iPhone 2.0 Lesson: Good Marketing Can Lead to Bad Decisions

Rob Enderle

This morning I got an e-mail from Alex, the husband of a clearly upset woman who bought the first-generation iPhone. Evidently she has been complaining about two major shortcomings in the 1.0 version of the phone for some time and now is particularly upset that she has to buy the new iPhone to address these shortcomings. The complaint to AT&T was forwarded to me.


Her husband, who uses a Samsung BlackJack, appears to share her belief that AT&T should "make her whole" and replace her iPhone with the new version. This showcases the problems with being an early adopter of new technology and getting excited about the hype, but not really matching features with your needs. (By the way, until good third-party reviews are up, TG Daily has a nice wrap-up of the early "packaged" iPhone 2.0 reviews).


Let's talk about this today.


The 1.0 Mistake And Apple in General


Apple is the strongest marketing company I follow. It probably could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, products they probably don't want or need.


There lies the problem: People buy products that they probably shouldn't, then are disappointed in the results. And that raises questions about judgment and none of us, and I include myself, like to have folks question our judgment.


The first-generation iPhone had a number of shortcomings, some from being a generation 1.0 phone and others designed in. Those vexing Alex's wife fall into the latter category. For her job, she needs the high bandwidth of a 3G phone like the Blackjack and she needs strong GPS to get where she needs to go.


The Samsung Blackjack was designed to compete with the RIM BlackBerry and has a smaller screen, keyboard, and a removable battery that can easily be replaced. It's designed as an e-mail/texting platform with a focus on business and has 3G and GPS. The iPhone was designed as more of a fashion statement/consumer device for video and music. It needed longer battery life, yet due to the large, bright screen, consumed a lot of power. To make the phone meet its primary function, 3G and GPS were left out of the iPhone. So if she wanted GPS and 3G, she should have bought a phone that had those.


The 2.0 iPhone: New Tradeoffs


A lot of folks complained about the first-generation iPhone, so Apple added GPS and the 3G support she wants and cut the price. But the phone services are substantially more expensive, the battery life is substantially less (lasting less than a day, according to the early reviews) and the phone isn't, to my eye, as stylish. It looks kind of pregnant from the back and some 1.0 accessories, such as the now-more-critical third-party extended batteries, don't fit.


For me, a phone with a built-in, short-lived, non-replaceable battery is a non-starter. While I'm not an iPhone fan, were I to choose between the now fully patched first-generation iPhone with good battery life and the new one, I'd favor the old one because a dead phone is worthless. If you use all the features, the second-generation phone will be dead a lot. I also prefer metal over plastic and want all the software upgrades on the old phone.


Making Smart Choices


In the end, this is simply a lesson in making well-thought-out choices. Marketing can get you excited about features you don't need and products that, if you thought about it, aren't better than the ones you already have.


Sometimes, whether it is relationships -- the "Today Show" has a nice piece this morning on a similar process to pick a spouse -- or products, it really helps to think through what you want and then look dispassionately at your choice. Sometimes the right thing to do is not buy until the product meets your needs. It seems obvious, but we all seem to forget this way too often. Money is tight. folks. Spend yours, or your company's, wisely.


Getting too excited by the hype can reward you with months of feeling really, and appropriately, stupid. Been there, suggest we all try harder not to do that.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 11, 2008 11:03 AM Douglas Karr Douglas Karr  says:
I'm sure some heads will roll on this one, but it's simply about expectations - isn't it? When you put all your eggs in a single basket like Apple does, you better make sure there are no holes in the basket! Reply
Jul 11, 2008 11:24 AM Lisa, Director of Vertical Insight Lisa, Director of Vertical Insight  says:
Great read. Thanks for the heads up (and the lesson in betwixt). :D Reply
Jul 11, 2008 2:00 PM Piot Piot  says:
So. Your friend, Alex bought the first iPhone that has neither 3G or GPS ...... and her complaints are ... that she needs 3G and GPS....Do you see where I am going with this Rob? Reply
Jul 14, 2008 3:44 PM G. Levine G. Levine  says:
It may not be the entire world's favorite phoneit's just barely gaining traction among business enterprise usersbut as it already has 20 percent of smartphone sales after being on the market for little more than a year, it's certainly doing well.Kingfish: Well, good judgment comes from experience.Amos: Then where does experience come from?Kingfish: Experience comes from bad judgment. Amos 'n Andy radio show Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to make new mistakes. Move on. Reply
Jul 14, 2008 6:13 PM Perspective Perspective  says:
No offense, but your friend's wife is a moron. It seems instead of "asking" whether these features would be, or even could be, added, she simply "assumed" they would be. Had she simply "asked" the people at the store, or even her husband (who after all, knows Rob Enderle) whether either 3G or GPS would be available on the first-gen iPhone, she would've had her answer. I don't see how Apple (or any other company, for that matter) is obligated to protect your friends from their own stupidity with respect to purchasing decisions. This is business after all. Here's the moral to the story: buy a product that works for you today, not that might work tomorrow if upgrades are made. Terrible. Also, by inference, it seems Apple is held to this standard because it markets well. So, since RIM doesn't market well, if your friend's wife makes the same gaffe, it's not RIM's fault, right? Reply
Jul 16, 2008 11:03 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Actually, he doesn't know me, I get lots of email from folks I don't know who want help with something or just want to chat. But yes, there is no blame on Apple for this she should have picked a product that does what she wanted it to do. My point was that it isn't Apple's fault and that people should think through their purchases.The marketing part was when you have a feeding frenzy, people clearly don't which is what creates the problem. But that doesn't mean Apple should stop marketing but that buyers should be more careful. So I actually think we are in agreement. Reply

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