Is Apple Losing Its Consumer Marketing Touch?

CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky just wrote a nice piece,” Apple fails to market the iPhone 12 Pro to the average consumer

My take on the article: One of Apple’s traditional strengths has been translating technical capabilities into household tasks. This strength is what allowed the iPhone to take off in the first place when the initial iPhone hardware was inferior to its competitors. As an example, when the iPhone first came out, 3G networks had already been in the United States for five years, yet Apple started with a 2G phone.

The odd part is that the technical capabilities of the iPhone 12 do translate to a more personal phone: take the outdoors home with you, augment your world, get a smarter phone. 5 nm chips are much smarter than any other iPhone ever. But Apple didn’t find a way to bring the story together for the iPhone 12 despite having a more vivid, smarter, faster, and more networked phone. From a technical perspective, the iPhone 12 is a big upgrade, almost a generational improvement.

But Apple fell for the hype of its partners with 5G and 5nm rather than the personal, high-end, affordable luxury game changer branding that has made Apple a juggernaut. If there is anything that Apple should know by know, it is that all of these technical numbers are practically meaningless to its core audience. Although I’ve joked in the past that technology doesn’t seem to exist before Apple acknowledge that it exists, I don’t actually think that works for 5G, as both the infrastructure and use cases for 5G at the consumer level have not been fully figured out yet.

Just as Bose customers couldn’t have cared less about the audiophile’s perspective of Bose products, Apple customers couldn’t care less about the computing specs compared to the simple question of “Does it work?”

Some basic apps or features on the iPhone 12 taking advantage of the enhanced photos, LIDAR, and 5nm based processing in the background would have been great. If Apple can’t figure out how 40%+ faster helps you, how can anyone else?

It’s also interesting that there was little in the new phone regarding security or working from home. I guess Apple figured it has nailed Work and School from Home despite all the challenges that still exist. But for anybody who has either been moved to a work from home situation or has had the interminable experience of helping your kid with a remote schooling environment, you know there is a lot of work left. Some sort of example of how to make the iPhone a work hub would have been really interesting.

To me, the iPhone 12 launch felt like an old Nokia Symbian phone launch that always focused on specs and hardware superiority. Even BlackBerry, back in the day, had more appeal to the feel and UX of its devices. Ask Nokia how that technical superiority sale turned out in the late 2000s. 

I’m not saying Apple will disappear tomorrow. But the iPhone 12 launch looked like that of a mature technology waiting to be disrupted rather than a technology designed to further enhance your life. This is an interesting time to watch the evolution of the smartphone industry, as augmented reality devices are not ready for the mainstream yet, Huawei is dealing with geopolitical challenges, Samsung continues to produce a variety of smart devices, and Google has revived the Pixel brand with an impressive set of recent device models.

My recommendation: the iPhone 12 is an interesting set of functionalities that still lacks the infrastructure and apps to fully take advantage of what it does. I think this will be a great device to purchase around the same time that a COVID vaccine becomes generally available, probably around Summer of next year. Until then, if you want to get used to the photo and LIDAR capabilities of the phone or are in a city with good 5G coverage, the iPhone 12 is a good starting point.

For more context on 5G, please read our strategic guide on 5G or contact us at info@amalgaminsights.com to set up a strategic consulting session.