12 Rules of Innovation — The iPhone: A brief study
tl;dr: This article briefly discusses Apple’s strategies for the iPhone, moving on to 12 rules mentioned at the bottom of this page.
Innovation means the act of creating a new method, idea, or product, or the creation itself. It is essentially the key to the human experience. Be it something as simple as a daily chore to something as complex as scaling up a multi-million dollar business, the human mind is always trying to create and innovate.
Out of this infinite human potential come some innovations that become wildly successful. They change entire paradigms of how we look at and interact with things. Good examples could be penicillin, anesthesia, steam engine, aviation… The list goes on.
So what is it that makes an innovation BIG? What is it that sets an innovation apart from others? Here we will discuss one of the most innovative products of our times— the iPhone by Apple.
Apple’s iPhone holds ~14% share of the global smartphone market today. This number is humongous and the world’s largest for a single product-line. What is it that gives them this significant lead?
The iPhone came out in 2007 as the first smartphone that gave you access to un-watered-down internet (internet the same as desktop devices). It sported an all touch-sensitive screen at front, with just one hard button. That was a game-changer in a world ruled by Nokias and Samsungs, and it was exactly then that Apple seems to have picked up the pattern of success — one of game changing innovation.
Looking at today’s global smartphone market, it is evident that Apple is not and has never been anywhere close to providing the fastest or the most rugged machines. You will always find giants like Samsung, Google, Motorola, and newer brands like Oppo, Vivo, and OnePlus providing the most technologically up-to-date phone designs. Then what does Apple provide as their Unique Selling Point?
To answer that, it is important to observe that Apple has always brought only safe and thought-through changes in the smartphone industry.
- They were the ones to spark the modern smartphone revolution by giving internet same as the desktop.
- They introduced an AI digital assistant aka Siri to smartphones.
- They introduced facial biometric recognition on phones.
- They kept setting trends with incremental editions, including but not limited to thumb-recognition, multiple-cameras-on-one-device, Haptic response, and the full bezel-less display (all screen and no buttons).
All of these were instantly successful moves. They even took back their wireless charging mat back after announcing it just because they were concerned with product quality.
One more important aspect is observing the “Apple feel” — that comes with the stock and almost inflexible iOS’s on their devices.
The Paradox of Choice goes that an increase in choices inadvertently leads to a decrease in user satisfaction.
Apple seems to have somehow figured it out perfectly, knowing that ‘their’ customer base does not need an open-source and full-of-options operating system, and that they can instead go for security, elegant GUIs, reliability, and lag-free user experience.
Other notable traits of Apple’s are their seeming carelessness with product prices, aggressive marketing strategies, and near infatuation with making a subscription-based walled garden, thus limiting themselves to a certain niche only.
Au contraire, Apple’s competitors throw the fastest and strongest devices, jam packed with features, and aggressive pricing strategies. This leads to many flagship phone families per manufacturer and cumulative market dominance, with no individual family’s popularity anywhere close to the iPhone, and no one being the king. Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series are textbook examples to that.
The App Store is also a very successful experiment of Apple’s. Even though heavily criticised for compulsive exclusivity, it is also lauded for its unparalleled range. A smartphone is only good as the functions it can perform; and by carefully curating the App Store, Apple makes sure the iPhone boosts you productivity like no other!
One thing that is indubitably unique to Apple is the iPhone’s seamless integration with their entire ecosystem. Even though not everyone goes with an entire ecosystem, a fair share of influencers do, and that makes all the difference. Apple creates this unmatched user experience where their phone does more than what any other phone can achieve. They have this edge of having a host of complementary devices that make the iPhone even more relevant.
Last, but the most significant, is Apple’s penchant for privacy. They know what is valuable the most to their buyer and they exclusively sell it. From locking horns with Meta (previously Facebook) on privacy issues to asking for video and audio permissions each time you go on a Google Meet call from Safari, Apple has always been cleverly distrustful for third-parties, earning them added trust in the user’s eye.
It is safe to say that Apple has almost never been the leader with powerful hardware or unique software features but is always the first with groundbreaking hardware changes and eye-catching UI’s.
This seems to seal the deal with Apple’s relatively high-end customer niche, incontestably winning them the place of the most popular smartphone ever.
So what lessons can we learn from Apple? How can our innovations change the game?
- Not every innovation works for everyone. Find your product/market fit.
- More focus on competition means less focus on innovation. Focus your user more than your competition.
- Don’t play by the game’s rules. Bring in the big guns (if any).
- Know your why and never forget it!
- Find your customer’s biggest pain point and kill it.
- No measure is too drastic if carried out with calculation and certainty. (The product doesn’t work? Call it off the shelves right away.)
- Pricing is only a concern if you haven’t innovated well enough.
- People aren’t always looking for a million choices. Sometimes they need only one solution that works a million times!
- You are innovating for humans — highly emotional beings, so familiarity is important. Aesthetics are important. Ergonomics are important.
- Predict. Predict what will happen. Predict what your user will need before they need it. Nothing is better than a little early-bird advantage!
- Not every system can sustain innovation to the same extent. To innovate fast/big, you need a system that can keep up.
- Embrace the possibility of failure. In the grand scheme of things, it’s more trivial than you may think it is!
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