Apple OR How I Learned How to Sell Refurbished Phones as Newt

I currently find myself in a situation I think we all have found ourselves in. My phone is slightly old, it’s screen is cracked (fairly terrifically if I may say so myself) and I’ve got enough extra cash that if I sell my soul I should just squeak by in being able to pay for a new phone.

But whenever someone is looking for a new phone they are usually if not inevitably met with the iPhone. The iPhone has become a stable of not just our technologically saturated lives but a cultural icon at that.

Who hasn’t seen, touched, dreamed of or broken at least a half dozen iPhones in their lives. It doesn’t matter if you own or have owned one or not, you know it just by seeing it in someone’s hand. The shape, the design the interface all so iconic that any of the three can identify the phone instantly.

And despite being connected to slave like labor in China, patient lawsuits, being suspected of purposefully built so they break or the fact that they barely improve from their last model that came out only a year ago, Apple still has very steady gains in their sales year after year.

Apples iPhone sales over the last few years

Apples iPhone sales over the last few years

So how does Apple do it? Paying off investors? Or are they really just that good? Maybe it’s black magic? Wait no that’s Verizon. In reality, Apple does next to nothing. And that’s it.

If you look back at the last few iPhones you’ll notice that they share a great deal of similarities. They’re all the same shape, have the same touch screen, and the same general functionality. The two differences that you can see between one generation to the next is that they either catch up with the newest standard technology like 3G or 4G connectivity or they include something that is fun and new. In reality the phone is very similar from generation to generation, but this is how Apple is able to sell you that hunk of metal and glass.

It all has to do with this idea of how any creative industry has generally two paths to follow when it comes out with something new, it is through “a constant remix of commercially viable yet generic work, next to or combined with innovative, flexible, and highly creative production processes. This is an unique blend of what Bryan Turner (2003, p.138) describes as a dialectical and unstable process between “linear” and “liquid” differentiations.” (51, Deuze). Any new piece of creative works can either follow the path of previous works or it can try and be innovative.

A linear piece of creative work is something that takes content or notoriety from a previous work and simply continues it, think how one movie may help market the next because they are a series (Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hunger Games). It still is creative but it’s riding on the coat tails of what came before. People think ‘huh, the last one was good and I am mildly interested to see if my young female/male protagonist over comes the evil sorcerer/evil empire/other evil empire” so why not go?2000px-Star_Wars_Logo.svgHarry-Potter-Logo-2hungergamesOST_wp

This also is connected quite closely to how Apple makes you personally connect with your iPhone. Their ad campaign has always concentrated on making the phone look like it can be used not just as a phone, but for whatever you want to use it for. Go for a run? It’ll track your stats. Want to make dinner? Siri can suggest this great recipe! Looking to invade a small third world country? There’s an app for that! The premise rotates around how the product can be built the same each time but it’s user are the ones who makes it personal. It’s inherent to make the phone personal for anyone, that it can even be seen in the first letter of the product itself. As Deuze quotes Larry Light, the global chief marketing office of McDonalds, it’s all about not “’I want to be normal’ (but) ‘I want to be special’” (128). As long as Apple can keep the same general design, they can literally make anyone feel like they are special and independent.

Meanwhile you have works that are liquid. They’re new! They’re interesting! They’re trying things that you can’t even think of and it’s awesome! Or so they tell you. Since these pieces have no prior notoriety or showing for quality, there stands no pre established market and thus no one to rely on for sales.

What Apple does is that they will rely on the sales from last year to assure themselves that someone will buy the new phone, but add in a liquid element that doesn’t effect the core functionality of the phone (fingerprint scanner, following your eyes as you read) and say ‘Hey! It’s new! Buy it!” In reality you’re buying last years model. By making something just a little newer or adding something special every year, Apple can keep a core design for mass production but rely on how people are already comfortable with their products.

They never change, even the green phone icon never changes

They never change, even the green phone icon never changes

It’s actually quite ironic. One of the most iconic parts of the Apple brand is their old marketing scheme, think different, yet with their products, they hope that people will keep buying the same products year in and year out. They hope that people will stay with what their comfortable rather than try new things and actually think differently.

As long as you buy the same thing each year

As long as you buy the same thing each year

With this façade of new and shiny, all Apple does is refurbish last years model and just give you something that’s old… and shiny.

Worked Cited

Deuze, Mark. Media Work. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Print.


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