Why the iPhone Will Be a Big Success

Apple's Marketing Touch Creates Passion Beyond Reason

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The reality won't match the hype; it was rushed to market and will be buggier than Florida in September; the battery will have the longevity of a mayfly; the touch-screen keyboard will be more irritating than a mosquito bite. It won't hold enough music; the big glass screen will crack;

The iPhone has a lot of expectations to meet, but it will probably succeed regardless of how well it meets them. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

Opposing View:

Al Ries: Why the iPhone Will Fail
Convergence Devices Have a Frequent History of Failure
the big glass screen will be smeared with unsightly fingerprints; it'll be incompatible with other software makers' applications; forcing users onto iTunes is too restrictive; at $500 it'll be too expensive; and now, from branding expert and fellow Ad Age columnist Al Ries, it'll fail because convergence devices fail.

There are hundreds of pundits who expect the iPhone to flop, and they've come up with a plethora of perfectly plausible reasons why it will sink like Motorola's Pebl in the overcrowded sea of mobile devices.

It's tempting to add a couple more cautionary notes to the list. For example, Apple usually makes complicated stuff feel simple and approachable (one-button mouse, drag-and-drop files and folders, plug-and-play devices), but in this case it's making what used to be a fairly simple device quite complicated. Even TBWA's TV commercials, while beautifully executed and better than 99% of the dreck between shows, feel a touch educational -- as if Apple feels the need to explain itself with this one -- and lack the memorable, one-message simplicity of "Think Different," "1,000 Songs in Your Pocket" or "Get a Mac."

Worse, the ads are deceptive, because they suggest a speed of mobile web surfing that surely won't be available no matter how good the iPhone is. Based on my own experience with my BlackBerry and Razr, both of which rely on AT&T for service, you'd need to buy a 60-second spot just to show one link opening.

But for all of these criticisms and despite the fact that some will prove valid, the iPhone will be a runaway success -- selling as many units as Apple can ship through 2008 and taking at least a 1% share of the market.

Why? Because it looks great, because it is made by Apple, because its high price point will prove an asset while it's being targeted at affluent influencers, because it'll be a badge of honor, because it epitomizes an increasingly mobile world. Because, in short, it will inspire irrational consumer lust.

Indeed, anyone who ever uttered the word "brand" in anger, or in a new-business pitch, should wish it success. Companies such as Apple, one of the few that can still create passion beyond logic for its products, remind us that marketing is more than computer science. Not that there's anything wrong with computer science. Indeed, it's making the ad game a lot less laughable in the C-suite. But isn't it nice to know the entire business of connecting with the consumer can't be successfully outsourced to the machines just yet?

The fact that Apple's rivals in the mobile space are such a bunch of inept followers will help too. There might be a sea of offerings, but most of them are mediocre for devices people spend their entire lives attached to. Amazingly, aside from the possible exception of the Pearl, with its cute little rollerball, there's been nothing to inspire phone pride since the Razr, which has been decidedly unsexy ever since everyone got one. Then there's the cellphone manufacturers' marketing, or mystifying lack of it. Too much of it still is left to the networks.

Al makes a really interesting case against convergence. As comedian Ricky Gervais recently put it in one of his stand-up routines, we don't need to be able to take a piss in the washing machine because we've already got toilets. Yet, every time I pack my iPod, phone, BlackBerry and laptop into my travel bag, along with all their various chargers, I find myself wishing I had one mobile device. Call me irrational, but I'm willing to believe the iPhone might be the one.
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