Apple Talk: the art of propping up your products12
Words like “fantastic”, “amazing”, “gorgeous” and “awesome” are generously sprinkled throughout each presentation, while others like “cheap” are straight-up missing from Apple’s vocabulary. But that’s the obvious part of the “frosting”. There are other layers that are harder to catch up on since, well, that’s the whole point.
Here we’ll talk about some of them, how to spot them and how to decode their meaning. Before we go further, it’s important to note that all manufacturers follow these practices. No company will go out and say how their new product is inferior in one aspect or another. But Apple’s cherry-picking technique shows its phones aren’t always the be-all-end-all.
What Apple’s comparisons mean
When talking about a new feature or a certain hardware spec, there are a few types of comparisons Apple makes. Which one will be used depends on where the current product is on the tech ladder.
Better than the previous iPhone
This is perhaps the weakest comparison since it’s used when a certain aspect is improved compared to last year’s models but isn’t necessarily the best Apple has ever done. For example, the iPhone 12 is slimmer than the iPhone 11 but it’s not the slimmest iPhone ever, which surely would have been mentioned had it been the case. However, changes Apple decides to make between generations give it the opportunity to always have some additional improvements to show off during presentations.
The first ever on an iPhone
The best ever on an iPhone
One of the most common phrases used during the presentation of a new phone. It makes sense, of course, the newest model is supposed to be an improvement in all categories compared to previous ones.
Biggest display, biggest battery, fastest charging, you can add many achievements in front of that phrase. The key here is, of course, the “on an iPhone” part. If you hear that, it’s a signal that there are other phones that objectively beat the iPhone in that category. The ones mentioned above are all areas Apple is far from being at the top in. With the wide range of Android phones, “the best” titles are often spread between different devices; one has a massive display, another has a huge battery, a third the fastest charging and so on.
Some might argue that Apple users aren’t really considering Android phones, so comparisons like that don’t matter. Except they matter when the iPhone is the winner…
The best ever on a smartphone
Make no mistake, if Apple knows its iPhone is the best of the best, it will tell you. The best example of that are its chips. Hard numbers show that Apple’s silicon outperforms the best chips available for Android phones, so the phrase “on an iPhone” is quickly replaced by “on any smartphone”.
The first ever on a smartphone
Using dubious phrasing
What Apple doesn’t talk about is just as important
Selling flagship phones has become increasingly difficult for all smartphone manufacturers, as standout features are trickling down to affordable devices faster than new ones are being developed. This forces marketing teams to get creative when the time comes to highlight why you should get their shiny new phone. And when it comes to Apple, the task is even more difficult.
Let’s take a look back at the iPhone 11 family. Last year, Apple talked about the improved battery life and how long you can watch videos on its devices. It didn’t mention, however, that the phones are slightly thicker and heavier to accommodate the bigger battery. Fair enough.
The reason? The new iPhones have smaller batteries than their predecessors. And while the more efficient chip does partially compensate for that, Apple’s own comparison shows the new iPhone 12 Pro offers 1 hour less video playback time. And since that means it couldn’t fit in any of the three categories mentioned above, it's not worth talking about.
In the world of Android flagships, a reduction in battery capacity between generations would spark a huge outrage. But, of course, Apple doesn’t even list the capacity of iPhone batteries, we have to rely on certification documents and teardowns for that.
I’ll take a wild guess and say that next year, battery life will be back in the presentation, replacing body talk.
Now, you have a better understanding of what Apple is really saying when they’re presenting a new iPhone and what to look for if you want to get a better idea of what the product really is.