John Gruber writes, à propos of Apple Stores:

Advertising alone can’t convince customers that products are nice, because all ads claim every product is great. You need to see things, to touch and try them, to truly believe.

This is true. However, advertising does have the ability to convince consumers that products are not nice. For instance, I heard an advert on the radio for a new smartphone, which cited as features (from memory) "dual-core processor, one gig of RAM, Super AMOLED display, and Gorilla Glass". Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether anyone cares about the first three features, let's just reflect on that last one: the Gorilla Glass.

Does anyone doubt that Corning's Gorilla Glass is only a feature to be called out by name because the iPhone has it? The problem is that the makers of this non-Apple phone confused cause and effect. Consumers by and large don't care or even know about Gorilla Glass. They care about its effects, but it's not something they'll go looking for. The only consumers who will be attracted to a smartphone because it includes Gorilla Glass are people who have already made up their mind not to buy an Apple product or can't afford one, but still know the specs to Apple products by heart. Is that really the market you want to get into?

The wider point though is that I am seeing a trend in smartphones towards PC-like advertising, quoting detailed hardware specs and software versions up front, specified to eight decimal places. From my admittedly unscientific sample of Android phone owners, very few of them could even tell me which major release their phone was running: Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, or whatever code name the developers should have had the good sense to keep to themselves.1

iOS users have no problem referring to versions by number, again for those who care - although my anecdotal evidence suggests that a higher percentage of iPhone users do actually know and care what OS version they are running. Once again, though, don't confuse cause and effect. If Apple started running TV adverts all covered with Intel Inside stickers, mega^W gigahertz numbers (showing my age there), and goodness knows what, consumers would be entirely turned off. Even PC manufacturers barely do that any more, not least because the speed wars have calmed down a lot in the last decade.

Apple's competitors consistently learn the wrong lessons. If you have to copy from Apple, at least copy the right things. Including Gorilla Glass in your product is good, but that alone is not going to cause people to line up around the block for it. Work on the user experience, on the compatibility, on generally making your device something people will want to take out and use even when they don't have to. Focus on the details; it's never "good enough" for devices that people use as frequently as phones, that have to live in the real world of pocket lint and damp air, and that have to be instantly available and stay available for long periods of time.

And I'll still buy my next phone from Apple.

  1. Look, I'm working on the marketing for a product which is in the middle of a series of versions that take their codenames from Voltron characters, but we certainly have no intention of telling the customers about those or making them learn those names for when they call our support line. Ahem.