At least a few times every year since I started using Apple products back when the Mac was all Apple had, someone writes that Apple has lost its mojo. Maybe so, maybe not, but who’s keeping track of the score so we know where the mojo went?
Nobody. Nobody tracks such things. Remember, critics howled when Apple went into the Apple Store retail business. How did that turn out? The company was castigated when it launched the iPod. How did that turn out? We see the same kind of ‘Apple has lost its mojo‘ whenever a notable public problem occurs or when a new product is launched that does not meet with standards set by the nattering nabobs of negativism and their evil twins, members of the technorati elite politburo.
Has Apple lost its design mojo? No. Look around for evidence.
One To Many
Back when Apple was the Mac we heard the same critics and similar howls of disgust whenever a neighbor’s Mac crashed. Yet, Apple managed to get through the dreary 90s, enter into the 21st century with money in the bank and a growing customer base, so can we assume the company did a few things right?
What is mojo, anyway? Magic. Design magic. The kind of magic we saw when OS X became the de facto OS on a Mac. The kind of magic we saw in the iPod, the click wheel, iTunes, and iTunes Store for Windows. That all didn’t work perfectly, but name a competitor still in business that does the same thing better?
Rick Tetzeli, writing for Fortune and organ grinder monkey tech support forum, questions the company’s ability to produce that mojo magic because someone had a problem on an iPhone 6.
The Touch ID on Victoria’s iPhone 6 doesn’t work well in the winter cold. John is tired of kneeling or sitting on airport floors to plug in his 6s, whose battery seems incapable of lasting through the day. A few months ago, Henry noticed that when he’d type an “I” into his iPhone, “A?” would sometimes show up on his screen.
None of those items happen to Samsung customers, right?
Adam, who’s younger, has ditched Apple for Google’s Pixel 2 XL, because he prefers the design and uses Google apps. Tony, who thinks iTunes has gone from being a well-organized music library to a disorganized marketing vehicle for Apple Music, has subscribed to Spotify and Pandora.
When, since the iPod launched in 2001, has iTunes ever been an organized entity?
Wait. There’s more. And it gets worse.
The five people in my home use two dozen cables to power and connect 18 Apple devices. Six are frayed and wrapped in duct tape—their thin, rubberized, and attractive-till-it-breaks covering doesn’t seem designed for the heavy use these cables obviously get.
From those arguments– issues that have been around forever– Tetzeli concludes Apple may have lost its design mojo. Why? How? Because it just works doesn’t always work and it once did work all the time for decades without Apple ever having a problem to acknowledge. Right? What? Not right? Right.
A central design tension at Apple has always been keeping its products clean, streamlined and easy-to-use while adding more, and more powerful, features. The best Apple designs—the best product designs, period—navigate this tension by making astute choices about when, what, and how to incorporate new technologies. Critics argue that Apple is making more poor choices.
Apple has more products than in the past. Complex products. And more than 1-billion customers. Compare that to the Mac when the iPod shipped in 2001. How many customers did Apple have back then? Each finger is 2-million customers. The iPod changed that. The iPhone exploded the customer base, and making all those products work well together is an enormous undertaking and sometimes something does not work. How is that different than Samsung, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, HP, or anyone else that Apple competes against?
Here’s how we measure such things.
Was there a time during Apple’s history when everything worked perfectly well as in “it just works?” No.
Is there a competitor to Apple’s product line where everything just works perfect well as in “it just works?” No.
Apple has the industry’s highest customer satisfaction ratings, an exceedingly loyal customer based, more than 1-billion customers, and products that customers love more than critics. So, what can we conclude from the above?
Has Apple lost its mojo? Prove it. Where’s the math?
Tetzelli trots out a list of Apple design hits– Apple Logo, Mac, iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and AirPods. Fair enough. Then he struggles to find matching flops– hockey puck mouse on iMac, Apple G4 Cube, iPod Hi-Fi, and, for some reason, Apple TV (Apple’s first official hobby). Oh, and cables and adapters.
That’s it? That’s all you got?
Tetzeli spins a few thousand words– obviously, Fortune pays writers by the word, with extra bonus points for using Apple, Mac, iPhone, and Steve Jobs— that meander off the topic of magic and mojo about halfway through the cobbled-together piece, and end up praising Apple for becoming more relevant against very large and competitive rivals– of which Apple is the largest and most competitive.
Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?
Apparently not. It just took about 4,000 words to get to the point.
What Apple needs to do is make the mojo magic work where it is most visible and beneficial to the customer. Frayed cables are a non-mojo magic issue. Everyone’s cables fray. Except mine. I pull them out correctly. They last for years. A single USB-C port in a MacBook? That’s wrong. Not upgrading the Mac mini since a 4th generation Intel chip was put inside while 8th generation chips are available? That’s wrong. Ignoring the professional market for half a decade? Wrong again.
But none of that h as anything to do with magic mojo because its apparent customers love Apple’s products.