Mar 15

At a loss for words: it’s a “Pay”-for-all

We knew this day was going to come.

We try to conserve our resources, but the English language only has so many words in it. And it appears we’ve used ‘em all up.

It’s hard to otherwise explain how, just months after the introduction of Apple Pay, we find ourselves with Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

If you’re a product naming or marketing enthusiast, it’s something to marvel at. Kind of like that rare moment when all the planets align. (Which, technically speaking, they never really do.)

As our friend Spock would have said, it’s quite illogical. In an industry where innovation is the key to success, three of the biggest players end up with identically named products.

Of course, the first one out of the gate is innocent of all charges. It’s the second and third who have some explaining to do.

If you’re Samsung — having been publicly flogged over the years for copying Apple — using Apple’s chosen word is just a ticket to more ridicule. (Especially when the new Galaxy S6 copies Apple with its non-replaceable battery, glass and metal body, and simplified feature set.)

Google is a different story, finding itself in a deliciously embarrassing position. “Pay-day” for them came just one day after the announcement of Samsung Pay.

Assuming that Google was unaware of Samsung’s naming strategy, their product-naming masterminds had already decided to copy Apple. Then, after Samsung’s announcement, they found themselves in the position where they are perceived to be copying Samsung who is copying Apple.

Android Pay isn’t a standalone product like the others, being a component that will become part of other e-purchase apps like Google Wallet. But still, coming right on the heels of Samsung’s announcement, it doesn’t exactly enhance Google’s aura of creativity.

Entertaining as it may be, this sequence of events actually demonstrates the dark side of Apple’s new naming strategy.

Moving away from the “i” gives Apple a vastly simpler way to name products in the future. No more legal fights with companies who have trademarked various i-names Apple might want to use.

However, by going this route — using starkly plain words like Pay, Watch and TV — Apple invites anyone and everyone to join the fun. It can own the “Apple Pay” name, but it cannot own the word “pay.” As Samsung and Google have now amply demonstrated.

Apple’s naming philosophy has changed often in its history. The company’s very first products used the Apple word — the Apple I, Apple II and Apple III computers. But the company name disappeared on products starting with Macintosh.

This wasn’t by coincidence. It was the result of a conscious decision that Apple was the brand, and that the major product lines were sub-brands, like Mac and iPhone. The Apple word was considered a no-no for product naming.

Only with Apple TV did that word begin to make its comeback on products. But it is used only in descriptive text. On the product itself, we only see the Apple logo.

It appears that Apple has made the decision to go this route with most future products, copycats not withstanding. Assuming that Samsung and Google have it out of their system by now, Apple can continue to enjoy the twin benefits of simplicity and legal ownership.

Though Samsung and Google had no qualms about picking up on the word used by Apple, it’s a safe bet you won’t see Apple using a word that’s been claimed by one of the others.

Some companies really do stick to their standards when it comes to creativity.

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  • WFA67

    Words compel physical experience.The syllables of the first mover here roll off the tongue with greater pleasure and ease than do those of the runner-ups. Rhythm and alliteration are part of the user experience, too.

  • Ridiculous as it is, it also is a sign of impotence and a smart move if you think you can only be second or third best.
    For Samsung it is understandable, their tried their own way after Apple’s trial and failed, their income and their margin are going down so quickly they must be very scared, so cut off fly alone ambitions, recognize you are only good at copying and try to be the best of the seconds.
    In this view using the same Pay name is a winning strategy, like blatantly copying the iPhone 6, they make their customer believe they are buying almost the same Apple experience at a lower price.
    It also make them believe that Samsung’s service is similar to Apple’s Pay service, the the same security everyone know and ease of use.
    The fact that this is not true will be obscured by the same Pay name. Smart move from Samsung if they want to remain the best second.

    For Google things are more complicated. They had Google Wallet and it failed, so also for them recognizing that they can only be second best and follow the leader making a same name service is understandable.
    The problem is that Google is not a Samsung and admit their impotence and their second tier role is well, how can I say, hard to swallow.

  • qka

    All this makes “CurrentC” seem downright witty.

  • Ray

    It’s ok to like Apple products, but treating Apple like some kind of do-no-wrong cult it is just irrational. “Some companies really stick to their standards when it comes to creativity”

    Apple has been increasing their iPhone size since then, following Android phones such as Samsung Galaxy line, which were proving them wrong over and over with increasing consumer adoption all over the world, culminating in a massive 5.5” iPhone 6+

    Make no mistake, Apple is a for-profit public corporation and they will copy Samsung and any other competitor whenever they have to, in order to sell more units and make more money.

    Everyone steals ideas, including Apple, and Steve Jobs was open about it

  • ksegall

    You’re taking my comment about sticking to one’s creative standards out of context. I was referring to Apple’s product naming habits. I’d be very surprised if Apple ever copied another company’s naming as they were copied in this case.

    If you’ve read my blog before, you’d know I’m hardly a member of the do-no-wrong cult. I often criticize Apple. That said, we all gravitate to companies that share our values, and I absolutely do feel closer to Apple than any other company.

    Re: that Engadget article. Absolutely, Steve said nobody needed a bigger iPhone. He also said nobody would watch movies on an iPod, and that nobody wants a smaller iPad. (A) He wasn’t always right, and (B) he sometimes said things to confuse the competition.

    Things change. Customer demands change. Apple is not oblivious to that. You can say they made a bigger phone because Samsung “proved them wrong.” I’d say they made a bigger phone because they saw a great market for it. Samsung was stealing Apple customers simply because they made a bigger phone.

    Apple made a smaller iPad for the same reason. Ignoring such an obvious consumer trend would have been pretty stupid. However, I do think Apple made a mistake by waiting so long to make a bigger phone. Honestly, I expected that at least a year earlier, and I was disappointed that it didn’t happen. I have no idea why they didn’t act sooner.

    Apple’s massive sales of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus prove that an awful lot of people were buying Samsung phones simply because Apple didn’t make a big one. Once they had the choice, iPhone sales quickly overtook Galaxy sales. This result only proves to Apple that it can’t play the same hand forever. It has to keep its eyes open for new opportunities and create accordingly. As we’ve seen in iPod, iPhone, iPad and now the Apple Watch, being first has never been Apple’s strength. What Apple does is study a category and then jump into it with a product people can fall in love with.

    You’re right that Apple has never been shy about borrowing ideas from other companies. As Steve put it, that has always been part of art. However, I’m sure you’ll admit that the products that result are anything but copies. As we’ve seen in every category that Apple has shaken up, what it creates is quickly copied by the others. Sometimes shamefully.

  • Ray

    “it’s a safe bet you won’t see Apple using a word that’s been claimed by one of the others…Some companies really do stick to their standards when it comes to creativity”

    No, they have no special standards when it comes to naming. Or copying products blatantly.

    When Apple decided to copy Google Maps, they called its app (sticking to their standards when it comes to creativity)… Apple Maps

  • Ray

    My point is that we are at the peak of the “halo effect” with Apple. They had a really good quarter (from an investor point of view, not a consumer’s), and now you can read so much BS, particularly in blogs, about how Apple is the best-cleanest-most creative-most ethical-… company in the history of humankind. It actually reminds me of all the BS that was written about Google around a decade ago.

    They’re like any company, trying to maximize their profits by charging their customers as much as they can get away with, while paying their suppliers as little as they can get away with. They have done this very successfully recently, which is great if you’re an investor that owns Apple stock, not so great if you’re a consumer of Apple products (those out-sized profits come mainly from your wallets, money that you could have used for your healthcare, education of your kids, housing). They copy whenever they have to to increase their market share and expand to other markets, just like any other company.

  • ksegall

    You’re right about Maps.

    But again, there is a bit of context to consider. The point of the article was that both Google and Samsung gave their products identical names to a major Apple product that had been launched with much fanfare just a couple of months before.

    When we observe the naming habits of these companies over hundreds of different products, it’s pretty tough to accuse Apple of copying names.

    I’d love to hear your ideas about what products Apple has “copied blatantly.” Entering a category that already exists, and doing a better job of it, is what has made Apple what it is today.

    As we all know, Microsoft was trying to perfect a tablet for ten years before Apple launched iPad. In one sense, I suppose, that’s a “blatant copy.” In another, Microsoft failed miserably and Apple’s ability to create a better user experience not only won the day — it spawned a whole industry of blatant copiers.

  • ksegall

    We’re at the peak of the “halo effect” with Apple? Good lord. Critics like yourself have been saying that for ten or fifteen years. In fact, Apple’s customer base continues to grow, largely from people who try one product (like iPhone or iPad) and love it so much that they start buying other Apple products.

    That’s been Apple’s plan, and you have to admit, it’s worked pretty well.

    For those who think as you do, I know it’s irksome to see Apple be so successful. And “successful” is a pathetically inadequate word to describe what it has accomplished around the world.

    It’s funny how we perceive things. You see “so much BS” written in praise of Apple, while I see the opposite. Because of Apple’s mega-success, I see endless articles citing the many flaws in Apple’s products or behaviors, basically predicting that the party won’t last forever. (See the article I posted yesterday.)

    I agree with the idea that this kind of success can’t go on indefinitely. Nothing is forever, and one day Apple will fall from the #1 spot. But there are no signs that that day will come anytime soon.

    “They have done this very successfully recently, which is great if you’re an investor … not so great if you’re a consumer of Apple products.”

    Recently? Like since 1998? You talk as if this is some kind of fluke, when in reality it’s a longterm business model. A finely tuned business model at that.

    Absolutely, Apple is a for-profit business. It creates a premium-priced product that does not appeal to the majority. It appeals to people who believe that Apple quality, design, simplicity and ecosystem are worth paying extra for. If all these customers were disappointed with their experience, Apple’s rise would have come to a crashing halt many years ago. Every major survey puts Apple at or near the top for the “world’s most loved brand.” It is loved because it delivers what it promises — even if that doesn’t appeal to you.

  • Ray

    There are many examples of products that Apple has copied without providing meaningful innovation:

    1) One example is Google Maps. Apple has blatantly and shamelessly copied this product, feature by feature. They’ve added a couple of gimmicks (flyover) to “differentiate”, but in essence years later Apple Maps is still a inferior copy of Google Maps. Apple has not done a better job at it, or any meaningful innovation.

    2) Now they’re trying to repeat the same with Spotify (Beats), and time will tell if they do any significant innovation in the space (music streaming), or just play a me-too game as they have done with Google Maps.

    3) iOS also has borrowed many innovations from Android (just as Android borrowed many from iOS): notifications, widgets, etc.

    4) Apple TV is another example where Apple came to a category without adding any meaningful innovation. I had it for a few years and I don’t know what kind of value Apple added to the space. Their remote is a design dogma disaster: beautiful to look at, a nightmare to operate.

    5) Apple has copied countless features from Microsoft Office suite into their suite (iWork?), and still has an inferior product.

    In summary, Apple has created great innovative products (the original iPhone being the best example in my opinion), but it also has copied many from other companies, sometimes with little success.

    Let’s not have the “halo effect” blind us, Apple is just a company and they do copy just like any other company, and sometimes they fail at innovation just like any other company as well. Many things that are being said today about Apple remind me of things being said in the 1990s about Microsoft, or in the 2000s about Google. Everything is positive, they are very creative, innovative, and they can do no wrong, right?

  • Ray

    The fact that they have a successful business to do has nothing to do with whether they have higher standards or better morals. I call a peak of the “halo effect” when I read things like this

    ” it’s a safe bet you won’t see Apple using a word that’s been claimed by one of the others. Some companies really do stick to their standards when it comes to creativity.”

    First, because it is simply not true. Apple has already done it in the past, as you have admitted with Google Maps, proving that they have no different standards than other competitors. They will copy products (phablets) and product names (Google Maps) whenever they have to, to remain competitive. No different standards than Google or Samsung. Anything goes as long as it’s legal, whether it’s moral or not.

    Second, because it implies that the company has some kind of morality that sets them apart from other companies. This is irrational, and, honestly, ridiculous.

    Apple, in order to maximize its profits:

    – keeps cash abroad to try to minimize the taxes paid in the US

    – sends as many jobs as possible to low-cost countries (with questionable labor conditions)

    – squeezes every cent it can from the consumers’ pockets (e.g. charging $100 for $10 worth of additional flash memory, or $80 for a connector that takes <$5 to produce)

    – squeezes every cent it can from their suppliers (keeping them at razor-thin margins). I have friends who work at suppliers of Apple and other OEMs and the consistent feedback I get is that Apple is the worst one of their clients because of their bullish behavior and unreasonable requests

    – the company was founded and led by an individual who, regardless of his talents, had a highly questionable moral behavior (a daughter that he didn't support or recognize, bullying and lack of retribution to co-founders, bullying of partners and suppliers, constant trash-talking about competitors, etc.).

    There is no denying that Apple has been successful with their business model. I applaud the innovations they have brought to the industry, and as consumers we all win when companies compete and out-innovate each other. But that doesn't mean they have a higher creative moral ground than their competitors, as proven in countless examples. Your assertion that "you won’t see Apple using a word that’s been claimed by one of the others." is just off the mark.

    Other than that, I agree with some of your comments, there are also many bloggers who are constantly writing about the demise of Apple. That's a consequence of success, which many other companies experienced too (e.g. Microsoft and Nokia) in the past.

  • ksegall

    Again, I’ve never said Apple can do no wrong. I criticize them frequently for various offenses. I try hard not to be blinded, but can’t ignore the obvious: Apple could never have grown to even a small fraction of what it is today if it wasn’t doing an awful lot of things better than its competitors.

    It certainly isn’t smoke and mirrors, dumb luck, marketing trickery, blatant copying, or any of the things Apple gets accused of. I think it’s something else entirely: religious devotion to the customer experience. In all the work I did with Steve Jobs, that was the prime factor when it came to decision time — what choice would create the best customer experience. It’s the experience that makes customers happy, keeps them coming back for more, and evangelizing to friends, family and colleagues.

    You can argue about how they create the experience, or believe much of it is borrowed from others, but in general terms — they design hardware/software and integrate new technologies incredibly well. So well that customers who buy it are likely to become loyal customers.

    To your points:

    (1) Apple Maps is not a typical “let’s copy their product” story. iPhone featured Google Maps for many years, but it was controlled by Google — to Apple’s detriment. Two years after Google added turn-by-turn voice navigation to Google maps, they still hadn’t added it to the iPhone version. Over time, Steve Jobs came to the opinion that Apple should never put itself in a position where it relies on another company for a significant part of the customer experience. He banished Flash for the same reason — Adobe was unable to get it working right on iPhone for a number of years. And so Apple set out to “reclaim” the customer experience in the maps department. Obviously, they made a mistake by doing it so quickly, and before they had a functioning product. This was out of character for Apple, and ended up creating an even worse customer experience. Yes, Apple made a big mistake! But they’ve recovered pretty well, and the value of having an emotional connection with customers is that they are forgiving, because they appreciate all the other stuff you’ve done. That was a key part of Steve’s marketing philosophy.

    (2) I see this the same way I see Apple making a bigger iPhone and a smaller iPad. Clearly there is great customer interest in this kind of service, and Apple needs to get into this, with an Apple-quality service. This is why they bought Beats, along with its talent, so time will tell if they can do this successfully.

    (3) and (5) No argument here. Apple and its competitors have frequently borrowed product features from one another. Not exactly news.

    (4) I like my Apple TV remote. Never had any issues with it, though I see that others do. Still, apparently there are big changes are coming. Personally, I hope Apple is able to do what is rumored — allow people to get better content without the massive packages required by the cable companies. I had a personal conversation with the CEO of a major cable company, and he basically said it would be absolutely impossible for anyone to “unbundle” the cable packages. He defied Apple to even try it. But then nobody thought Apple could get the music companies together to launch iTunes either. I look forward to seeing what happens here.

  • ksegall

    You keep talking about Apple copying the name Maps. I already gave you points for that. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the other things we’re debating.

    No question Apple is a business, and it’s very good at making money. You will likely roll your eyes at this, but what I see is a different philosophy about making money. Hear me out…

    As Jony Ive and Steve Jobs have both said in the past, Apple’s priority is building great products. They believe that if they do that well, profits follow. Though it seems like a “duh” point, most companies really do prioritize profits and act accordingly.

    I say this because of my own personal experience. Somewhat limited experience, because I’m only talking about three companies really — Apple, Dell and Intel. But I think it’s relevant. Inside Dell and Intel, just about every meeting was about cranking up the clicks and boosting sales. At Dell, no new product was created if it couldn’t first pass a spreadsheet test to prove it would return an immediate profit. It was always about money.

    Inside Apple, I never, ever attended a marketing meeting that was about generating more profits. It was only about doing great things — with the belief that if we succeeded, profits would be a natural result.

    I don’t believe this is typical business behavior, and it’s one of the reasons why I came to respect Apple more than the others.

    But of course Apple isn’t all about idealism. It is a business and must be efficient working on a global scale. So yes, it does many of the things you list here — as does just about every global company. In this sense, it is no more “evil” than any of them. One difference is that Apple is analyzed far more deeply than the others, and so it is forced to respond. At least Apple has taken some actions to improve conditions in its partners’ factories in Asia. I’ve never heard a single story about what Dell, HP, or any of the others are doing to improve the identical conditions in their factories.

    Last, I don’t think you understand Steve Jobs’ moral character at all. He was unique, to say the least. And complex. He certainly could be a brute, but he was also charismatic, caring, inspirational and even had a great sense of humor. He had a very strong moral sense. Yes, he denied his parental responsibility when he was young, but later accepted those responsibilities and did his best to make amends. People do change, and they should be forgiven.

    Companies can and do have a moral character. I saw Steve do some things that very much impressed me in this measure. We once had a problem with advertising on the other side of the world, where one of our “think different” ads was touching a nerve and causing a local controversy. Steve considered all the arguments about why we should pull the ad or change it. In the end, he said “No. This is what we believe, and we’re not going to change what we believe to sell a few more computers.” I’d never seen a CEO take a moral stand like that, and I never forgot it. And this was at a time when Apple was just beginning to recover from near-bankruptcy. Boosting profits was critical, but Steve was unwilling to compromise his morals to do that.

  • Ray

    I understand Apple wants to build great products. That’s why when competitors have great products or features, Apple copies them. Just like competitors copy Apple when Apple has a great feature, since Apple competitors also want to build great products.

    In fact, not copying great features would be stupid, a path to make inferior products. It took forever for Blackberry to actually understand that customers like large capacitive touch screens, and copy Apple, and there they are. Proud and dead.

    Apple has been also proud to stick to their small screen size… until they had to admit they were wrong (two years late) and copy Samsung’s larger phones.


    Not only they copied the larger size flagship model, but more interestingly, Apple COPIED THE PRODUCT PORTFOLIO STRATEGY of having two flagship models with different sizes (with suspiciously similar display sizes to Samsung’s), one for regular users and one for power users, a strategy that Samsung had pioneered with their S and Note models. As you can see, Apple also copies successful strategies and features from other companies.

    Regarding Dell, it cannot be really considered a technology company, but a logistics company. Their main strength was being able to reduce their costs by reducing inventory and pioneering online just-in-time customization and production. So I’m not surprised it was all about spreadsheets, their main competitive advantage over other PC OEMs was cost due to clever logistics.

    I never met Steve, but my former manager did (in the 80s) and he told me that Steve was someone who did not understand a win-win negotiation, it was always a win-lose, so he always tried to screw you over to get what he wanted.

    Regarding his moral stand, I applaud that decision, but he seemed rather egotistic and self-absorbed compared to other industry leaders such as Bill Gates, who left Microsoft and is dedicating his life and money to eradicate epidemic diseases and save the lives of millions of children and poor adults, or Eric Schmidt, who had to take the difficult decision at Google to leave the gigantic China market because of ethical issues with government-imposed censorship.

    Contrast that with Tim Cook visiting China to work with the Chinese government to push Apple Pay and promote the Apple Watch as a status symbol (he hopes to sell lots of $17,000 gold watches in China, where this kind of devices are given typically as “gifts” to corrupt politicians and law enforcement agents). Dollars seem to have a much higher priority for Apple than for Google, you don’t get to be the most profitable company in the world otherwise.


    Again, facts don’t show that Apple or its leaders have any higher morality than other tech companies, in some cases facts actually prove the opposite. That’s why I think that your assertion that Apple has different standards and would never copy a name is just wishful thinking of an Apple fan.