Minimal delightful product

The original iPhone didn't do everything existing BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm, or Symbian devices did. It didn't have MMS. It didn't have third party apps. It didn't have much in the way of customizations. And it didn't matter. Its multitouch interface was so great, most people who bought it were willing to live without those features simply because the experience was so great. Apple had, once again, hit on a minimal delightful product.

Those words might sound silly. Minimal viable product is the usual term. It's been succinctly defined as follows:

The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

Minimal delightful product, then, could be thought of this way:

The minimum delightful product is that version of a new product which allows customers to experience the maximum amount of affinity with the smallest feature set.

Many people cared that the original iPhone was missing features. Most of us cared more that we could pinch and zoom and swipe and bounce around the Photos app. More importantly, we delighted in demonstrating it to our friends. The reactions, both from ourselves and those around us, more than validated the purchase. We grumbled about missing features but we exalted about the few key ones that were there.

It hit the key balance of being both impressive and accessible. Features can (and did) come later, but it never needed a second chance to make a good first impression. It made a great one right away. As prices dropped and availability increased, iPhone surged in part because of the vacuum created by the affinity created ahead of it.

The original iPod was the same. So was the Mac, going all the way back to the smiling face that made us smile back.

Apple Watch was delightful too but, perhaps, not minimal enough. From point-and-click to a thousand songs in your pocket to phone, internet device, and iPod all-in-one, we went to a harder-to-sum-up starting set. The Watch is still a smash hit, beyond any other wrist computer in history, and a business any other company on earth would give almost anything to own, but it's delight is not as easy to sum up, and hence, to show off. Starting with something more minimal may have also made it more infectious.

The next-generation Union Square Apple Store certainly feels minimal and delightful. There are five new features but all of them come from a single, unified theme: community. There's not a lot crammed in there either. Remarkably consistent tables, seating, and trees combine to make elements like the 6K screen and product windows not just stand out, but pop. You enjoy being there so much you want to tell other people about it. You want them to go so you can talk about it. You want to bring them. And because it's kept simple, you can easily tell them—and show them—why.

Whenever I hear rumors about what Apple is working on next, that's the filter I try to contemplate it through. The first question I ask is: What could Apple do in that space, at launch, to engage me and make me want to use it to engage others around me?

Whether it's a car or home appliance or virtual/augmented reality or anything else, that's what I want to know. What's the minimal delightful product?

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.

24 Comments
  • More ramblings of the world's greatest Apple theologian. Sent from the iMore App
  • He is recollecting the good times. They hit their zenith. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • Yeah, right..... ok Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Iconoclasm. Its a thing right now. It happens. Representing the contrarian view. I'll accept it.
  • I've always said that people use iOS devices because they are so accessible. Anyone from a tech geek to a non computer user can figure it out, and that's why Apple has hit it so big with the masses. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I should also add that the same applied to iPod. There were hundreds of mp3 players to choose from. Why did iPod succeed? Well, marketing, and it just worked. The click wheel was straightforward and iTunes started out pretty simple. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • The iPhone was the first phone for me that actually gave intelligible options when a second call came in. My Nokia at the time (6620?) was frustrating to understand what my options were when a second call came in and I would often end up hitting the wrong button.
  • "The Watch is still a smash hit, beyond any other wrist computer in history, "
    Isn't Fitbit no.1 ?
  • No Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Yes.
    http://fortune.com/2015/12/03/idc-q3-2015-wearables/ Sent from the iMore App
  • You can't really compare Fitbit sales to Apple Watch sales. The article you mention states that Fitbit sold 4.7 million trackers during Q3 2015 compared to 3.9 million Apple Watches over the same period. It goes on to say that most Fitbits cost between $50 and $200 compared to a starting price of $350 for the Apple Watch. I think it is safe to say that the Apple Watch is a smash hit beyond any other wrist computer, because I wouldn't classify most Fitbits as a wrist computer (most are essentially pedometers).
  • "most are essentially pedometers" let me give you a case I go to gym and for my muscles to build (yes I'm regular gym goer and I use jawbone) I need to juggle between Workout,Diet and Sleep. The biggest problem with Apple watch is that I cannot wear it to sleep which is really important with my fitness band I don't have worry about it moreover I charge once a week which again is win win. I'm not saying apple watch is bad I'm just saying It doesn't fit in my lifestyle. And I like my normal watches that I have and Jawbone is discreet and blends with all of wear, I don't care about notifications and stuff because I can just use my phone for that. And we don't have apple pay in India yet so I think its a better wrist computer than apple watch in my case.
  • I think the Fitbit is very successful, but I just don't think I'd call it a wrist computer.
  • How is apple watch an wrist computer ? It will be crippled without an iPhone
  • Indeed it is. But sometimes the truth can't stand in the way of corporate shilling.
  • So the key to their success is purposely limiting the feature set so that consumers need to continue to upgrade every year to get features that Apple easily could have included in the prior model? Sounds about right! Sent from the iMore App
  • Wrong. Sent from the iMore App
  • Great argument, very succinct and to the point. Sent from the iMore App
  • They add something we didn't have, but typically don't have other things that other phones have. We got an iPod in a phone, but we couldn't record videos. We had the full internet, yet didn't have the ability to play any games.
  • I believe a product can both be easy to use and have features. I also believe Simplicity for the sake of simplicity is stupidity.
  • I've had all phones , blackberry android Windows , and when I went to iPhone I never looked back.
    Why? Because although it's not as customizable or exciting as its competitors counterparts, it does little things very well. Sent from the iMore App
  • Somewhat the same reason I went to the iPhone. All my android phones didn't work well after 6 months of ownership or after an update. Got tired of them and left that platform for the iOS. Not as customizable but it isn't redundant yet straight forward and more reliable. Sent from the iMore App
  • Video recording was a big reason I wasn't interested in the original iPhone and the fact that it had a poor camera next to the then King of camera phones, Nokia. For me, the iPhone 4 was when I really started to want an iPhone, alas I didn't get an iPhone until 2013 which was an already dated (in specs) 4S, while I've tried Android (after own a 5s , while nice, I've always loved iPhone and after 6 months of mostly frustration, I returned to iPhone and now have a 6s Plus, I'll never leave iPhone again. I love how cohesive iPhone is and everything just works (most of the time) and I love how if you have more Apple devices that everyone of them works seamlessly together, so satisfied am I that I'm getting an iPad Air 2 and sometime next year, an iMac. Sent from the iMore App
  • Nothing wrong with a little poetic wax now and again... though I still don't think Apple is or ever will be making a car. Could they improve upon and potentially revolutionize a part of the automotive industry? Yep. No doubt about it. Would I be personally interested in it for myself? Nope, not likely ;)