Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

Lining up for a bite of a shiny new season's Apple

First published in The National Times on 29th July, 2010.

The attention given to the release of Apple’s iPhone 4 highlights how the company has managed to successfully straddle the line between technology and fashion.

Australians will be able to get their hands on the new iPhone today. In the US, 3 million people bought the device in its first three weeks on sale.

Apple’s combination of technology (a decent phone with some cool features) and fashion accessory (it’s shiny, can I hold it now please?) means that its products are a common sight all over the world.

But world domination has its downside. It’s been a tough month for Apple; its latest brainchild has hardly been met with the same kind of “second coming” awe that the iPad inspired. The level of demand wasn’t anticipated; the newest iPhone is still available in only one colour, when it was promised in two; it’s probably best to avoid mentioning antenna issues and most recently, iPhone 3G was crippled by a software update.

The first thing to understand is that the antenna issues encountered by some iPhone users (or, as some in the media have dubbed it, “antennagate”) are a tad overblown. It’s true that a few phones do have these problems.

In fact, after a few false starts, Apple has been quite open about the problem. CEO Steve Jobs finally admitted to the issue, but chose an interesting marketing tactic. He decided to tip a bucket on Samsungs, Droids and Blackberries for having the same signal loss fault.

In this case it seems that Apple has become a victim of its own success – the antenna issues were unnoticed on other phones, but Apple is in a league of its own. Technically, it could recall all iPhones, but it’s cheaper to get around the problem by offering offer buyers a $30 case called a “bumper” for free.

Despite limitations (real or imagined by the media) and the fact that there are alternative devices that are just as effective, if not better, Apple has built itself into not just a reliable line of products, but a line of status symbols. A status consumer doesn’t just want a car, they want something with a name, like a Mercedes. In the same way, any knock-off mp3 player will play music . . . but it lacks the shininess. It lacks the “i”.

There are a lot of reasons why Apple has found itself in this situation. It goes beyond having a good product and effective marketing at the right time. It also has a lot to do with luck, and a general tiredness with the competition, Microsoft and Windows. All of these have played out in the release of the new iPhone.

But maybe the most desirable quality the iPhone 4 has is that it’s made by Apple. That is going to be enough to have people eager to check it out.

If you’re happy with the phone that you have, there’s probably little beyond the shininess that can make you buy the iPhone 4. There’s new features, sure, but there’s no huge leap from the last model, or huge distinction from other phones out there. But if you’re in the market for a new digital companion, this is the phone you’re looking for. The line starts here.


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This entry was posted on July 30, 2010 by in technology and tagged , , , .
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