Yesterday I met a friend after a very long time. After we settled over coffee I noticed he had replaced his iPhone with a Lumia. I asked him ‘what happened?’. He said, ‘the iPhone broke down. It stuttered and finally gave up. I couldn’t afford another so moved onto a Lumia. My wife wanted to sell it. We could make 5 to 6 thousand, but, I said no, it’s the most memorable experience I’ve had on mobile and I just love it. A Benz is a Benz and ordinary is ordinary. I’m going to cherish it’. I could completely understand his feeling. I sometimes just sit staring at my iPhone/iPad admiring their beauty much to the irritation of my wife. I’ve been in the Apple ecosystem for the last five years which in tech parlance equal an eternity. Why didn’t I look out? Were there no other alternatives? So many, and some too good. Then why didn’t I waver? What inspired such devotion? Was it just marketing? I look back:
It was 2004 when the iPod Photo released. Back then we didn’t have any Apple stores in India. I knew about the ‘great music invention’ from the web and newspapers. The markets were full of mp3 players, but, the legend which started all, was not yet available in India. That’s when I saw an ad in the newspaper about the iPod available in limited stocks in one shop selling customs imported goods. Very hesitantly I made my way to the shop wondering if they were selling the original or counterfeit. It turned out to be legit and as luck would have it, I purchased the one last remaining piece. A music playback device with 40 gigs of hard disk space? I was over the moon. I woke up all night and uploaded all my songs & pictures. I carried it everywhere from then. “It’s the size of a pack of cigarettes and yet holds more than 1000 songs”, I mimicked Jobs proudly holding it out for my friends to see. None of the devices my friends had was either that gorgeous or that fully functional. I was the centre of attraction.
When I first saw the iMac it looked like a wonder from the future fully enclosed in aluminium housing, no CPU unit and with only three wires sitting among other plastic junk we call(ed) computers. ‘This is a product of love. Someone cared enough to design it & manufacture it with care, and not just vomited it out’ I thought. I bought my iMac five years back and it still feels new and gorgeous; not a feeling I associate(d) with computers. To me a mac had personality, it was not just a collection of plastic parts put together.
I remember my jaw dropping when I saw Steve Jobs reveal the iPhone. Later when I saw the keynote, I was amazed by his vision. I followed the iPhone’s trajectory since then. Finally, I bought one in 2011. I thought I would be able to afford only one iPhone – at the max – in my life, because of the prohibitive cost. But, 4 years and 3 iPhones later I still have no intentions to jump ship. Be it the gorgeous design of the iPhone 4, the thin profile and edge to edge curved touch display of the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone never failed to make heads turn and ’use it so much that it has become an extension of my arm.
When I bought my first iPad in 2012, I was not even entirely sure what I’d use it for. But, now, I’m onto my second iPad. Why? ’Cause it reduced the time I spent before a desktop by more than 80% and totally replacing my laptop. And with so much screen space and a very thin profile (you have to hold it believe it) it’s like holding nothing but a very thin gorgeous glass slab (read screen), its very comfortable to use and a provides a more personal web experience than a computer.
It is said, Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple after being ousted, said in one brainstorming session – ’do you know why no one wants Apple products? why Apple’s is failing? ‘cause there is no sex in them. No one craves for one’. True to the statement, all Apple’s products resemble exquisitely crafted jewellery than electronic products. Apple’s hardware may not be the latest and greatest, but, it’s always been enough awe inducing to keep us gazing at them like an exhibit at a museum.
If hardware is the body, software is the soul of a device. When deciding whether to move to mac or not I did a lot of research and found Apple’s operating systems are very simple and easy to use. All the software I was using was either already available on a mac or had better alternatives. If apps on Windows, like the operating system, felt like they were targeted towards enterprises and businessmen, apps on the mac felt they were targeted to individual users. Apps like Things, Fantastical, DayOne, 1Password, Reeder, Tweetbot, Omnifocus were just not useful but had me coming back to them again and again – because of their beautiful design – so much so that I now can’t use Twitter without Tweetbot and read RSS without Reeder. So, it was with this experience on mac that I invested in iOS without hesitation. The same design sense which made the mac ‘lick worthy’ (to quote Jobs) made it over to iOS and I’ve remained a fan ever since.
If hardware and software were two aspects that kept me invested in the Apple ecosystem the other aspect was the iTunes store and the ease of purchasing music. I love music though not as much as books, I still love music. As a kid I had a cassette walkman and later a ‘Cd walkman’ before I quickly replaced it with an iPod photo (which I then considered the greatest invention of humanity). I had seen enough change from cassettes, to cds, to digital music. In the iPod I had the cds that I ripped. But, when I got the iPhone, it replaced my iPod for it was an iPod and a phone. I carried over all my music seamlessly to it for it was just a file. So, from then I stopped purchasing music cds and went completely digital (albeit a sad move); thanks to iTunes. To solve the ‘memory space’ problem I even subscribed to iTunes Match which my wife makes optimum use of, while travelling.
Added to all this, Apple has a great marketing team that focuses on – hardware design, apps & their values. Their product videos seem to say – this is what we used, this is what we did to get you this gorgeous device. Do you want to buy them? And the others focus on how you can use their devices, what you can create and do with them and how they want to see their products being used.
Just see these ads:
Apple is not without issues though. It’s devices are prohibitively costly, hardware is not the latest and greatest and software is restrictive in nature. But, what are the alternatives? Android? I do like the openness of it, but it’s software never inspired devotion. I always felt it’s design was all over the place with no central unifying theme (though things seem to change for the better with Lollipop). Windows? Yes, I love the typography, the design, the tiled homescreen, but man the app selection – abysmal. And, honestly no manufacturer produced a beauty that bests the iPhone inspite of boasting to having used the best parts. Competitors seem to lack either one or more aspects that Apple perfected with which it built its dominion in the market – hardware, apps & services. Competition is good and I’m excited to see what it’ll push Apple to do in the future.
But for now with it’s beautifully designed hardware, useful apps and services Apple created an eco system that keeps me satisfied & happy. And, that’s the reason I think I love & stick to Apple.
I asked myself, why write this post. In the long run, nothing matters and on that scale these devices and love for them seems very futile. But, what is life without indulging in a few temptations? What would that kind of existence would that be? I don’t think life is about giving up everything just like I don’t believe life is about accumulating everything. It’s the balance that matters. And, as long as we live in this plane, we’ll have desires and it is OK to indulge in them provided we don’t get stuck with them and think they are life.