Apple's Secret: It's Not About Hype, It's About being Useful

Oct 24, 2011


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For the past week or two I've been dealing with friends and family clamoring for the iPhone 4S. One friend called me from her new phone to tell me all about the ridiculous and hilarious conversations she has with Siri. Apparently, if you threaten to buy an Android phone, it will yell at you. In light of all the "I will destroy Android" coverage the Steve Jobs biography has been receiving, I like to think of him showing up in the Siri labs with a smirk on his face, suggesting his programmers make Siri share his hatred of Droid phones.

What's even funnier, though, is that as I read through the advance coverage of Steve Jobs I couldn't help but picture thousands of Apple enthusiasts lined up outside of their nearest Barnes & Noble the night before the release. Of course, those Apple devotees are not bothering with brick and mortar stores, they're preordering the book online.

According to PaidContent: "On the official morning of its release, Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs is #1 on the Kindle bestseller list, #1 in Apple's iBookstore and #2 on the Nook bestseller list. It is not yet showing up on the Kobo or Google (NSDQ: GOOG) bestseller lists, possibly since those sites don't offer pre-orders."

Apple has always been good at hype, and it's no surprise that this biography is benefiting from the PR juggernaut created by the release of the iPhone 4S and--unfortunately--the death of Jobs himself. But as David Meerman Scott wrote for EContent a few months ago in his "After Thought" column, "Apple is not different." Of course, Apple is a little different. That company gets "cool," and more importantly, its cool products quickly become indispensible. The company has managed to continue selling record setting amounts of tablets, and smartphones at a time when most people are clipping coupons and shopping around for the cheapest gas. How does it do this? Well, if you ask Scott, it's because Apple solves problems for users.

Personally, I'm addicted to the GPS on my iPhone (which is so old I'm sure iPhone 4s users look at me and laugh). Every month when I get my phone bill, or when I find myself playing Angry Birds instead of reading a book, I think about going back to having a normal cell-phone...you know, one that doesn't demand a data plan or take over my life. But I've navigated my way all over this country with nothing but my handy-dandy iPhone, and when I go for a walk, I pop in my ear buds and stream my favorite NPR station. Shopping lists, window measurements, and even Moby Dick all reside on my phone-along with hundreds of pictures that quickly get shared through Instagram.

Despite being notoriously bad at "playing with others," it's not even Apple's iPhone that I find it hard to part with. It's all the apps it enables from third parties. What Apple figured out was how to be the conduit of cool-and useful-tools. It made a simple, elegant phone which was the perfect means to bring tons of content to its users just like it did with iTunes and the iPod. Afterall, without music and podcasts, an iPod would be useless.