Monday, July 21, 2008

iPhone - what price the hype?

Trying to buy an iPhone in Silicon Valley means calling around to find out which Apple stores have them and then going and standing in line. Oh and before you try it, the Apple Store on the Apple campus doesn't actually sell iPhones (I struggle with the logic of that). This approach to selling products is not terribly customer friendly. If they simply wanted to sell as many as they could they would sell the phone online and then allow you to visit an AT&T store to get it activated. Of course they don't sell them online, as again this would be a tad customer friendly which Apple tends not to be. Instead, Apple values hype and the prestige that a mix of product shortage and funky distribution brings. At one level this is terribly smart. By making it hard to get, the have made the iPhone even more desirable. Yet once again it shows how a brand can get caught up with being 'cool' rather than customer centric. Apple could create a system that keeps you informed on shipments and lets you pre-order like they did when the iPod came out but they have decided not to do that this time. In essence they are saying we want queues of people outside our stores and we don't care if this is annoying for people. What is more they have made PR mileage out of this by having camera crews interviewing those waiting in line.

Of course I fully expect that Apple will find people to be very patient and very few customers will give up and buy a Samsung or Palm product instead but I do question the logic here in terms of the long term customer relationships. By making the customer suffer to get their products in ways that could be avoided they are weakening the bond with those customers. That will mean that when someone does come out with an iPhone beater (which admittedly no one has yet but I am sure they will) then Apple will find a whole group of people ready and willing to jump to that brand.

I should note that I love the iPhone. I loved the first iteration and I love this version even more. I have some minor gripes with the keyboard and with the fact that you can't sort emails by sender but the other functions of this device are so impressive that I can live with these draw backs. Guess I'd better call the Apple store and see how long the line is.

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