The Good, Bad and Ugly of the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel Launches

By: Amy Madonia

In writing about the iPhone 7 launch, I’d be remiss if I didn’t stop to think about the increasingly critical role of smartphones in our lives. Every day I find myself doing more and more on my phone, fighting against the tick of the clock, fighting to cross off another to-do-list item as the sands of time slip through my fingers. If that’s overly dramatic, so be it. All I know is that I can confidently add “not enough time” to the list of life’s certainties, right next to death and taxes.

Contextually this aligns with the data on increasing mobile usage and provides a what, when, why and how smartphones have become the center of our lives.

It follows that choosing a new smartphone is a very critical decision in one’s life. It also follows that newness in the category, specifically the launches of both the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel smartphones, lead to excitement for both consumers and retailers. (Wait, wait — let’s pause and celebrate this moment of alignment between the consumer and retail!) Before I get too excited, let’s discuss the good, the bad and the ugly with these two product launches.

The Good
The launch of the iPhone 7 and Google’s Pixel are both good for the category, good for the retail distribution chain, good for manufacturing, and good for consumers. Always looking for a good marketing experiment, this gives me an opportunity to view retail in a category with high interest, engagement and demand. This trifecta is easily the Holy Grail of retail for our time.

The Bad
The bad could possibly be the fact that for consumers the pricing of super premium smartphones, unlike other types of maturing technology, is not declining. With the uncertainty in the world economy, uncertainty in our next president, uncertainty in the stability of our incomes, add to these uncertainties the never-ending increases in technology and healthcare costs, the price stability in the smartphone category is bad for the consumer.

The Ugly
Not to be a downer, but let’s cover the ugly quickly. I’m talking about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 crisis. Obviously, this was a debacle for the Samsung brand. It responded slowly, and the explosions are extreme enough that the phone is banned from all U.S. flights. This marks a dark day for Samsung and an enormous inconvenience for Galaxy Note 7 owners out there. “Worrying about this damn thing exploding in my pocket” was not on anyone’s to-do list for the day.

I’d like to add one late addition to the good, the bad and the ugly list and end on a high note — the funny.

The Funny
I always look for the funny. It’s infinitely better to laugh than cry. The start of the Google Pixel ad makes me laugh. A not-so-subtle call to arms for switchers from Samsung. It starts with this:

googlepixel

A great question, especially for the 2.5 million owners of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Ha!

A callout plus an Apple diss in the “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new,” since Apple did away with it in the iPhone 7. Said best by Yoni Heisler in BGR, “Apple’s design decision with the iPhone 7 is alarming because it effectively abandons a universal, simple, reliable and durable technology for an entirely proprietary alternative.”

The Apple diss continues:

googlepixelappledis

That’s funny, I don’t care who you are. Well, maybe not funny if you are on the iPhone product team.

Onwards to the takeaways, the important stuff, the “what does this mean for my business and what can I do about it stuff.” Here are my top two takeaways from the newest smartphone launches:

1. Forecasting. Forecasting. Both Google and Apple are saying that demand for their phones is leading to out-of-stocks on both devices, and wait times that neither brand had expected. The out-of-stock situation is bad enough that it impacted Apple’s earnings call this week, wherein Tim Cook was grilled by analysts for what many said was good quarterly performance by Apple.

The obvious takeaway is simply the importance of forecasting. Out-of-stocks lead to missed sales, and you never know if those missed sales will be recaptured when the product comes in. Will people still wait? There’s a saying about a bird in the hand …

2. Can you feel my emotion? The second lesson that I think is super important — and was missed — in these smartphone launches is the importance of the emotional aspect of buying. The sell for both devices appears to be primarily specs-driven and put together by engineers. Nothing against engineers of course (my father is one), but in an advanced society like ours, there are very few real needs and only wants.

“What I want” is mostly dependent upon hitting on an emotional note, not a practical one, and resonating with the consumer on a deeper level.

Why wasn’t the Pixel ad more about an awesome experience and making me feel awesome vs. an Apple diss. I’d be more interested in hearing about you, Google, making my life more awesome than why Apple sucks. Plus, dearest Google, you’ve done it before with search, so I believe in you. That’s an emotional plea, not a practical one.

Amy Madonia has led e-commerce and digital marketing efforts for many brands over the course of her 17-year career. With a record that includes leading and growing e-commerce businesses for brands including Temptu, Nautica, New York & Company, Michael C. Fina, Wrangler and Hanes, Amy’s responsibilities have typically included site merchandising, content and promotion development, analytics, social media, mobile, and remarketing.

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