May 26, 2010 holman

The last couple of days I’ve seen a number of different television ads for Android. I think most of them were Verizon-made, but a few others might have slipped in. The focus of these ads seemed to center around a few things: the openness of the platform, multitasking, and various spec-related aspects like processor speeds. It’s clear these ads are shots across iPhone’s bow, but the attacks themselves are perplexing.

The iPhone’s success stemmed from its ease of use. This is the modus operandi for most of Apple’s products: never compete on specs or arbitrary measurements because the vast majority of consumers really don’t care. And this is why these Android attacks are perplexing: Apple’s forced Android devices into positions that just aren’t as relevant.

I don’t consider this a master stroke of Apple strategic brilliance. I don’t even consider this is a boneheaded move by the Android camp. I think it’s simply someone’s answer to equation: (Android - iPhone = shit we should market). And that makes sense in a lot of realms: our flights have more legroom than they do, our detergent comes in larger bottles, our store is open on weekends. But doing that in the tech world ignores much about what made the iPhone (and similar competing products) so alluring in the first place: it’s fun to use, it’s simple to use, and it helps you get stuff done.

Beyond that, their strategy is a much harder sell. Apple’s recent ads for iPhone and iPad have centered around usage: oh, I just press that and I can get movie times or oh, cool, I can use the internet on that. That’s easy to comprehend. It’s much harder to simultaneously describe the closed policies of the AppStore and the benefit of an open marketplace in a 30 second spot. Or that you can run an application in the background all the time and call it forward as you need it. It’s hard to expect the layperson to understand these concepts when all they really want to know is how to access or watch a movie.

Don’t get me wrong: a chunk of consumers want to know this stuff. They understand how speed impacts the user experience and why a faster processor might interest them. They get why arbitrary app installation can rock. And maybe that’s really the type of audience they’re trying to target. But we’re no longer in an era where the general public gives a shit. We can argue all we want whether the general populace is full of morons, but it’s not going to sell more product.

In the meantime, Apple continues to push ads that sell the experience, and the Android camp appears to be pushing ads that sell the device. I can’t help but feel that Android would be better off if they focused more on what makes their platform enjoyable rather than what simply makes them different.