peace of mind knowing you're getting the same features across the range: same processor, operating system, screen et al.  Apple have simplified the decision making process for the typical consumer and the very model names they use for their products aids greatly in this.  Choosing an Apple isn't daunting for someone without a degree in computer science.  It's easier to think about an Apple product because they make it so easy to remember and understand what you're getting.

Mainstream, not niche
Samsung's flagship phone used to be the Omnia, now it's the Galaxy SIII.  (Before Omnia it was called something else.)  But the Galaxy name is not isolated to Samsung's phones; it's used on their tablets too.  There's a Galaxy Tab 10.1 inch and 7 inch.  Then there's the Galaxy Note which is bridges the gap between tablet and phone.  Good products, but one needs a printed catalogue to know all the variants of the Galaxy range.  You need to dig a bit deeper to know if it's a tablet or phone you're looking at, whereas with an Apple product you immediately know - the name iPad or iPhone tells you.  In a printed catalogue where a small 7 inch tablet and phone can look pretty similar, it makes a difference.  Samsung's strategy is to go for every niche and crevice they can find, but their long product lineup coupled with a confusing naming convention makes it hard to know just what Samsung device you are looking at.

Say "I'm getting the Samsung Galaxy" and people will therefore be scratching their heads then - "Galaxy" could mean a number of things.

No decoding necessary
Apple's products are not abbreviated or encoded with alphanumeric names like SIII.  Wi-Fi is a commonly known contraction, and so is 3G - Apple didn't invent these as codes to put into their names.  It's a classic case of simplicity trumping complexity.

In the end the test is simple: whose product range can you name most easily between Samsung and Apple?

Disclosure: I own an Android phone; in fact I don't own a single Apple product.  I think MacBooks are overpriced and for what I do a Windows PC is more than adequate.  But I'm getting the iPhone 5 when it comes out, because between all the phones HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson make I can't tell what's what in the Android world any longer, and I don't have the hours or will to research the difference.

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