The Reason Why No Company Can Duplicate Apple's iPhone Appeal

Image credit: Apple

Competitors to Apple's iPhone spend billions in development and advertising. Sometimes a competing smartphone will actually have a nifty operational or design feature the iPhone lacks. Then why is it so fundamentally difficult to compete with Apple for mindshare and profits amongst the highly desirable, affluent customers?


In this week's feature article, Zach Epstein at BGR poses the question: "Why does every Android phone company think it can be Apple?" He nibbles around the edge of the subject of Apple's incredible success with the iPhone and how Apple keeps the fires of success fueled. But he never explicitly explains how other companies who build similar phones, often with better features, fail to capture the imagination (and dollars) of customers.

My own opinion on this is that modern smartphones are not just smart telephones that work on the Internet. They are devices that blend into the customer personality and lives in fashion and in content. When customers think about buying a new smartphone there is a subjective, hard-to-explain feeling that they want their smartphone to be from a large, capable, responsible company, and they want their phone to be secure. It must protect all that personal data: locations, contacts, messages, finances and so on.

As a result, when customers who are security conscious think about which company they want to invest in and trust, they naturally turn to Apple, a company that actively touts its focus on privacy and security. It may well be an unspoken thing, something that customers perhaps might not even admit in a survey. But it's there, and it's palpable in every Apple earnings report.

This is why no amount of ad money and advanced features are going to lure the faithful away from their iPhones. And when Android customers figure out that their smartphone has betrayed them in some fashion, whatever it may be, then they certainly know where to go for satisfaction. That's why Apple CEO Tim Cook noted, in the last earnings report, the highest switcher rate away from Android yet measured.

In this decade, it isn't enough to put together some off-the-shelf silicon, wrap it in a futuristic case and spend billions of dollars in advertising. That intangible trust in Apple that customers have come to feel is tough, if not impossible, to duplicate. The net result is summarized in this very nice story of one (ex) Android user. "Goodbye, Android."

Apple will hold this honored status of the best smartphone maker until some other giant tech company with more resources and more money than Apple decides to put the past behind them and ups the ante on customer satisfaction and trust. I don't see any company, in the near future, who can even dream of doing that. Google's Android has turned out to be appealing to the cost-conscious but not the answer for capturing trust. Who can do better?

Of course, even the best smartphone maker can't hope to compete well against Apple if they mismanage their supply chain or bungle their estimate of customer preferences.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of July 27. Getting our heads around Apple Music.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of July 27


With iOS 9, we get a new app, Apple News. Jeremy Horwitz at 9to5Mac has written an interesting and informative essay about his hopes for the new service: "How Apple News can improve so it doesn’t fail like Newsstand." It's a long but thorough and introspective piece. Pretty good stuff.

Alternatively, Jim Lynch at agrees with some things Mr. Horowitz said about Apple News, but is also very critical of some (non) features. The title is more dramatic than Mr. Lynch's typically reasoned and intelligent writing. No problem. Also good stuff is: "The Apple News app is doomed."

I have been predicting for some time that we'll have a successful 4K Christmas. By that I mean that the momentum (in the U.S.) will have shifted from buying a new 50-inch or larger 1080p (2K) HDTV to that of buying a 4K/UHD TV. That's because the prices will have dropped to the point where investing in a home-theater-class 2K HDTV will no longer make sense.

No matter the content available. No matter the capabilities of the current DVR. No matter whether a 4K Blu-ray player is affordable. No matter how far one plans to sit from it. The fact is, for future proofing and wise use of funds, spending more than US$1,000 on a large 2K TV this year is a waste of money. 

You'll hear more about this from everyone in a few months, including me. Meanwhile...

At Home Media Magazine, this article summarizes the sales prospects world wide. "4KTV Shipments Projected to Top 30 Million Units in 2015." Again, one must be careful looking at the numbers. While the 30 million units expected to be sold worldwide in 2015 is a small fraction of total worldwide TV sales, the fraction of 4K TVs over 50 inches sold in the U.S. this holiday season will be much higher.

This is why, as I have maintained, the new Apple TV, now expected in September, must have 4K capability.

Certainly, no one writer can fully grasp the scope of a new service like Apple Music. As I said last week, Apple is a very large company with large ambitions. That means that it is capable of launching products and services that no one observer can get his or her head around right away.

That's why I like articles like this one at iMore. In this roundtable, you get a broader perspective from three Apple experts, Rene Ritchie, Serenity Caldwell and Pete Cohen, all of whom have approached the service from different perspectives. It's a great read because it provides a good basis for sizing up your own approach to Apple Music. See: "Apple Music: One month later."

And finally, as a supplement to the above, see this informative article also from Serenity Caldwell. "Yes, iCloud Music Library has metadata-matching issues, but you don't need to panic."

Along the way, in this journey with Apple, we'll eventually start to get our heads around Apple Music.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.