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Apple needs to do more than just change the iPhone design

Farhad Manjoo (via Slate/ SMH) | June 12, 2013
To really fight back against Android, Apple will have to do more than just change its aesthetic.

The new cylindrical Mac Pro.
Apple unveils iOS 7. The new cylindrical Mac Pro. Photo: AFP

Near the beginning and the end of the keynote address at Apple's developer conference this week, the company showed off a couple of slick corporate branding videos. This isn't unusual for Apple; every new product comes with a fancy marketing campaign. But to me, these videos seemed to telegraph a new, larger vision for the firm, as ambitious an effort at re-branding as any we've seen from the company since the old Think Different campaign.

Set to text, the videos read a bit like dime store pop-business philosophy, but on screen, they're a powerful distillation of how Apple thinks about itself.

Here's the company's new TV spot: "Designing something requires focus," says the on-screen text in a longer, similarly themed web video. "The first thing we ask is, what do we want people to feel? Delight. Surprise. Love. Connection. Then we craft around our intention. It takes time. There are a thousand no's for every yes. We simplify. We perfect. We start over. Until everything we touch enhances each life it touches. Only then do we sign our work: Designed by Apple in California."

I'm sorry for bombarding you with ad copy, but these clips tell us something important about how Apple solves problems. The company's heart is in design - when it hits a bump in the road, its instinct is to rejig how its products look.

This instinct forms the back story for iOS 7, the new mobile operating system that Apple unveiled this week. The iPhone, the firm's biggest and most profitable product, has hit a bump in the road. Its growth has slowed, its market share is slipping to Android, and the big features it has introduced over the last few years (Siri, Maps) have been embarrassingly half-baked. There's also a bigger issue dogging all smartphones, not just the iPhone - they're not that exciting any more. Everyone has a phone and they all do pretty much the same things.

Gone are the days when Apple could outshine rivals with better hardware - a better display or camera, a faster processor, better battery life. Now all new phones are fast, they've got great displays, their cameras are jaw-dropping, while battery life is - and is destined to remain - just so-so. This is why smartphone screens have got so big. With no other way to innovate, companies are just adding extra inches.


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