Every so often I experience a moment of realization. Sometimes it’s good, particularly if I came to realize something important. Sometimes it’s bad, especially when I realize I’ve done something wrong and need to make a correction.
This past week I experienced a different kind of realization. Over the span of a few days I was blessed with the opportunity to help a few friends setup new iPhones and iPads, and work with another friend who chose a Samsung product instead of my recommendation, and who now has regrets and a touch of buyer’s remorse. Through it all I realized two things.
Listen To Yourself
First, I realized that each technology gadget maker appeals to a variety of customers, Apple included. Android customers appear to be divided into two very distinct groups. The first is the feature phone user, the customer who doesn’t care much about all the esoteric features that Google crams into Android these days.
Those customers want a phone that texts, takes pictures, uploads photos, browses the web a bit, plays a few games, and does email. This customer isn’t concerned much about user interface and they seldom spend additional money on their devices because they cannot see the value. They make up the vast unwashed masses of humanity that have entered the smartphone arena but don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s that simple.
The other end of the Android customer spectrum is made up of members of the technorati elite, those users who love to tinker, customize, and idolize the flexibility Google builds into Android, those who disdain Apple’s curated approach to the smartphone customer experience. They represent a tiny minority of the user base but they’re the most vocal and influential.
As noted earlier, this past week I helped a few friends and a family member set up new iPhones and iPads. The experience was revealing. Once I walked through the initial setup I launched into teacher phase and showed each one how to navigate, how to change settings, how to download and install (and how to delete) apps, and how to use apps. In each case they ‘got it’ because Apple makes the interface intuitive. A little knowledge goes a long way.
What struck me during and after those setup and instruction moments was the single ingredient that makes Apple different from Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon or any of the Chinese knockoff makers. Apple relies on intuition. When used, a product, whether hardware or software, must be intuitive and usage must be obvious. From my perspective as a longtime, certified Apple watcher, the company lives and breaths an inmate sense of intuition which is bonded to engineering excellence.
Apple designs and builds products that are instinctively, intuitively useful tools of a higher order. Not everyone on planet earth can sense what goes into a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Watch. But many people can, and hundreds of millions of them already know– or, feel– a certain respect and comfort with their Apple products, and do not derive the same sense from lesser devices made by Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and their ilk.
Perhaps that explains why so many technology manufacturers follow Apple’s design lead. Instinctively, they know the way to go after they see it. Does that not explain why today’s ultrabooks and Chromebooks all look like Apple’s MacBooks? Does that not explain why today’s smartphones and tablets all look like the iPhone and iPad which preceded them?
Apple, as a company of people, had the foresight and the capability– the intuition– to see the future of technology and usability, and to pursue both the design and engineering necessary to achieve the desired result– useful products that we love to use.
What makes Apple different? Intuition. It has always been an integral part of art, design, and engineering excellence; an inherent perspective that this is the way forward; not shared by all, of course, and not always recognized for its impact upon humanity, but it’s there and it’s important.