M-Marketer Feedback: Not Much Mojo, But Apple Keeps Incrementing Along

I did a quick “Apple Mojo Check” with a range of buddies in the mobile marketing industry immediately after yesterday’s iPhone5S/iPhone5C rollout. Turns out most people think the Mojo train left the Apple station a while ago.

Thom Kennon, CSO of Brabble and Y&R refugee, quipped: “Seems to me their Mojo peaked somewhere around the middle of the Great Recession, back when closed, beautiful appliances ruled the ecosystem.” Thom thinks Apple's problem is an inability to innovate around the two key areas for consumer gadgetry now -- customization and services.

Look to Google's MotoX or Samsung's Galaxy S4 for that, he adds. Worse, “along with their famous fail on Apple Maps and their losing ground to everybody from Amazon to Google to Spotify on the music front, they either don't get how to innovate anymore around services and software or are tragically choosing not to.”

“Incremental” was the chord Apple plucked in most observers with the 5S. Faster processor, better motion sensors and graphics, a fingerprint ID, camera upgrade -- ho hum, says Jeff Hasen, CMO of Mobivity. “An Apple employee told me weeks ago that this is a year not to upgrade for those with a 5. And I'm one who won't.”

MellaMedia's Jordan Greene says Apple may be swaying his initial skepticism about that fingerprint ID sensor. “I now believe it can open up whole new methods for mobile identification and transaction. While iTunes purchases is the small first step, isn't a fingerprint a much better security measure for any banking transaction than an eight-mixed-character password? Or a better identifier for point-of-sale transactions than a plastic mag-stripe card with signature? Or for a medical record release?  Introducing the technology piece now can spark a whole new area for developers’ imaginations going forward, and keep things quite simple for the user.”

Mark Silber, ECD at Joule, said what most of us were thinking about the ultimate security hack around a fingerprint sensor like the one on the 5S. “I just hope identity theft doesn't come to mean dudes stealing my index finger,” he says. Come on, you all thought that at least once during all that talk about how well Apple was locking this fingerprint down.  

Greene hit a note I have heard from others -- that this is not just an incremental year for Apple but a preparatory one. The new high-powered innards to the 5S may actually be setting the company up for more robust interactions with other devices and apps down the road. The ties to mobile payments and even to a next-generation Apple TV or iWatch may not yet be visible.

I think this definitely is the case when it comes to the under-reported upgrade in motion sensing in the device. The iPhone5S is setting the hardware in place for much more advanced apps, both for consumers and perhaps for vertical markets like health.  

Hill Holliday SVP and Director of Social Media Mike Proulx is in the camp expecting something much bigger afoot at Apple. “The public is waiting for Apple to break through with the next big thing that we don't yet realize we want, need, and crave. That hasn't happened in a while, and it didn't happen again this time. But I wouldn't rule out the mojo Apple likely has in store for our wrists and our living rooms -- If anyone is going to truly revolutionize the watch and the TV, it's Apple."  

The arrival of the lower-priced, customizable 5C was a no-brainer move for Apple, since it needs a way into a younger demo with its phones and emerging markets. Mobext’s Phuc Trong is skeptical. “Apple's mojo is back to an extent. But enough to stop Android's penetration? That would be difficult and a tall order.” The end of the market they are entering is extremely competitive, and in some areas like China the incumbents have a strong home court advantage.

Ansible's Angela Steele is more optimistic for Apple. “It's all about the 5C. The price point is a huge win. Opens up an entirely new segment of consumers in the U.S., but more importantly in international markets where carrier subsidies don't exist. This should help Apple gain global share which is critical for global brands as marketers.”

Tim Dunn, mobile director, Roundarch Isobar, says Apple's play to the younger and international markets is not a slam dunk. “The 5C is a long overdue attempt to address the issue of price. The phone's color options will also appeal to a broader demographic, and hopefully shake off the rather dour image that Apple has earned due to lack of personalization options. It also brings it in line with the various iPod colors -- and why shouldn't your phone be as fun as your music? Whether it will prove cheap enough to gain a market share that will stem the enormous growth of Android is up for debate.”

One of the glaring omissions in the Apple iPhone models was an NFC sensor that might have supercharged the significance of a security fingerprint function. Apple's apparent refusal to get behind a technology that Google, many carriers, banks and credit card infrastructure members want to see evolve is telling. It means “that the future for an agreed standard of mobile payment is looking extremely bleak,” says Dunn. “The presence of fingerprint scanning and Bluetooth 4 does nothing to alter the fact that neither of these can be accepted as a payment bearer in mass retail.”

Still, it is hard to believe that Apple added the fingerprint scanner just to make unlocking the phone and buying apps easier. The absence of NFC now seems glaring and deliberate and pregnant with meaning. Apple is not baking a technology into its iPhone line it may regret or need to withdraw later. It reserves the right to pivot to an alternative payment system -- perhaps one of its own.

Note how emphatic the company was about how the fingerprint ID function was not accessible to third-party apps and was not even stored in iCloud. It is keeping its sensor... and its cards ... close to the vest. 

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1 comment about "M-Marketer Feedback: Not Much Mojo, But Apple Keeps Incrementing Along".
  1. Gene Keenan from TCF , September 11, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
    For a different POV on this check out another Media Post story: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/208877/why-tim-cook-is-beaming-his-new-platform-duh.html#axzz2ebRU3dGY I think agencies have not yet digested the possibilities between the new hardware and software capabilities