All technology ultimately becomes a fashion item”
Rumors are swirling about a troubling decrease in demand for the iPhone. No one knows for sure how true this is right now except Apple execs. But if demand is decreasing, I have a theory as to why — a variety gap.
When the iPhone first arrived, it was hot. While most poor schlubs were still pecking away at tiny keyboards or, worse yet, numeric keypads, the tech elite were tapping, swiping, and browsing the web on their sleek glass oracle from the future.
But, now that iPhone is the de-facto mobile phone for the masses, things have changed.
“Welcome to the future, here’s your… rectangle”
Let’s get one thing clear — I firmly believe that the iPhone contains the best mobile operating system, the best app ecosystem, and the best hardware construction of any phone out there. But Android and Samsung are catching up. And they have already caught up to the point where all these factors are good enough on Android. And if there’s anything we know about the average mobile phone customer it’s that they will happily buy things that are good enough, if they can save a few pennies — or get to express themselves a little bit.
When you make a single version of an amazing product for an elite market, that’s a cool product. When you make a single version of a produce for the mass market, you’re Ma Bell. Or you’re Henry Ford and his Model T – “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black” (or white). This type of “monodesign” strategy can only scale to a point.
A few weeks ago, I visited the East Village in New York City, and noticed something surprising. In this hotbed of fashion, trends, and money, the iPhone to Android ratio I saw was about 50/50. This was definitely not the case two years ago (or even last year).
In order for Apple to significantly step up its position in the battle against Android, it needs to give people more options. When the fundamental characteristics of competing devices are “equal enough”, people are going to start looking at smaller differentiating factors. On this side you can choose from a 4, 5, or even a 5.5 inch screen; Stylus or no stylus, four different colors, a variety of app launchers. On the other side, you’ll take this 4 inch screen everyone else has, and you’ll like it, damn it.
Now is the time for the iPhone mini, the 5-color iPhones and, if Apple is going to live up to Steve’s legacy, one more thing — that makes me feel ridiculous for even thinking I needed to write this post.