Apple media vs. mainstream: How do we keep getting it wrong?

iPhone 7
iPhone 7

Tim Cook, from Apple's Q1 2017 conference call, on Apple Watch:

Apple Watch is the best-selling smartwatch in the world, and also the most-loved, with the highest customer satisfaction in its category by a wide margin.

On iPad Pro:

The customer sat numbers are through the roof; literally, the customer sat for the iPad Pro is 99%. It's stunning.

Rounding up Apple's current product lineup and their relative customer satisfaction ratings:

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It makes for an interesting contrast to how these products are often portrayed in the tech community.

Based on the intensity and proportion of iPhone 7 coverage devoted to its lack of a headphone jack, lack of new design, etc., a casual observer might reasonably expect the product to have been DOA. Instead it not only had a record quarter but record levels of customer satisfaction.

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For a while you couldn't turn around without tripping over a hot take on wearables in general and Apple Watch in particular were a failed category and failed product. Yet, Apple Watch also had a record quarter and is also getting record levels of customer satisfaction.

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How does this keep happening? I have a theory: I think it comes down to us forgetting that we're not mainstream consumers and not every product has to fit our non-mainstream consumer needs. In other words, we spend too much time reviewing for us and not enough time reviewing for everyone else.

Not only do we have different needs, we have different wants, and we forget to keep that in perspective. We have such a constant stream of new products racing past us every day that we become velocitized. It makes the sensible seem boring, the impractical seem novel, and it's drained almost every bit of meaning from how we use terms like "innovation". And it looks like we lack anything approaching self awareness about it.

That's not the really worrisome part, though. The really worrisome part is that, based on Apple's sales and satisfaction numbers, consumers are perfectly aware of all this — and they've learned to ignore us.

Sure, they'll click on our bait, but they won't respect us in the morning.

The opportunity here is to up our game. To dig deeper and go broader. To not focus so tightly on the headphone jack we lose sight of the camera, and on the wearables market we pay no attention to the Watch.

In other words, to tell the story of a product in a way that's more meaningful and respectful to the people considering whether or not to buy it.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

17 Comments
  • Your article's revelation is way late. Apple has always researched (since iPhone 1) when customers may want and need (maybe) before they do. "We" are not the focus of Apple's research. So you are right, we critique for ourselves. To add to your discussion: Not proof of anything but as my tastes are seemly becoming more mainstream, I am less opinionated and accepting. TVs, toilets and refrigerators are released yearly with new versions. Why don't we consistently claim their products are DOA when the amount of flush is not to our liking? I have choice. Choice in product, manufacturer and whether to buy now or later. I no longer think, I must buy now and it must have every feature known to me whether I use it or not and if it doesn't it will fail. My other laugh is with comments of companies (ie Apple) "no longer innovating". Don't get me started on that!
  • Just like how media is out of touch of what people think or want in politics as well or in general any topics.
  • You beat me to it. The media has lost it's way.
  • Yet they try and force their narrative...
  • Nonsense. Once again, ill-informed right wingers pushing a racist agenda.
  • I clearly saw this disconnect while at Disneyland in October. Being a tech guy (and a watch enthusiast), I took mental inventory of the watches around me, and the Apple Watch was, by far, the most common watch I saw. If you divide the watches into categories (digital, analog, smartwatch, Apple Watch), there were far more Apple Watches there than anything else. After Apple, it was analog, then digital, then other smartwatch (I only saw one other, it was a big round one that was either a Samsung or the LG Urbane). Every Disney worker that was not in a costume was wearing an Apple Watch. I noticed that and asked one if the company supplied them, but she told me they buy their own, its just very popular. Same thing at airports. I see all of the airport workers wearing Apple Watches, but they aren't provided by the employer, just very popular among the employees. I teach in a school with a staff of 10. Four of us have Apple Watches, of the other six, only one wears a watch at all. So, on the one hand I read how the Apple Watch is a complete failure, and no one has one. On the other hand, I look around and seemingly everyone is wearing one. Total disconnect.
  • Other than my own Apple Watch, I have yet to see another in the wild. Granted, I don't look very hard. But, what I do see are massive numbers of fitbit wearables. So, while the Apple Watch may be doing well in terms of other watches, it is certainly well behind the cheaper fitness wearables category. Whether you consider these competitor is up for debate, of course, but their success does impact how the Apple Watch is viewed in terms of raw sales numbers.
  • Really? I'll see the occasional Fitbit at the gym, but I see Apple Watches all the time. At the gym last night I counted 9 other people wearing them (out of about 40). Where do you live?
  • "Sure, they'll click on our bait, but they won't respect us in the morning." "And it looks like we lack anything approaching self awareness about it." Two of the most refreshing sentences I've read here in a long time, if not ever. Actually the entire final section of this article is a refreshing dose of transparency and humility (something a couple of other MN sites could use). While this is not a new revelation for a lot of your long time readers (as mentioned above), it's great to see the realization, and I'm personally hopeful for how y'all choose to "dig deeper" and "up your game". Well done, Rene!
  • Here's a hint; stop quoting analysts and start quoting users and narratives. Until then you are just propagating click-bait articles to generate page/ad revenue. (on that note, can you guys make an effort on not inserting so much tracking code? we get it you want to know everything about your readers, but geez have some respect for privacy).
  • A suggestion would be have certain people report just news and others give just opinion.
    When the same person is trying to do both to me you end up with a Chris Matthews and Bill O'Riley situation. When they give facts you have to wonder did they just search and pull numbers to fit their narrative instead of showing the whole picture. So you end up doubting what is being said.
  • Interesting to compare #faketechnews with the general variety. It's not malevolent, just clickbait distorting news -- "Apple is collapsing!" is clickable. "Apple has a new product that's got a couple cool features" is not. Tech press is composed of techies, who like being technically challenged by devices. "A watch you can program in C? Cool!" "A repair kit for tablets? Wow! Deal me in!" Normals want to phone, send messages, play games, read news and listen to music. And look cool. All of which the iPhone does. Most people use the ear buds that come with the phone. Or none! Maybe they airplay to speakers or bluetooth to the car radio. I only bought bluetooth earphones when I started going to the gym; much easier navigating around exercise machines with no wires. But tech people are mostly web people, and they have that attention problem. So, they start click baiting us without noticing.
  • "I think it comes down to us forgetting that we're not mainstream consumers and not every product has to fit our non-mainstream consumer needs"
    What took you so long to realize that I hope now you will stop bashing Samsung or Andriods and keep iMore more relevant to Apple products.
  • Where did you see Rene or the iMore bloggers bash Samsung and/or Android?
    They do cover Apple tech but have always been very respectful of the competition.
    You'd have to shows us the blog post where they bash the other side.
  • I wouldn't call myself a techie, but I am a fan of Apple products, and over the last year or so I've started to read a few of the Apple-related sites and wider tech sites, and it definitely seems to me that they're written for a certain type of reader and not the general consumers. If we take the 12-inch MacBook, last spring I was contemplating getting one to replace my early 2013 MacBook Pro, whose battery was showing signs of wear, which starting to restrict some of the work I was doing cos I'd have to charge it every couple of hours when I was out and about. I am a teacher and a freelance proofreader, copy editor and writer, and my needs are mainly Office-type software. I never found any review or blog that touched upon how capable the MacBook was for these types of tasks. All the video reviews on YouTube complained about not being able to edit 4K videos or use PhotoShop, which I don't do. All the written reviews complained about the same stuff and about having only one port, with which they couldn't use a monitor or external drive while charging - again, things I have no need for nor do. I got sick of reading about Geekbench scores and disk read/write speeds to the point where I'd skip entire sections of articles and videos about them because they weren't relevant to what I want to know. I just wanted to know how the machine would work for my usage, i.e. having Word and Powerpoint open, marking up PDFs, having Safari open and listening to music all at the same time. No one covered those things in any depth. In the end I went for the MacBook and I love it. I get around 12 hours use out of it, compared with two to three on my old MacBook Pro. I don't need any USB or connected drives because I use the cloud. The Office software opens quickly and works with aplomb and I don't get any lag or spinning beachballs during my workflow. Yet you would think from the tech coverage that it would be an awful machine that you shouldn't buy because of some specific things that the reviewers wanted it to do. As Rene said, reviewers forget that they are not mainstream users and they might forget about those types of readers. Perhaps a 'consumer' review of the simpler aspects would add some balance, alongside having a more in-depth, 'techie'-style review.
  • 1. The satisfaction on the new Mac should be high since people who won't live in dongleville won't buy it. 2. Those new higher prices also proped up revenue. It makes you need fewer happy people. 3. If you get new monitors and USB-C gear, then you aren't in dongleville, and **man that must really be nice!** I suspect, at those prices, this happened plenty. 4. If you had been holding out and splurged now, ya it will be so much better than that old machine. The metric we have aren't able to get a clear picture, esp. of those who didn't buy. --- As for the Apple Watch, half a dozen people in my family have one, including my wife. They love it. I can explain how it was thought a failure: 1) Some reports said that it's sales were low
    2) Apple doesn't release figured
    3) Other wearables were folding left and right
    4) Wearables have always faced skepticism This makes it a lot easier to believe the Apple Watch doing as bad as others and reports indicated. --- I still say give the MacBook Air a USB-C and two USB-A ports, keep the SD card, plus a rentina screen. That would sell like hot cakes. And the MacBook needs a lightning port and system level noise cancellation. :P
  • @cuttheredwire
    I'm trying to understand your post and I'm having a hard time doing it.
    Are you being sarcastic about dongles?
    Well let me tell you about my experience. BTW I own a 2015 15" MBP but do have one dongle, namely a Thuderbolt 2 to ethernet. The way I see it is that an adapter is an extension of the wire. It's not meant to be permanently plugged into your laptop. I work at a client's site and I leave the adapter plugged into the ethernet cable. When I leave at night I just unplug it from the Thunderbolt end. Like I would do if I did have an ethernet jack on my computer.
    I feel that most people see things the way I do and not worry about which adapters they will need.
    After my contract is over with the client and I go back to my office, I have an Elgato TB2 dock which I connect to my Mac when I come in, in the morning. That gives me access to a 27" 4K monitor, two USB drives, ethernet for the office and even a lightning to USB cable permanently plugged into the dock.
    The new MBP's are even better since with one wire alone they can instantly connect a few peripherals (1x5K or 2x4K monitors, USB drives etc.) and power their laptop at the same time.
    That's the allure of these new MBP's. As for your Macbook Air dream, forget it. Apple isn't going back to non retina screens. The Macbook will take its place and I know a few Macbook owners that absolutely love it. Traditional computing but in iPad like weight and dimensions. I understand that it may not be for people like you.