An end to Apple’s arrogance

On March 21, Apple held one of its iconic events. Apple’s Loop Me In presentation was a standard affair. New devices were announced, amid copious pomp and flair. But one thing was noticeably absent: Apple’s trademark arrogance.
Past events were all about telling the consumer what they wanted — even if that was something absolutely ridiculous. Apple long held itself to this standard of ‘leader,’ a global tech power that sold products that gave consumers what they wanted before they wanted it. A true trendsetter.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And for a time, this was true. Apple released a number of products that consumers didn’t realize they wanted; the iPhone and the iPad are both examples of this.
However, ignoring your customers can have a downside. Things like the Magic Mouse (which contains an unfortunate design flaw that renders it unusable when you want to recharge the batteries) could easily have been avoided by listening to tester groups and customer feedback. And then there’s the infamous case of the iPhone 4’s signal problems — when Apple told customers they were holding the phone wrong. Apple arrogance takes the old adage of ‘the customer is always right’ and turns it into ‘Apple is always right.’
But the era of Apple arrogance is coming to an end. It’s not quite gone, but it’s going. Apple’s most recent event is proof of that.
The company began the event with politics; they discussed the encryption debate.
“We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy,” CEO Tim Cook said. A few days later, just this past week, the FBI finally broke into a terrorist’s phone without Apple’s help. But Apple continues to take a strong stance on this issue, and that’s a win for smartphone users worldwide. Still, the notion that Apple is the only one leading the charge on customer privacy is foolish. Google and Microsoft have been implementing encryption features and championing security as long as Apple, and both companies rallied to support Apple when it took its position in refusing to help the FBI crack the terrorist’s phone.
Apple also announced its new CareKit healthcare-oriented platform, and its new environmental stance — also with a hint of its trademark arrogance, that familiar air of superiority. Clearly, the company has an idea that whatever they’re announcing has never been done before. But realistically, Apple hasn’t released a ‘never-been-done-before’ product in years.
And Apple followed this up with a price cut on the Apple Watch, and a slew of new watchbands for it. And software updates for their tvOS and iOS software. It also announced a 9.7-inch version of its iPad Pro, a ‘work-oriented’ tablet. Apple has suggested that its smaller Pro variant is targeted at a crowd of 600 million people who are currently using old Windows PCs. Apple thinks that those people will soon be coming into the market for a new computing device, and is hoping they take a serious look at the iPad Pro line. The iPad announcement was full of subtle jabs at Microsoft and the copious number of aging PCs in the world. There’s an irony in all of this: Apple was championing the discarding of old PCs for shiny new iPads, when minutes before they told the world how eco-friendly they were. Wouldn’t a truly eco-friendly company celebrate that large number of old PCs that are still being used, instead of being thrown away?
Finally, there was a new iPhone. And it’s little more than a rehash of the old iPhone. Critics of Apple have bemoaned the company’s knack for releasing new products that aren’t significantly different from their old ones. In this case, the iPhone SE is the iPhone 6S internals stuffed inside the iPhone 5’s smaller body. But while it’s tempting to just chalk this up to arrogance as well, that may not be the case.
In January, Apple reported flatlining iPhone sales, and a decline in iPad sales. The issue? The iPhone 6. Apple moved to a larger screen and phone design with the iPhone 6, but that decision was not popular with all of Apple’s user base. A number of iPhone users have clung to the smaller iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and 5S, instead of upgrading. The new iPhone SE is targeted at that crowd. Apple is actually listening to its user base this time, and making a phone for them, in the hope that those users will jump on an updated version of their current phone.
It’s nice to see a version of Apple that is listening to its customers, and trying to use its large influence to push a political agenda, in the case of the security and environmental announcements. Apple still has a long way to go before it shakes its arrogant image, but I’m excited that it’s starting to take its customers seriously, and make good phones for them, instead of making what it wants, and telling the customer that they want it too.