Technologizer

Apple’s Secrets Aren’t So Secret Anymore, and That’s O.K.

Surprises about different products are nice, but they aren't the ultimate goal if the idea is to sell lots and lots of gadgets

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Would it be possible for an intelligent bystander with no insider knowledge to write an imaginary script for an Apple media event — a day or two ahead of time — and mostly get it right?

In the case of yesterday’s iPhone 5 event, that’s an easy call: yes, it would have been doable. In recent weeks, nearly every significant bit of news about the new iPhone, iPods and related products got leaked one way or another. By the night before the launch, even trivia like the name of the new earbuds (EarPods) was known.

Yes, there was some misleading scuttlebutt along the way: the new iPhone, it turns out, doesn’t have near-field communication after all. But anyone with well-informed instincts about what Apple is and isn’t likely to do could have discarded the stuff that sounded improbable.

Really, the one thing that nearly anyone would have gotten wrong was the order of the announcements. Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 and then moved on to iPods and iTunes. That’s the reverse of its traditional “One More Thing” game plan.

Apple may have a reputation as the most obsessively secretive company in the business — maybe any business — but if its goal was to keep its latest products under wraps until it could tell the world about them, then it failed.

That’s not new. Most of the major news about Apple products manage to ooze out ahead of time. It’s simply not feasible to keep hardware-related news from doing so, particularly in an era in which tech companies don’t manufacture their own products.

(Software is easier to keep hush-hush: earlier this year, nobody reported much of anything about OS X’s Mountain Lion upgrade until Apple decided it was time.)

The fact that yesterday’s bash wasn’t full of startling twists presumably helps explain why it prompted lots of stories declaring the event, and even the iPhone 5 itself, to be a disappointment.

Product rollouts aren’t action movies. Surprises are nice, but they aren’t the ultimate goal — at least if the idea is to sell lots and lots of gadgets and make lots and lots of money.

Surprise has no inherent relation to quality or popularity. I was more surprised by Samsung’s decision to give the Galaxy Note II a whopping 14-cm screen than I was by anything Apple announced yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that Samsung made the right decision or that the Note II will do better than the iPhone 5.

And actually, there are plenty of instances in which the least surprising news is the most important news. The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone with LTE broadband. That’s not surprising in the least; Apple is so very late to the LTE party that it would have been stunning if the phone hadn’t added it. Even so, LTE also happens to be the most logical reason to upgrade from an earlier iPhone to this one. Its obviousness is a virtue.

When consumers decide whether or not to buy an iPhone 5, will they factor in the fact that Apple’s launch event felt a bit like a recap of known facts? That would be kind of silly. (I also suspect that only a tiny percentage of the hundreds of millions of people who might buy an iPhone 5 have been paying enough attention that they knew much about the phone before it was announced.)

Surprises are fun. They can certainly help products get off to a good start when it’s not a given that the world is paying attention. (Apple, in case you don’t know, doesn’t have to deal with that problem.) But if Apple ever builds an iPhone that’s a flop in the market, it won’t have anything to do with how well the company kept it secret. It’ll be because it misjudged what people want in a smart phone. From what we know about the iPhone 5, there’s absolutely no evidence that it’s the product of poor judgment about what consumers want and need.

41 comments
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Ayyappan
Ayyappan

Thanks for the level headed article.

Dominic Leong
Dominic Leong

"From what we know about the iPhone 5, there’s absolutely no evidence that it’s the product of poor judgment about what consumers want and need."This statement confirmed my doubts about the credibility of this author. Even way back in 2010, at the announcement of the iPhone 4, people have been posting requests for features found in competitor's products to be added to the iPhone, up till now, a few of these are still not implemented, and some are directly ripped off.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Quick Note to Time and Harry McCraken, I will be happy to stop leaving responses if that is what you would like, I have never said anything derogatory or inflammatory and yet Disqus says a moderator must look at it before its will be posted and then it never is.

The other comments go straight in and I am being dumped.

Why???

And this went straight in! I left a detailed response to Transplanted Nucks response to me below (Two different times) and they never went in!

Darth Vader
Darth Vader

They don't want to. It's called generating buzz for the fanbois.

ocscorpio
ocscorpio

It's common sense. If the public waited a year for a new iPhone and didn't hear anything about it, there would be less hype than if they dropped hints and 'leaks' along the way. The fact that they sold out of pre-orders in the first hour tells me Apple is probably doing something right in the marketing department.

Shokai
Shokai

In this country we don't have religious zealots as bad as the Middle East. Instead, we've got a corporate cult known as Apple.  Maybe it's time to take the gangsters behind this cult down a notch: http://youtu.be/UOeoiY9X848

William Longfellows
William Longfellows

Don't really think they're trying..  way too many apple idiots out there who buy all their bull...

fletc3her
fletc3her

The iPhone 5 was the topic of the announcement so it could hardly be a "one more thing".

Ben Hutchins
Ben Hutchins

It's like the old joke that Apple and IBM employees used to tell about each other's employers: "You can buy better, but you won't pay more."

Owen Liversidge
Owen Liversidge

Actually, we did know about Mountain Lion way before it was released, because their software is released to testers and developers to help work out the bugs. I knew all of its features months beforehand.

cholcobo3
cholcobo3

The author is a complete idiot.  When you make the phone that 50% of people use, it's difficult to keep a secret.  You can't get more obvious than that.  His next article could be titled "water is wet" or "2 + 2 = 4"

Ben Hutchins
Ben Hutchins

 It's even more difficult when you're leaking all the "secret" tidbits yourself to generate buzz, which has been a stock Apple strategy since... hmm.  When was the Apple ][+?  1979?

menting
menting

being able to keep it secret or not should not be related to how many people use it. Rather, it's related to how many people participate in the manufacturing of it.

fletc3her
fletc3her

And if you want accessories to be available at launch you just have to give up on secret.

menting
menting

like I said, it's all about how many people are involved in production of the iphone 5. But I should have said it as "iphone  5 related stuff" You can have them sign NDAs, and if they break it, they dont get to make accessories for the iphone 5

onaturalia
onaturalia

I predict Apple will release an iPhone 5 that will be very, very expensive and still be just a phone. Oh! You already knew that.

conet
conet

If it's at all similar to more recent iPhones, it won't function well as a phone.

GaryOh
GaryOh

 If you say that the iPhone is only a phone, you must own a Motorola Razor V3 that someone stenciled the word "iPhone" on. All smartphones are much more than "just a phone" and Apple's product does it in a way that pleases most people. You can either believe that millions of people think that, or you can believe that there is a conspiracy involving the government, Apple and the fluoride in the water, causing people to spend their hard-earned money to get an iOS device.

technobaboy
technobaboy

Apart from the iPhone 5, something seems wrong with Apple's new products. The iPod Touch and Nano are curious products-design wise.  These are not designs Steve Jobs would have approved. 

menting
menting

Jobs wouldn't have approved of the iphone 5 either. the famous nobody wants to buy a large screen phone quote from him is the proof.

Neither would a 7" small ipad (anything in the >6" and <8" range is a 7") be approved by him, as he had famously said 7" tablets are DOA.

nikvoodoo
nikvoodoo

Incorrect. Steve Jobs thumbprint will be seen on products for the next three years or so. Product development happens far earlier than the production of them.

Madison Chua
Madison Chua

I do agree with Mr. McCracken  that surprises and secrets are not important towards the success of a product. However, the fact that so many of the trade secrets were leaked way before the event, goes to show that Apples partners and associates are not very good at keeping secrets. And that is not good for the company in the long term. I strongly urge Apple to move it's factory out of China; they are the main reasons for the leaks. By stemming the flow of rumours, secrets and  expectations, only will Apple to stop it's competitors from getting a head start.

Xolani Mahlangeni
Xolani Mahlangeni

There is everyone missing the point. Its actually iOS which is oh so predictable now.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Apple seems to be losing some of it's glitter, and as Steve Jobs knew, glitter was really important to Apples success.

Apple knocking aside however, whether it filled everybody's dreams or not the IPhone 5 is bound to succeed handsomely.

The new IPod Touch not so much though. 

No doubt the Touch was in the works for a while before the IPad Mini became an Apple necessity, it's price point is unlikely to let it survive the onslaught of the Mini however.

I hope they didn't make to many of them and if they didn't, it will probably become a cool rare Apple collectible.

Don't think they are going to make the Mini.

Ha!, I truly don't think that they are going to give away at least a few billion dollars in business to Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

They may not be technological masters, but they have always proven to be shrewd businessmen.

Transplanted 'Nuck
Transplanted 'Nuck

How do they price an iPad mini? $399? So no one ever buys a 32GB or up iPod ever again?

Even at $399, they remove the late-model standard-sized iPad as an option, so no more buying last year's model for a discount. 

And still, at $399, it's $150 overpriced compared to a Nexus 7. 

I just don't see it happening, and it won't make sense no matter what they try to do.

Honestly, $299 for an iPod touch with 16GB of memory should be a slap in the face to any thinking human being anyway. And where do they get off upping the cost by $100 for double the memory? Don't they know a 64GB USB flash drive is only $35? Are people really this dumb?

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I am virtually certain they will announce the IPad Mini within a month.

The only mistake they could make bigger than not introducing the Mini before Christmas is if they put too high a price tag on it.

It has to be competitive with the Nexus and HD Fire (and Surface).

They can charge an extra $50.00 or so because they are Apple, but thats it.

That means the IPod Touch is ludicrously over priced by comparison.

But Apple wants the tablet market and they want the market share and the billions of dollars the mini will bring them.

So In October expect the IPad Mini  for $250.00 to $300.00 max and Sayonara over priced IPod Touch.  

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I am virtually certain they will announce the IPad Mini within a month.

The only mistake they could make bigger than not introducing the Mini before Christmas is if they put too high a price tag on it.

It has to be competitive with the Nexus and HD Fire (and Surface).

They can charge an extra $50.00 or so because they are Apple, but thats it.

That means the IPod Touch is ludicrously over priced by comparison.

But Apple wants the tablet market and they want the market share and the billions of dollars the mini will bring them.

So In October expect the IPad Mini  for $250.00 to $300.00 max and Sayonara over priced IPod Touch.  

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

If they price the Mini at $399.00 I agree stupid beyond belief.

The Mini is a game changer for Apple and they have to know that.

Pricing has to be in the same ballpark as the Google Nexus and especially the Kindle Fire HD. 

They can charge maybe $50.00 for similar hardware, but if they charge more than that they will lose more customers than they gain.

Apple is not a super technological innovator, but with literally billions at stake, my guess is they play to win.

Si I'm betting $250.00 Mini IPad maybe $300.00 for the bigger memory version.

If they do that, they will way outsell Amazon and Google combined.

The Microsoft Surface is the Dark Horse, but it won't beat a properly priced IPad Mini, they just don't have the preexisting software chops for it.

It IS going to be an interesting Christmas.

Further prediction, The Mini will be formally introduced in October (this is not a big leap).

Peruna
Peruna

Problem with your argument is that people still buy Apple products. Why?Because no one can match their OS, their industrial design and their culture of coolness. Sure, Android has make nice inroads, but when your an imitator and not an inventor , you'll only be second best. The fit and finish, ease of use and universal appeal DOES make a difference over whatever tech specs a knock-off (and Android IS a knock-off) may have. Don't believe me? Watch how many iPhone 5's they sell? And these aren't stupid people, they know what they want. 

As to more GB costing costing far more than their actual cost...supply and demand, baby. Sure, Apple's margin on their 32GB and 64GB iPhone and Touch are far greater than their 16GB, but what other choice to you have if you need the space? An Android, a cheap imitation, for me and many, many other consumers, the answer is NO.

More than happy to drink the Kool-Aid. 

StevieK411
StevieK411

 No one can match their OS? Surely you've tried Android?BB's QNX? or even the now dead WebOS? That's the problem. It doesnt matter if you are better. Better doesnt give you success.

Android is an imitator? Samsung yes....Android not so much. They are both very similar. If Android is an imitator to Apple then Apple is an imitator to Microsoft.

People will drop their Iphone's 4s in no time just to say they have an iPhone5. Why? They will both run the same apps. Don't tell me its because the iPhone 5 is sooo much better than any other phone out there. Their phone is a year behind everyone else in hardware specs. Do a little research on the web and compare the specs to any other phone out their. Don't listen to the TV or ads. Do your own research on hardware specs. Hey even walk by one of those Apple stores and talk to anyone that is sleeping in front of the stores to be the first to get their hands on the unit if they have last years model. 99.9% will say yes. Do they need to get the newest iPhone? No...Can the iPhone 5 do anything the iPhon 4s can't do?....No. Why do they buy it? Because they think they are cool. No other reason. To them it's a badge.

So Peruna, did you pre-order your badge? or are you standing in line 8 days ahead of the release date to get yours?

Dominic Leong
Dominic Leong

I read your comment, and other than the 'culture of coolness', I find it extremely difficlut to find anything that is factual, or even makes sense.

Firstly, their OS has long been surpassed by Android 4 years ago. At that point of time, Android has had multitasking, a unified notifications system, widgets, homescreen customizability, wallpapers, ability to install third-party apps, flash support, and much more, none of which iOS had. Even today, as limited multitasking has been introduced, notifications system being stolen from Android, and the ability to change wallpapers, iOS still lacks many features. If Android was 'second best', there is hardly a 'best' to speak of.

Secondly, contrary to your belief, Android has long appealed to consumers more than iOS. Since the past few years, Android has been holding more than half of the smartphone OS market share, while iOS has been hovering between 20-30%, which is not very impressive.

Thirdly, as for your 'cheap' comment, the Galaxy S3 costs about the same as the iPhone 5, so there. (p.s. the world's most expensive cell phone, $49,500, runs on Android, not iOS)

Peruna
Peruna

Problem with your argument is that people still buy Apple products. Why?Because no one can match their OS, their industrial design and their culture of coolness. Sure, Android has make nice inroads, but when your an imitator and not an inventor , you'll only be second best. The fit and finish, ease of use and universal appeal DOES make a difference over whatever tech specs a knock-off (and Android IS a knock-off) may have. Don't believe me? Watch how many iPhone 5's they sell? And these aren't stupid people, they know what they want. 

As to more GB costing costing far more than their actual cost...supply and demand, baby. Sure, Apple's margin on their 32GB and 64GB iPhone and Touch are far greater than their 16GB, but what other choice to you have if you need the space? An Android, a cheap imitation, for me and many, many other consumers, the answer is NO.

More than happy to drink the Kool-Aid. 

Transplanted 'Nuck
Transplanted 'Nuck

I appreciate a lot of your comment except the part where you credit Apple as the innovators and their competition as imitators. 

That was true in 2007 (arguably even then). Now, Apple is consistently a year or even more behind on every single new innovation component-wise, and iOS hasn't significantly changed in years.

There is something to be said for consistency and convenience, the whole "It's so great I never need to learn anything new!" - but some of us actually appreciate real progress.

Frankly, I'm looking at my iPhone 4S and I've been using iOS 6 Beta since July, and I simply can't justify giving them any more money for my 5th iPhone (the original wasn't available at all in Canada, but I've had a 3G since day one and upgraded each time). 

Give me something new!

Marlyn D. Thomas
Marlyn D. Thomas

I strongly urge Apple to move it's factory out of China; they are the main reasons for the leaks. By stemming the flow of rumours, secrets and  expectations, only will Apple to stop it's competitors from getting a head start. http://Ace16.com

Edmund Samph
Edmund Samph

 What part of slave labor creating products that apple can sell for 3 times the price of equivalent products (windows based pc's)in the USA do you not understand?

Thanks Apple for turning your corporate backs on American labor and outsourcing all jobs to China, May Steve Jobs burn in financial hell...I hope his company goes bankrupt when Americans find out all their products are made in "slave labor camps like foxconn" in China.

StevieK411
StevieK411

 No way will apple do this. China is by far the cheapest region for labour. Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the history of mankind. Dare to ask why?

harrymccracken
harrymccracken

It'll be really interesting to see what the price story is on the smaller iPad.

jnffarrell1
jnffarrell1

Exposing the secret that they never knew they were selling an artificially intelligent device, PDA, with a phone and that they don't know yet that a billion processors at a Amazon or Google server farm is more 'intellegent' than their system. They laid a Faberge Egg and they think it's pretty. But it's not worth the price.

No wonder A is for Amazon in auto complete.