Rantmodo: Apple's New iPhone Ads Are Technically Correct But Accurately Awful

Apple's new ad campaign focusing on the iPhone is an interesting reaction to the release of phones such as the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4. It's not, strictly speaking, composed of incorrect statements. It's just that some of them are awful.

Over the weekend, Apple launched a reinvigorated marketing push for the iPhone, centred around the idea that there's the iPhone, and then (apparently), there's "everything else", putting its smartphone up on a pedestal. That's natural marketing — nobody's going to come out and say that their top of the line product is inferior to its competitors, after all.

Apple keeps its cards close to its chest, so despite the never-ending rumour mill, there's no real way of saying when the next iPhone will launch, but I think it's fair to presume that it won't be in the next quarter or so. That gives HTC, Samsung, Sony, LG, Nokia and others more time to attack Apple's market position, so the strategy of talking up the existing model makes sense.

One unusual factor here is that that the new strategy is one that doesn't seem to have been adopted by Apple Australia. Head to the US site and to http://www.apple.com/iphone/why-iphone/ specifically, and you get the new campaign. Modify that to the .au domain, and you get a page not found. That's highly unusual for Apple, a company that usually goes for a global marketing campaign except when products aren't available within a given location. It's easy enough to buy an iPhone 5 in Australia, so its local omission is baffling.


What about the claims Apple makes for the iPhone? Here's my take on each of them in turn

iPhone has received eight straight J.D Power and Associates awards for customer satisfaction

Is it true? Yep, this checks out. You can imagine the outcry if Apple stated awards it hadn't won. Is it relevant? Not entirely. Look, Apple does do some good work when it comes to customer service around iPhone, and it would be daft to suggest otherwise. Still, those are US awards based around US customer service experiences, and if you read the small print, it states that they're based off 8,736 consumer responses measuring 8 manufacturers. Apple has sold millions of iPhones, so that's a very small sample of users, and the Australian marketplace split on smartphones (and indeed, available models) is different anyway. Perhaps that's why Apple Australia isn't (currently) running the page.

Every detail has been considered

Is it true? It depends what you think that means. Broadly, however, yes, it's also true.

Is it relevant? My issue with this isn't that Apple doesn't put a lot of work into its engineering, because it pretty clearly does do that. The thing is, its competitors do that too, and the headline is more or less designed to make you think that other smartphones perhaps cut corners to get into your hands.

Only iPhone has the Retina display.

Is it true? Sigh. Yes, it's true, but…

Is it relevant? Not that much. Again, this is very specific word choice. "Retina Display" is one of Apple's marketing terms, and it's one that doesn't even really have strict parameters. If you wanted to take the current iPhone 5, it has a pixel density of 326ppi. Do other smartphone have exactly the same ppi? I don't (off the top of my head, admittedly) think that they have that exact number, but there's more than a few that trounce that in a pure numbers game. Displays aren't solely about the ppi game though. As we've seen in Displaymate's rather exhaustive testing, the iPhone 5's screen is very nicely calibrated on the whole, but it's not unique in having a very good display screen.

Great battery life. Without a great big battery

Is it true? Maybe. Maybe not.

Is it relevant? Of course it's relevant — any smartphone without power is just a shiny brick — but the worldwide experience of iPhone batteries is a massively moveable feast. When I tested out the iPhone 5 myself, I was essentially happy with its battery life, but conversely, Luke pinpointed it as one of the worst features of the phone. Apple's having a sly dig here at phones such as the Galaxy Note II, which can pack in a big battery due to being large, but there are other smaller phones with impressive battery life, such as the Motorola RAZR M. Apple doesn't exclusively own the battery life/small phone space.

The A6 chip is powerful but not power hungry.

Is it true? Yep.

Is it relevant? I could almost repeat the answer given above; there are other smartphones packing power-sipping processors as well, although Apple's control of not only the software but also the hardware should give it an edge in terms of overall power design. The fact that so many iPhones do go flat daily suggests that this is an area that could use more work, not more boasting.

iPhone gives you ultrafast wireless and LTE

Is it true? Yep.

Is it relevant? In the context of other high end smartphones, and in particular to an Australian audience, not a single jot. Name me a high end smartphone sold in Australia right now that doesn't have LTE and 802.11n?

The world's most popular camera

Is it true? Probably.

Is it relevant? Apple seems to be basing this stat on Flickr usage, and Flickr isn't the entire world. That being said, I'd be inclined to believe there are more iPhone shooters than any other single model you'd care to name. However, popularity is not always a sign of quality, just that many people use it. Sadly in this day and age, cholera is still wide spread throughout many parts of the world. Does that make it a great disease?

Also, Apple's in dangerous territory here, as it touts that "other smartphones simply tout large amounts of megapixels, (but) taking great pictures is about so much more". That's true in the sense that megapixels aren't everything, but then again, there's the HTC One.

Millions of ways to be entertained. From one trusted source.

Is it true? Yep.

Is it relevant? Not as much as it used to be. Apple's app market lead has been slowly eroded — and it's not always a numbers game anyway, as there's only so many fart apps you actually need — and Apple's point that "Other mobile platforms have a myriad of fragmented store options, resulting in availability issues, developer frustration, and security risks" only goes so far. I haven't heard anyone complain about Windows Phone 8 malware, for example, and Google at least makes third party app stores disabled by default.

iOS 6. The world's most advanced mobile operating system

Is it true? I honestly don't know, but then Apple give no real metric.

Is it relevant? I guess that depends on what you mean by "advanced". This is mostly just marketing spin going over a few features such as Siri and Facetime (duplicated at least in part by competitors), direct updates (which other handsets manage once they pass carrier approval) and the number of apps available.

Only iPhone has Siri. Your wish is its command.

Is it true? The first sentence is true, but as for the second…

Is it relevant? Hang on, I'll try a little test.

"Siri, I want a Ferrari filled with unmarked banknotes" (hey, they did say my wish was its command)

This is what I got…

I'm still here writing this article, which means that it didn't actually happen. DAMN YOU SIRI, WHY MUST YOU GIVE ME EXCUSES???

Voice commands aren't unique to Apple, and as the above message shows, they're not immune to misinterpretation of the spoken word, either.

iCloud puts your content on all your devices

Is it true? I can't seem to find my photo stream on my toaster, but yeah, once again, it's not strictly speaking untrue.

Is it relevant? Ooh, cloud. If I had a drink for every time a vendor mentioned cloud, my liver would glow in the dark. Again, though, there's a myriad of choices here, and iCloud, despite Apple's promises, isn't entirely bulletproof when it comes to ease of use.

iPhone comes with something unique: Support from real people.

Is it true? Yes, once you can get them.

Is it relevant? This one I'll give Apple outright; while its annoying to have to line up Genius appointments when things go wrong, the facility is there to have a face to face with a support person. The quality of Geniuses can vary a lot — at least in my own anecdotal experience — but Apple does do a lot (and spend a lot) on customer service — as long I suppose as you don't get an outright dodgy Genius. Samsung has launched two stores in Australia that should offer the same kind of service, but otherwise you're stuck with going back to the phone store you got the phone from, and that's often a real gamble for anything but an outright dead phone.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think the iPhone 5 is a bad phone by any measure. Indeed, it's still an exceptionally good choice amongst a number of other choices. Apple's free to market its smartphone as it sees fit, but doing so by veiled comparison to other smartphone vendors and models does just as much to draw attention to the alternatives as it does to toot their own money-filled horn.

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