Oct 11

The Apple critics’ endless loop

When it comes to assessing new products from Apple, there are two kinds of people in the world: critics and customers.

Seemingly, only a small number of critics have the skill to think like customers. Because collectively, the majority seems to make the mistake with each new Apple product launch.

When Apple unveiled iPhone 4S last week, it was widely greeted as a “modest” upgrade. These reactions gave birth to negative mainstream press, such as an MSNBC story that referred to the “tepid response” to iPhone 4S. Bear in mind, the hands-on reviews were yet to come and customers had yet to offer any response, tepid or otherwise.

Then, surprise surprise. iPhone 4S pre-orders begin, and the hands-on reviews get published. These reviews have been unanimously positive, some even using the “magic” word. AT&T reported the biggest first-day sales of any phone in its history. All told, Apple sold over a million of them.

That’s because there is nothing modest about iPhone 4S. As I mentioned the other day, functionally it contains three major improvements (dual-core processor, Siri, better camera), compared to the iPhone 4, which contained four (processor, better camera, Retina Display, FaceTime).

It may well be, as some have theorized, that Apple will now settle into a pattern of form-factor change every two years, since two-year contracts make it tough to upgrade annually. But this hardly means that the innards will suffer from neglect.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at the 4S reviews. iPad, the great game changer, received not one but two batches of “underwhelmed” responses — one for the first iPad, the other for iPad 2. Judging by the enormity of the iPad revolution, it becomes even sillier to think about those initial responses. “Just a big iPod touch.” “No breakthrough technology.” Only a minority could see the revolution within. iPad 2 got the same “modest upgrade” treatment from the critics, followed by the same “I need one right now” response from the customers.

So history repeats with iPhone 4S. What many technology writers fail to consider is that real people aren’t technology writers. They just want a reliable phone that will dazzle them with the latest features — and iPhone 4S does a pretty good job of delivering.

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  • bladrnr

    Excellent commentary! Spot on, as usual. Sometimes I think there are people out there in certain positions who always want Apple to fail. They speak before they think or before they wait to see how everything pans out. But I’m an Apple guy from 1987, and work in an all-Mac shop. So I’m used to the hubris. Apple is dominating the profits in almost every category they compete in. Enough said.

  • Peter

    “When it comes to assessing new products from Apple, there are two kinds of people in the world: critics and customers.”

    As I’ve said before, the way to tell the difference is in the comparison.

    The iPhone 4S is a major upgrade to the iPhone 4. That said, it brings it to parity with most of the high-end Android phones.

    So the critics are actually looking at the whole world and going, “Meh.” But those who only live in the Apple universe are saying, “Yea!”

  • Riz

    I disagree. There is a third kind, moi: A critical customer.


  • Fan of Steve

    And of course, when you point out the success of these products to the naysayers, they have a go-to excuse:

    “The products really do suck, its just that consumers are blinded by Apple’s reality distortion field marketing!”

  • Dominic


    True that in some ways it brings the iPhone to parity with *some* Android phones – notifications for example, but on the other-hand the reviewers – not fanboys, reviewers – say the 4s release elevates the iPhone ahead of the competition. And at least 2 of the new features- iCloud & Siri, look to be standouts that won’t be easily or quickly replicated on Android or any other platform.

    I haven’t used one yet but it’s just worth emphasizing again that it’s the reviewers – those who have used it, inside *and* outside your so-called “Apple Universe” – who are saying “Yea” and it’s the no-nothings who are – so far – still saying “Meh”.

  • Fan of Steve

    Android is still about 2 years behind the iPhone… about 6 years, once they are held accountable for stealing apple’s intellectual property.

    I look forward to the day, about 2 years from now, when android has been eliminated from the market, and google has become Apple’s search and advertising subsidiary.