I ask you to remain seated for what you are about to read, for I fear you may fall over and injure yourself from shock (BetaNews assumes no responsibility for injuries that occur while reading our stories). The spec is dead. No more gigahertz or dual-core comparisons. No more comparing LTE to HSPA+ to 3G. If you read TechCrunch today, that’s exactly what MG Seigler argues. Who’s leading us to this spec-free world? Apple.
“Apple is the company which has ushered in this post-spec era”, Seigler insists. “We’re starting to see backlash against reviews of products that just do spec-by-spec rundown. Because really, who cares how the device sounds on paper? It’s how it feels that matters”.
That’s right, we don’t care about how powerful our computers, smartphones and tablets are: all that matters is a name. How it feels. Pay no attention to the fact that those feelings are completely driven by the specifications itself, and you realize how ludicrous this argument is.
You have got to be kidding me. To Mr. Seigler — from one ‘Apple apologist’ to another — you are off your damn rocker.
Apple Does Care about Specifications
His claims on Apple are the most off base. In his own words: “They’ve flourished in recent years despite (and maybe because of) being cagey with most spec information on their newer devices”. Not true at all. “Apple is more traditional with the Mac when it comes to specs (undoubtedly due to legacy), but they still mostly bury that information”. That’s not accurate, either.
If Apple truly did not care about specs, I might still be writing this on a PowerPC iMac. That switch was all about what was on the inside.
Yes, part of Apple’s reason in moving to Intel had to do with issues in keeping PowerPC chips cool in the company’s ever-shrinking form factors. But the reasons for the switch also had to do with performance. Bottom line: the PC was killing the Mac in this department, and Apple was forced by the market and consumers to build a computer with better (you guessed it!) specifications.
Specifications still do rule the day in Cupertino. What’s left out of Seigler’s argument is Apple’s keynotes themselves. Find me one presentation on hardware where Apple doesn’t make a big deal about how much faster their new iMac is or how much better iPhone does versus the competition: there’s not many. Apple knows consumers are very much interested in what’s on the inside. His claims of Apple being cagey does not match with the facts.
iPhone 4S Just isn’t That Great
Seigler moves on to Consumer Reports. With little in the way of solid evidence other than the fact that they like Android devices more, he slams them for being irrelevant. “Why? Specs”, he complains.
A total misread of what Consumer Reports attempts to do in its reviews — looking at the whole picture — and contradictory, too.
“For example, they love the LG Thrill’s ability to capture stills and videos in 3D”, he complains. “This is one step short of knocking the iPhone 4S because it doesn’t have frickin’ laser beams mounted on the top of the device. And such comparisons show just how clueless Consumer Reports has become”.
“Consumer Reports now matters just as much as specs do. Which is to say, not at all”, he says. His beef with the publication seems to stem over Antennagate — which he blames for starting that mess. But wouldn’t an issue like that be important to an overall review and recommendation? He goes on to state: “Does anyone really think that the LG Thrill is going to outsell the iPhone 4S this quarter? What about the Motorola Droid Bionic? Maybe the Samsung Galaxy S II?”
I understand Seigler is trying to be funny, but in his attempt at a joke he misses what’s obvious to most of us. The iPhone 4S is not the best phone out there, and you could argue it is still behind competitors in a number of respects. RAM, screen size, and battery life are just some of its shortfalls — oh, yeah, specs. Earlier today, Gartner reported third-quarter smartphone sales. Samsung easily eclipsed Apple, selling (not shipping) 24 million smartphones to Apple’s 17 million. Gartner gave credit to Galaxy S II. Consumer Reports isn’t alone putting the S2 above iPhone 4S. Maybe Seigler would care more about specs, if iPhone 4S could compete on them.
I may be considered an Apple apologist by some here at BetaNews, but I sure don’t have blinders on. The iPhone 4S will sell well. But there’s one caveat: it will sell predominantly to Apple’s fiercely loyal consumers. Cupertino’s continuing stranglehold on distribution, the device’s well-publicized faults, and a design and specification list that is behind the curve among others in its class will keep it from being a blockbuster device. Like the 3GS, it is a placeholder for something better.
A recent survey of iPhone 4S buyers by Piper Jaffray found a staggering 73 percent of purchasers upgrading from a previous iPhone model. That’s a huge number, and shows the device likely has little traction at the moment outside of Apple’s core consumer base. These consumers are opting for better phones.
No Understanding of Modern Consumers
I applaud Seigler for pointing out (albeit at the end) that the consumer does choose a product these days on a wider array of factors: “What matters is how the device performs, the ecosystem, and the price”, he says. But the rest of his piece says little as to why this is occurring.
As James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid”. We have very little discretionary income to play with these days, thus purchase decisions are better thought out. It’s not that we’re blind to specifications, it’s a perception of value. Some devices just don’t have that.
You can have some great new device have top-notch specs, yet a crappy support system — either by the company or in content. Consumers won’t touch it. Inversely, a crappy device is not going to sell even if it has great content and services behind it. We look at the whole picture these days rather than just the name on the box. If there’s anything good about this recession, I’d argue it’s that.
There is no evidence that what we’re buying these days has nothing to do with a perception of quality or value. It seems like some people read a bit too much into marketing, and in turn think consumers are not smart enough to make educated decisions on their own. That couldn’t be further from the truth.