Inspired by my new iPhone 4 lying on the table – and looking oh so pretty!

Apple’s secret sauce

Before you read any further you must know that I am a huge Apple-phile! Put about twenty u’s in huge and type it out in 32 – font, bold and underlined – kind of huge! So you will find some of that love showing up in this post.

But this post is not about how much I love Apple but what makes Apple and Apple products so special that it has become the largest tech company in the world. There has been a lot of literature on what makes Apple so special – here’s a summary (in my assumed order of priority):

  • Steve Jobs: The man behind Apple’s unrelenting pursuit of innovation – and who managed to make black turtlenecks a fashion statement (bah!)

  • The ecosystem as a differentiator: When iPhone launched in 2007, it (as Apple doesn’t forget to remind you) changed the cellphone market. True – to an extent – but there have been many handsets released post that who are equally good looking with better functionalities. What changed the game for Apple for the App Store with its over 300,000 official apps now! The App store has created an ecosystem for iPhone users that the others are finding hard to replicate – it’s the secret glue that makes me wanna play Angry Birds on my 3G S and then on my iPhone 4 (I am now planning on purchasing the Christmas edition of the game).  Android understood that very early but the Android Marketplace still has a lot of catching up to do

  • The best form and useful functionality – Besides my iPod Mini (which used to look hip back then), it’s hard to recall a single ugly looking Apple product in the last 5-7 years. Jonathan Ive has weaved his magic over the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air, and Apple continues to delight us with each new variant! You may not have cut-copy-paste or landscape keyboards to start with (something which a lot of tech firms try to do – make the device functionally perfect) – but you will get the best looking device that everyone wants to buy!

  • The best (and most ridiculous) varianting strategy ever : The iPad was launched in April 2010 and iPad 2 is already rumored to be out on February 2011. The iPhone has gone from iPhone -> iPhone 3G -> 3G S -> 4 in under 3 years! Concepts like product lifecycle mean very different things when it comes to Apple! But it works – I have changed 3 phones in 2 years and while you might not be crazy and / or stupid like me, Apple manages to convert people sooner or later – whether you’re an early adopter or follower or laggard!

  • Truly ‘American’ marketing: Apple epitomises the ‘American way’ of marketing  for me: loud, omni-present, in-your-face, unabashed and cool! From Jobs’ using words like ‘amazing’, ‘great’, ‘magical’, etc. 300 times per minute in every keynote to the not so subtle(but very cool)‘Mac vs PC’ ads to the ‘There’s an app for that’ campaign – it’s really, really simple and all around you – you can’t miss it!

The Secret Sauce

Beyond all of this – I think there is one intangible that people don’t really talk about – the real secret sauce – it is the instant ‘Likeability’ of the Apple devices.

Let me explain – Likeability is not an independent variable and is in fact created by a combination of the above 5 factors working in unison. It is more an effect than a cause I guess. There are many reasons to hate Apple – closed system, ridiculous varianting, gradual escalation of functionality, exclusivity with AT&T (for US folks), etc. Yet, people / critics don’t hate or trash any of their products. I have not come across anyone who says – ‘The iPhone / iPad / iPod  / Mac is a shit device and I will never buy it!”. You might say, “Oh, my Galaxy S is more functional” or “Oh, I am an Android guy” or “Oh, I just dont understand how this Mac stuff works”. You might not buy Apple for functionality / affordability or any other reason but you won’t find folks trashing it like Gizmodo did to the Nokia N8!

There is something about any Apple device that appeals to your inner senses – the good looks, the ease of usage, the responsiveness. The charm works in different ways and at a different pace on different people but the bottomline is – it JUST works! I wonder how many companies create products with this end in mind – ‘It doesn’t matter whether the customer buys our product or not, he/she must LIKE it and hopefully, at the end of the day, he/she will buy it!’ I wonder if Apple itself plans products towards this objective- but serendipity or cautious planning, Apple products have a likeable DNA which very few other companies possess!

My longest post on this blog till date – apologies for it!

Disclosure: I don’t know how many people judge other people based on the phone they carry – I know I do – and a lot of scoundrels have gotten away with favourable opinions because they carry iPhones!

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