The Jobsian Halo Effect

Now that the dust has settled, I thought I’d pen down my thoughts on Apple’s latest line-up of phones, watches, payment system and the company itself.


I’m guessing many of you have seen this image floating around the internet in the past few days – the iPhone 6 compared to the Nexus 4. As funny (and true) as it is, one must keep in mind that there’s more than just hardware specs to an iPhone. In fact, Apple’s iPhones have for generations lagged behind their contemporaries in the spec race. So what? I’ve never heard anyone describe an iPhone as a “beast” the way they describe the Galaxy Note series. The iPhone is an elegant device, a fashion statement if you please, not some monster. Specs are redundant in the Apple universe. Apple tightly controls every aspect of the iPhone experience, making it the most refined phone on the market even with its mid-range specs. Is it dual-core, quad-core or octa-core, how many gigs of RAM, what’s the pixel density…for Apple (and its fanboys) it doesn’t matter as long as it works like a charm! Did anyone notice that Apple didn’t even bother upgrading it’s camera on the iPhone 6 (and just added OIS for the iPhone 6 Plus). For me, Apple is a genius in creating this halo around its products because

it really takes a genius to sell outdated technology at a premium in a size that it once derided for lacking common sense!

Oh yes, have a look at this commercial for the iPhone 5s.

Unfortunately for Apple, I don’t consider cellphones a fashion accessory. Nor can I justify paying such a high premium for a device that I will change in a couple of years. And to be brutally honest, I feel suffocated using iOS (it’s too rigid, I can’t live without widgets and ‘share intent’, no Google Now integration, it has looked the same since version 1…etc. etc.).

But I bet all you Apple fanboys reading this can’t wait to get your hands on the new iPhone! The other day someone compared the iPhone to an Audi or BMW. I disagree. Yes, both products appeal to the premium segments in their respective markets, but would an Audi or BMW pack 2012 technology in their 2014 model? Maybe someone could argue this out with me since this isn’t really an apples to apples comparison (pun intended).

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But then again, it’s hard to argue with fanboys. Personally, I ask every iPhone user to try out Android. There is a tremendous amount of choice in terms of hardware, price points and the OS is far ahead in terms of functionality and customisation than iOS.

So then, let’s talk about the Apple Watch. (Wait, did you notice how the two new things introduced by Apple this year were called Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Is that Tim Cook’s way of announcing that this generation of Apple products belong to him?)

In the past fortnight Apple and Samsung have released products which are useless if you’re left handed – the Apple Watch and the Galaxy Note Edge. Sorry lefties. But I have a question for Apple – Why? Seriously, why did you release a watch? A product category that has yet to prove it’s purpose. Did you succumb to the pressure?

What I said sounds an awful lot like what was being said when Apple launched the iPod (R.I.P.) back in 2001. Look what happened then. The iPod was definitely the best built MP3 player when it launched, and coupled with the power of iTunes, it changed the way we consumed music. So maybe we wait to see what is the iTunes to the Apple Watch. And that’s why perhaps Apple has delayed the release of its watch till 2015. My guess is that Apple is banking on developers to create an army of apps before the watch goes on sale. It’s very unlike Apple to launch a product without its own ecosystem. So hopefully when it’s time, the “Apple Watch Store” will have plenty of Apple Watch specific apps that will justify the watch’s existence.

And speaking of ecosystems, how about Apple Pay. Probably the best announcement from Apple in 2014. Granted that NFC chips have existed in Android phones since I can remember. My Galaxy Nexus (2011 model) had NFC. But what Android didn’t have was an ecosystem of vendors who would accept payments from my phone or Google Wallet. The only purpose NFC served was to transfer files by high fiving phones. And all the gimmicks that Samsung thought were cool with NFC, remained gimmicks. Sorry Samsung, Group Play is not a thing!

Apple Pay is the start of something big in my opinion. This is the Apple I like and admire, the Apple that looks to challenge and change industries. The one that uses an existing technology (NFC+Touch ID) to build a business model and use its muscle to get others on-board. I personally can’t wait for NFC payments to go mainstream. It’s high time credit cards were made a relic of the past.

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So, what am I getting at here – Apple is not a cutting edge technology company. With it’s recent hires of Angela Ahrendts and Marc Newson, it’s very evident that Apple wants to be (or is already) at the intersection of technology and fashion. That’s why it’s one of the most profitable companies in the world with constant margins over 30%. It doesn’t care if you compare the iPhone 6 to a Nexus 4 or a banana. It doesn’t care if it releases a product first or last. But when it does release a product, you can be rest assured that it will be the best designed and best built product the world has ever seen in that category and it will come with own little ecosystem. Say what you want, but at the end of the day it’s Apple that’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Steve Jobs was a genius at creating this halo effect around every Apple product he launched. Look at his unveiling of the iMac from back in 1998. He literally made you feel bad for owning a PC. And in 2007, he made you feel like a fool for owning a BlackBerry. He spewed out words such as “cool”, “beautiful”, “works like magic” excessively when talking about Apple products. Every product of his was bigger than the sum of its parts. His magic still lives on in everything Apple does today. His magic left an ever lasting Jobsian halo around every Apple product. Tim Cook too threw around the same words around while introducing the iPhone 6, Apple Watch and Apple Pay this week. For him, and Apple, it is imperative that they keep that halo alive. Because without that halo, people could be fooled into believing Apple is just another tech company.

Don’t believe me, I leave you with this little gem from The Verge


(Spoiler alert – the iPhone 6 Plus is bigger than the Galaxy Note 3 owing to its top and bottom bezels)

Devesh Sahai

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