Apple, iPhones, Lucy, Charlie Brown and that Elusive Football

Image Credit: Peanuts by Schulz

There's a reason observers keep saying Apple isn't innovating or is financially doomed. It has to do with a mental block when understanding what it means to be the best and how that applies to a modern smartphone.


Observers who write nonsense about Apple because they don't fundamentally understand the company are like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football held by Lucy. With firm determination and ignoring past results, they line up and try to kick the ball. They always fail. But, hey, they tried with enthusiasm.

Here's why they fail, over and over.

We all create mental models in order to explain or rationalize new events. For an explanation of this, including a discussion of "selective exposure," "confirmation bias" and "motivated reasoning," see the excellent Quartz article: "The false vaccine debate shows we’re in a golden age of believing whatever we want." See also, "Apple Death Knell #67 - The Faith-Based Approach to Believing Apple Is Doomed." by Bryan Chaffin.

Many of the mental models we use are derived from the time before modern computers. For example, when some people think of the term quality, they grab onto the idea of machining, fit and finish.

For example, if a Cuisinart blender is made of stainless steel and has a motor that's over-engineered, it's going to cost serious money. But there's always an opportunity for another company to enter the market with a plastic blender and a less expensive motor at one-third the cost that looks just like the Cuisinart, Many people will buy that knock-off, especially from Amazon where product images are often less than informative. The mental models lead to a confirmation bias that the customer saved money above all other considerations.

In addition to the short-term financial gain, another element is that the art of marketing is all about convincing people that they've made a good decision. The self-rationalizer unwittingly agrees to that convenient conceit.

How About Apple?

Modern devices like the iPhone are fundamentally different from the mechanical gadgets of old. An iPhone, in many ways, is like a lifeboat in shark-filled waters. A lifeboat either leaks or it doesn't. There's no point in building a second-rate lifeboat that leaks and installing it on an ocean liner. Even if the cruise line can save money.

Similarly there's that essential element of quality about the iPhone. It's not just the machining, fit and finish, and the Gorilla glass. It's the whole philosophy of the operation of the iPhone. Is it dependable? Can it be upgraded with ease with security updates? Is it going to leak my company's trade secrets or my credit card information? Is it going to annoy me or please me? Can I find it or erase it if it's lost?

When it comes to a modern device like an iPhone that stores so much information about us, there really no substitute for building the best. And I don't just mean the casing; I mean the whole customer experience and the trust in Apple.

For a long time now, Android customers have been falling victim to the powerful marketing hype of smartphone makers and carriers, influenced by certain websites that despise Apple, been smug in self-satisfaction of perhaps saving a few dollars, and a defective sense of contrariness. These customers have pushed Android into a substantial lead.

The data indicates that the tide is now turning, That's because 1) only Apple has the money, exertise and manufacturing technology to keep pushing the state-of-the-art and 2) Android customers are starting to realize that in the modern Internet age, second-best isn't good enough. When it comes to the Internet, you don't bring a knife to a gun fight. 

Next Page: How Some Observers Go Wrong

Page 2 - How Some Observers Go Wrong


Some outsider analysts, unfamiliar with a the complex technologies have a blender mindset. They suggest that any company can come along, dupe the customer, build a cheaper, lookalike smartphone and appeal to the masses. Grabbing market share the process. By golly, they're fired up to claim Apple's doom, and they're gonna kick that darn Lucy football out of the park.

Fortunately, Apple understands that, in the long run, there are people who get tired of the imitators, spiced up spec tables, snarky TV ads and alluring deals. They just want everything to work, and they want their sanity and privacy intact. That's worth real money.

For example, I have read that some recent Samsung smart TVs have the ability to interrupt a direct Blu-ray connection, pause it, and insert ads. Can you imagine Apple doing that if it built its own UHDTV? Samsung has added this feature, no doubt because in the cutthroat market of the TV business, every bit of extra revenue counts. Apple, flush with cash and talent never needs to nickel and dime us. Slowly, our appreciation for that wins the day.

Apple's corporate ability to delight the customer with whole-concept, best-of quality pays off in the long run. It's a sound philosophy that rings true and endures for the ages. Copying Apple doesn't work. Bad-mouthing Apple doesn't work. Selling knockoffs for less with a buggy OS doesn't work. Convincing customers that second-best is good enough doesn't work. Being the great pretender doesn't work. Not for long anyway.

That Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones last quarter proves that the number of people who take their smartphone seriously is very large— large enough for Apple to succeed nicely and make a boatload of money. Much more than the competition.  (See below.)


Credit: Business Insider

All this is what really matters, but it continues to remain beyond the grasp of the Charlie Brown observers of Apple.