The Apple Experience: Greater Than The Sum of its Parts

Most experts agree that the Samsung Galaxy is far technically superior to the iPhone

Most experts agree that the Samsung Galaxy is far technically superior to the iPhone

Most experts agree that the iPhone is not the most technically superior smartphone in the market. In fact, several different phones are far superior to the iPhone in categories like screen resolution, battery life, and processing speeds. The Samsung Galaxy line of phones seem to be better across the board in terms of technical capabilities, and Samsung markets these differences aggressively to try to pull away Apple’s loyal fans from their beloved iPhones.

But it doesn’t end with iPhones. Macs aren’t the most superior laptops, iPads aren’t the best tablets, and iWatches are not the best wearable technology. These devices are all priced as though they are the best in their class, and their market share seems to reflect that as well. How are these Apple products so popular and successful?

Apple relies on the holistic “Apple Experience”, not just the individual Apple product, to make its products superior in the eyes of its consumers and so popular in the markets that it competes in. The Apple Experience is fascinating, because its effects span across the individual user and their Apple products (internal level), as well as across different users of Apple products (external level).

The Apple Experience is what keeps you hooked- not the individual products themselves

The Apple Experience is what keeps you hooked- not the individual products themselves

Steve Wozniak said last year that Apple focuses on seamless connectivity between its products more than any other technology company, creating a need to own other Apple products if you own even a single one. This creates the internal Apple Experience for users. For example, lets say you are browsing the web on your Macbook and close the screen to let your laptop sleep. If you have the appropriate setting on, when you pick up your iCloud linked iPad or iPhone device and open the Safari app, the same web pages you were browsing on your Macbook will be open for you. Text messages can be sent and seen from any Apple device, and any picture taken or note stored can be viewed from all of your devices instantly.

Want to use Apple products with non-Apple devices? You'll need these Apple lightning cables- and most likely, these Apple lightning cable adapters!

Want to use Apple products with non-Apple devices? You’ll need these Apple lightning cables- and most likely, these Apple lightning cable adapters!

These are convenience factors that Apple has enabled to make sure that once you own an Apple product, you are inclined to expand to an entire family of Apple products. But this expands to necessity factors as well. Google has made sure you can connect your iPhone to any Google Chromecast and enjoy the same functionality as a connected Android phone, because of how huge the iPhone market is. But the Apple TV has very limited functionalities unless you are using an iPhone or a Mac computer. The Apple iWatch only connects to iPhones, and even Apple’s proprietary Lighting cables and ports only connect with Apple products (essentially requiring adapters if anyone else wants to connect to such products).

Drake has been the main external spokesman for Apple Music. All Drake fans must turn to Apple Music, and thus Apple products to hear his music

Drake has been the main external spokesman for Apple Music. All Drake fans must turn to Apple Music, and thus Apple products to hear his music

Even in terms of software, Apple positions itself in ways that you basically HAVE to buy its products in order to enjoy particular products or services. For example, Apple Music is the exclusive music provider of Drake, one of the most popular artists in the entire music industry. If you don’t own an Apple Music account, you can’t stream Drake’s music. And if you don’t own an Apple device, at least thus far, there is no native way for you to access your Apple Music account.

There are external effects to the Apple Experience as well, where Apple heavily leverages network affects to pressure individuals into purchasing (and sticking with) its products, whether or not superior products or better valued products emerge in the market. Airdrop is an awesome technology that allows quick sharing of media over the air, but it only works between Apple devices. So, if you want to Airdrop media with your friends, or see your friends Airdropping media to each other and having to take “extra” steps in order to send the same media content to your Android device, you feel extremely pressured to jump ship to Apple.

Even in terms of Text Messaging, Apple subconsciously makes you dislike other non-iOS device users. Text messages between iOS users are always displayed with dark blue backgrounds, making the text easy to read and very appealing and

How annoying are green texts?!

How annoying are green texts?!

soothing, which are natural qualities of the color blue. Meanwhile, text messages between iOS users and non-iOS users are always displayed in with green backgrounds on the iOS devices. This shade is specifically chosen to make the text harder to read, and it makes the texts itself 1) Stand out as different from the rest of your text messages and 2) Makes these texts much less appealing when compared to the soothing blue color of the other text messages.

So Apple doesn’t even need to necessarily create technically superior products in order to be successful in its markets. It already has such a dominant foothold in technical markets that it will always be able to gain market share in new product categories and retain customers in its existing product categories, so long as it continues to leverage its unique internal and external Apple Experience.

10 comments

  1. Very in-depth blog post! This was what Steve Jobs pictured for Apple from the very beginning and it gives them significant competitive advantage in the devices market. I actually had not thought about the fact that making the text green increases the difficulty of reading in text messages, but it makes sense! I completely agree that Apple’s products are not the best on the market but I think it is more than the interconnectedness of devices that has led to Apple’s success. The brand loyalty associated with this company, which is in part a result of the connectedness of the devices, is a huge factor. The brand is known around the world for consumer-focused simplicity and the best quality devices. Until Apple really messes up a device, it will remain this way and people will be happily loyal to Apple devices.

  2. I think another major component of the Apple experience is the hype they create around new product releases. The company established its strong brand through unique marketing for their original products, but have maintained it by continuously convincing customers to upgrade to their latest product. Apple does this with things like press releases that can be shared on social media and sent via text between customers. This creates a constant buzz about Apple’s latest products and builds excitement for the release. I completely agree that their integrated line of products gives them a competitive advantage, but I think its crucial to remember this piece as well.

  3. Really good post! I don’t own any Apple device but I totally agree with you that Apple has managed to keep the everyday consumers happy with their all encompassing ecosystem. The thing they do really well is marketing it in a way that consumers care about. The majority of the consumers don’t care about number of cores and clock speeds of the processors as long as the phones don’t stutter. They realized that its not the technical attributes but the subjective experience that those hardware specifications provide, is what matters most to consumers. For example consumers don’t care about a 20 Megapixel sensor with a f/1.8 aperture, Optical Image Stabilization , Laser auto-focus, RAW image capability or 120 fps frame rate etc. The consumers in the vast majority care about cameras that produce good photos that they can upload to social media channels. This shift is now being seen with Samsung and others too. Hopefully other manufacturers will be able to do this efficiently too.

  4. Good post, though I do have one little niggle. The green vs blue in the Messages app is more a circumstance of how Apple developed iOS than a deliberate choice. From the release of the original iPhone in 2007 until iOS 5’s release in late 2011, there was no such thing as iMessage, and that pleasing blue color was completely absent. Up to that point all messages were green.

    I don’t doubt Apple purposefully chose a pleasing color for iMessages, since the company doesn’t make any UI decisions lightly, but it wasn’t designed that way from the beginning. Also, when designing iOS’s interface, Apple was working with the UI design of iChat, which had the green bubbles all the way back to ~2002.

    Having been an Apple user for many, many years, I can attest that it is the integration between quality, well-designed, durable hardware and software that sets the company apart from competitors. This is best illustrated by keyboards, seemingly a pedestrian thing that nobody thinks about. However, if you think about it, the only part of a computer you interact with more than the screen is the keyboard. Having a keyboard with a strange layout, oddly-shaped or -sized keys, or one that is just difficult to type on completely ruins the experience of using a computer. Every single one of Apple’s laptops going back to the mid ’90s has had what is unquestionably the best laptop keyboard on the market at the time, and the key layout itself is thoughtfully chosen.

    Paying attention to simple details like that is a perfect example of why I’m a fairly loyal Apple customer.

  5. You bring up an interesting perspective which is definitely worth discussing. On one hand, I never really stopped to consider the agency that Apple has in regards to much of our technological uses. The IPhone is a great example. As a user of the product, there is nothing more irking than when another person’s text messages show up in green. Are my messages even going through!? It downplays the significance of any other branded phone and reinforces our thoughts of Apple as superior to other forms of technology. Part of me feels bitter against such a powerhouse. We get it Apple, just because you have the power to create a monopoly on our devices doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. I want to listen to Drake, but am not committed to purchasing Apple music. Why has such a strategy allowed this brand to flourish? I’ll hand it to them, they know their target market. Apple users are brand loyalists. The majority of people are not just looking to buy just one Apple product. They are innovative, technologically engaged, and financially secure people who are looking to sustain an ongoing relationship with their digital partners. The brand sees this, and does it best to capitalize upon it.

  6. Faizan, your post addressees something I fight with my family over a lot. Much of my family lives in Asia, where they are all avid Samsung users. I’ve used their phones, and while they may not be as intuitive as an iPhone- they definitely are technically better. More customization options are available, a large variety of apps, better cameras etc. However, I always defend my iPhone with a passion. Whether it is because it gives me nightmares when I text someone and a green bubble pops up instead of blue, or if I shudder at the the thought of not being able to use iMessage on my laptop, only to have all the same texts on my iPhone. The apple ecosystem is undeniably Apple’s greatest creation. The introduction of the Apple Watch, advancements to Apple TV and new products that will definitely be launched in the future only add to this strong brand recognition and loyalty. The iPhone 8 could be 5x worse than the equivalent Samsung model, but I know I would never make the switch over.

  7. This is a very interesting post. Apple has done a great job drawing me into their product line. Even when I have been inclined to switch (i.e. to a Microsoft Surface) it is more of the convenience and seamlessness that Apple provides because I know that the Surface is a better product functionally. The fact that I can’t send iMessages off of the Surface is a huge contributor to me staying with MacBooks. The little things that you bring up about Apple’s experience truly add up when you think about them and nothing is more annoying than not having things run across devices smoothly, especially after have such a luxury previously; with that being said, I don’t know if I’ll ever be convinced to switch unless I work for a competitor. Apple’s marketing is also on a whole other level when it comes to connecting with the consumer’s needs rather than proving the quality of their products.

  8. I do agree that it is the ecosystem that sets apple apart. But I’m not sure I 100% agree that its products in each category are not “the best.” They don’t have all the features, but the design is often superior and often a more seamless experience.

  9. Thanks for this overview of the Apple ecosystem. As a big Apple fan, you are definitely spot on when you say that the holistic nature of the Apple experience is key. Nothing better than being able to quickly move form one device to the next to increase productivity. Lots of interesting comments on this post — I’ll echo Jonah’s comments on the superior keyboard design, this is certainly has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Apple line. And the best example of the benefits of the ecosystem is definitely the Apple Watch and getting all of my notifications instantaneously. Thanks for the post.

  10. While there are other products that have obvious superior functionality, I feel like Apple’s seamless experience in addition to its dynamic with Apple related products makes the iPhone the better product. Your blog reminds me of the latest Steve Jobs movie wherein there’s a big debate between Jobs and Wozniak about whether or not their first computer should be an open or closed system. Ultimately the open system was the superior choice at that time. It’s interesting how Apple is now making certain levels of functionality only available to those who have their family of products knowing that customers prefer to have more freedom. Apple seems to be able to sustain this business model because they offer such spectacular functionality across their devices. It’s funny how you bring up the SMS messaging clouds. In my experience, those who don’t have iMessage are teased for not having it and are sometimes excluded from messaging groups because it becomes annoying to reiterate the conversation to them. Great post!

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