The iPhone as a travel brochure – Focusing on the details that matter

Wed, Jun 9, 2010

Analysis, Featured, News

Imagine the following scenario. You’re planning vacation, and after much deliberation, you narrow your future destination down to two places – Costa Rica and Cancun, Mexico. Now, imagine that during the process of deciding where to go, you start to compare seemingly minute details such as which country’s weather is closest to 85 degrees, which country has a better exchange rate, or which country has the nicest airport.

Pretty ridiculous, right?

Sure, details about weather and exchange rates are marginally important, but when deciding where to go on a vacation, the broader picture of what you can actually do and how you might enjoy each destination is much more significant. If you want to learn to Surf, for example, Costa Rica is the place to go, even if Cancun’s temperature might be slightly more accommodating. If you want to go snorkeling and have a relaxing time sipping rum-infused beverages on a beach, then you can’t go wrong with Cancun.

So what’s the analogy to Apple, here?

Well, Apple doesn’t sell the iPhone by advertising minute details such as how fast the processor is or how many megapixels the camera has, they sell the iPhone as an experience, by highlighting what you can actually do with the device. Other smartphones, and the Droid comes to mind here, try and sell you on long lists of features that in the end mean nothing if they don’t translate into a compelling user experience.

So using the travel analogy from above, Apple’s travel brochure, as it were, focuses on what you can actually do on a vacation while similar offerings from Apple’s rivals focus on less important details – like the square footage of the hotel room.

Nowhere was Apple’s laser like focus on the user experience more apparent than in the FaceTime video Apple showcased during Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote. Now the iPhone 4 isn’t the first smartphone to sport a front facing video camera for video chatting, but the emotional weight of the FaceTime ad actually shows users why they should care about such a feature in the first place. As Gina Trapani recently wrote, Apple “shows you how technology can make your life better during its most important moments.”

…The FaceTime video from Apple… features babies, people in love, grandparents seeing their grandkid in a cap and gown on graduation day, girlfriends showing off new boots, deaf people signing to one another, and the one killer scene that sold me. A soldier, presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan, sits on the edge of his bunk, holding out his iPhone, video-chatting with his pregnant wife/girlfriend at the hospital back home, who is getting an ultrasound. His eyes well up when he sees his kid for the first time.

The iPhone, in this regard, connects people, enhances life experiences, and transcends features that can simply be listed and printed up on a box. The Droid meanwhile, and as the name implies, is positioned as a product devoid of any emotion, with the name itself evoking images of a robot. Admittedly, this distinction is on the surface related to marketing, but the distinction is ultimately rooted in two different approaches in product development. Apple wants to give users the best user experience while other phone manufacturers are concerned with giving users the best specs.

In a similar vein, Apple wasn’t preoccupied with giving the iPhone camera the highest megapixel count on the market. Rather, they worked hard to significantly improve the iPhone’s picture taking ability by adding in LED Flash and a Backside illuminated Sensor to increase photo quality in both bright and low-light settings. Apple’s attention to the user experience with respect to photography was also evident when it released the iPhone 3GS and showcased its new “tap to focus” feature.

Spec sheet details are great for geeks, but Apple is one of the few companies that actually focuses on the details that actually matter, namely the broader user experience. The iPhone is a travel brochure done right.


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