Why does Apple command such a loyal following?

What is it about Apple that means they have such a loyal customer base, it’s something every business desires, it’s hard to get and can’t be bought so how do they do it?

I’m not afraid to admit I’m a bit of a fan of Apple’s products so I’m not completely impartial but I’ll do my best!

Apple Aren’t perfect

Steve Jobs said it himself in the recent press conference called to discuss the flaws in the latest iPhone design. Yes, flaws in an Apple product! The signal problems with the iPhone 4 have been covered extensively in the media recently; here Apple is a victim of its own success. There have been plenty of other phones in the past with signal issues and calls dropping but Apple just can’t get away with it, they are too popular to slip under the radar and people expect more from Apple, when you buy an Apple product isn’t it meant to be perfect?

Apple aren’t doing great in other areas, they are behind in cloud computing, still charging £59 a year for their ‘MobileMe’ service whilst Google offers similar services on a much larger scale for free! There are rumours that Apple will make the service free later this year and perhaps enhance it at the same time but why has it taken so long?

Then there is the other bad press Apple have been getting lately about the number of suicides that have taken place at Foxconn, one of companies Apple uses to manufacturer its products. Is Apple encouraging cheap labour and poor working conditions?

So what are they doing right?

Products and design

Whenever Apple releases a product they tend to be one step ahead of the market, not just with killer features but in the design and right down to the packaging.

When you purchase an Apple product the first thing you notice is the packaging and whilst it might also go right in the bin it’s important to realise this is all part of the Apple experience, you don’t spend a small fortune on a laptop and expect to get it in a cheap paper bag, this ‘unboxing’ experience has an effect on your perception of Apple products even if you don’t realise it.

The importance of the design of Apples products cannot be under-estimated, they have to look, feel and be great, to the extent that it can result in form over function in some cases (iPhone 4 aerial). Apple were the first to turn away from the boring beige PC box which used to live under your desk with the iMac in 1997, this was a evolution in PC design which has evolved to become the frankly stunning iMac which is available today! They were the first to release unibody laptops, again a brilliant piece of design and most recently the iPad.

Customer support

If you’ve ever called Apple’s support line or sought support in one of their iconic Apple shops you’ll know they’ve got this nailed. Apple’s support often comes out top in support reviews. So when you buy an Apple product you have the assurance of after sales service and this is good for repeat business.

Apple even insist on owning the support of their iPhones, most other manufactures (Nokia, Motorola etc) hand off the fault management of their products to the network operator as they don’t see them as their customers. However Apple consider an iPhone owner as one of their customers and will provide the support leaving the network provider to do just the network providing.

Brand perception

Product placement is pretty important and Apple seem to be masters at it, Apple products have featured in many great films and TV shows, including ‘Independence Day’, ‘Fight Club’ and more recently big TV series like ‘24’ and the latest big files like ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘The Book of Eli’. Apple get their products in the right places and often used by the right people.

Apple don’t just open shops on the high street, they build premises which can be recognised, they are normally bold iconic designs that stand out from the stores around them. Few companies do so much to build an image for themselves, this requires serious investment and as is often the case with brand development and marketing it’s difficult to quantify any return from the original investment.

Apple are notoriously secretive, they like to keep their next big thing under their hats until they decide it’s ready, this results in more hype when a new product launch is due. There are loads of rumour sites dedicated to reporting every rumour and tip off they get about Apples next product launch and even some of the media giants can’t resist reporting on rumours in the days preceding a big launch.

Paying through the nose

It’s true to say Apple products are perceived as costing more, this is partly because some of them do but when a company invests in new product technology and design they have to re-coup that money from somewhere. So when they are first to market with products like the iPad or the Unibody laptop these products will inevitable cost more.

Another reason Apple is perceived to be expensive is because they don’t do ‘budget’ products, even their cheapest laptop or desktop features great design and reasonable performance.

Some of Apples products maybe over priced, the iPhone is very expensive but people buy them so have Apple earned the right to charge more?

Summary

Apple have a loyal following because they have invested in their image, their brand and their products. They have been clever with their marketing and constantly innovate. They put design and quality at the centre of every product (yes, including the iPhone 4) and look after their customers after they buy.

Investing the amount they must have in things which they cannot quantify the return is a brave move which has paid off for Apple; you could argue that Apple have bought peoples’ loyalty contrary to what I said at the start!

Apple iPhone4 Review

After finally getting hold of an iPhone 4 two weeks after being released on the 24th June, I’m defiantly one to say that I have been waiting for this to come around for a while thanks to the rumours, leaks and teasing information Gizmodo have published. Not only have Apple increased certain areas within the phone with a new A4 1Ghz processor, but the resolution of the screen through to the design of the outside and the robust rugged stainless steel band is one of a few new features the iPhone holds to make it that little bit more desirable and stylish opposed to its competitors such as the Nexus One and numerous HTC phones.

With an all new Retina Display, the Apple have now crammed a 960X640 backlit LCD display which has a 326pixel per inch making it one of the highest resolution phones on the market. However, to compensate for the energy hungry screen which is very good for watching films on, Apple have also increased the battery life to 300hrs stand-by and 14hrs talktime (2G) lithium-ion polymer battery opposed to the 3GS’s lithium-ion 300hr stand-by and 12hr talktime (2G).

The design to the iPhone is certainly different with its two ‘aluminosilicate glass’ front and back cover with Stainless Steel band outside which is made from Apples ‘own alloy’ which is ‘five times stronger than steel’ .  Just to make it all fancier, Aluminosilicate Glass is used in helicopter windshields and high-speed trains. The iPhone’s central processor has been upped from the 3GS’s 600MHz processor to a staggering 1 GHz A4 processor which is best suited for multi-tasking, quick execution of programs and a faster response from the phone.

We’ve seen no change in the multi-touch iPhones capacitive touch screen as virtually all smartphones now incorporate this feature as it’s more reliable and precise to pressure driven touch screen on handsets like the Nokia 5800. Capacitive Touch screens work by relying on the electrical properties of the human body to detect when and where on the display the user is touching. Because of this, capacitive touch screens don’t work with styluses or a gloved hand; with this type of screen, it also means that the handset can support multi-tap for those quick texters.

With capacity available in either 16 or 32GB storage, there’s always enough room to sync your music, films and apps to the phone. We still have applications like the Compass which is very precise in pointing where you are longitudinal and latitudinal values which means that within Google Maps, you have enable an auto-rotation feature for the maps meaning when you turn, the maps turn; this is good if you are walking around but with no voice turn-by-turn feature, you have to refer back to a sat-nav or purchase either TomTom or Co-Pilot.

For the entertainment factor, we’ve got features such as the ‘App Store’ which allows users to purchase and download applications over the air to keep them amused and entertained; applications range from Social Networking right through to Utilities. Where previous users of iPhone before the release of 4.0 firmware, iPhone users would have had numerous amounts of pages cluttered with applications but since the release of 4.0, Apple have now allowed Folders from a main screen. This means you can have your Twitter, Tweetdeck and Facebook in a Social Networking folder and then have Sky Sports, BBC News apps in a News folder making your interface nice and clean.

With all of the new features Apple have managed to cram into the their handset, compatibility with exchange 2010, an improved 5megapixel camera with LED flash, video calling, front facing camera and new firmware have all been worthwhile updates for Apple to stay competitive within the market and keep all of their current and new customers eager to get hold of one of these new wave of technology handsets and for the public to show their devotion to the Apple brand, queues ranged anywhere between 4hrs-over 24hrs dependent on how much you wanted it and where your position was in the queue.

However, if you are getting ready to upgrade and thinking about going for the iPhone 4, unless you are wanting the higher megapixel camera, sharper density within the screen, faster execution and more speed whilst multi-tasking, there’s not a lot of difference between the two. The mobile phone industry is changing rapidly and rumors have of Qualcomm who design CPU’s for mobile phones are working on 1.3GHz processors for Windows Mobile 7 phones; this means that again, within the fourth quarter another load of phones will come out through LG, HTC and competing manufactures.

For a phone which was discovered in a bar in Redwood City, USA as someone had lost it and from Gizmodo getting hold of it and then leaking it onto the internet, Apple got the media engaged as well as their customers straight away and kept everyone eager to get hold of one, when the iPhone was released Apple managed to sell over 1.7million phones in just three days.