What makes the iPhone so uniquely desirable?

What makes the iPhone so uniquely desirable?
Smartphones have become the central hub of our lives: they connect us with friends and family, help us organize our lives, provide us with news and entertainment and capture our memories. And while today the market is flooded with devices that can successfully do all of these tasks, there is one that is preferred by anyone from teenagers to CEOs – the iPhone. The use of Apple’s smartphones in the States is so widespread, iPhone has become a household name like Sharpie or Kleenex. It’s a product that separated the smartphone market in two – iPhone and everything else. How did Apple achieve this and why do so many people want one, even if they don’t need one? Well, let’s try to break things down.

The Apple brand

Hate it or love it, Apple is one of the most powerful brands in the world and while its current global success is largely thanks to its smartphones, the company was well-known and liked long before the first iPhone came out in 2007. Apple’s iPod was the mp3 player to have and started a music-on-the-go revolution. Meanwhile, Apple’s desktop computers could be found anywhere from kids’ bedrooms to university computer labs and its MacBooks were equally used during business meetings and college lectures.

While people use Apple products because of their qualities, a big reason why they chose Apple in the first place was because of the company’s marketing. Apple’s ads always show cool, trendy, laid-back people and emphasize on how easy everything is with their products. Who wouldn’t want that, right? Besides the ads, Apple uses other methods to boost its brand recognition. The company gives free products to TV and movie production companies to use during shoots, making them more represented on screen than they are in real life. Apple also offers discounts for educational purposes. Universities and their staff and students can use them, which gives Apple a sizeable chunk of that market as well.

Then there are the Apple stores. The company’s “temples”, as they are often referred to, follow the clean and minimalistic aesthetic of the brand and their design is so distinct Apple even has patents on some elements of the stores.

The combination of all these elements meant that the iPhone came into existence as part of an already successful family. This gave it a flying start, but the rest of the journey to success was on its own merits.

The Apple ecosystem

One of the iPhone’s best features is its seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. While it’s often called a “walled garden”, because of how strictly Apple controls it, the tightly controlled ecosystem also allows for better software optimization and ease of use. Users that rely on Apple’s products for personal use enjoy a relatively hassle-free experience when it comes to cooperation between the devices.

The restrictiveness of Apple’s environment spreads beyond the individual user. Programs like Apple’s iMessage can create separation between iPhone users and their peers that use Android. It’s not uncommon for people to keep using an iPhone to remain on team “blue text bubble” and avoid being left out of the group’s online communication.

With each Apple product users buy, they get more and more entrenched into the Apple ecosystem. Even if another manufacturer releases a better product, whether a smartphone or a smart watch, Apple users are less likely to switch, because they’ll lose the integration with their other products.

The iPhone as a device

While the original iPhone wasn’t the first device with a touch screen, it was the first that made using one intuitive and easy. Things that have become the norm in smartphones like fast scrolling down a page with one quick swipe and sliding to unlock, were first introduced by the iPhone. Apple made people want to use their phones even if it was just for the sake of using them and for many getting one was “the future is here” moment.

Of course, throughout the years, Apple has released iPhone models with their own strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they’ve been consistent with what they offer. First, that’s the luxury feel. When you hold it, you can tell it’s a premium product. It’s well built, using quality materials and has an elegant design.

But it’s not all looks. Thanks to its high-end components it delivers great performance even when faced with more demanding tasks, such as games. When it comes to smartphone cameras, the iPhone is always the one that competitors are trying to beat (and sometimes do). iPhones tend to set the trends on the mobile market and its designs are often copied by other brands. So, when a group of people has their phones on the table, if one person has an iPhone XS while another the eerily similar looking Asus ZenFone 5, which one is subconsciously put higher on the social ladder? Yes, it’s shallow, but that doesn’t make it less true.

The premium price

Of course, there’s a price for all of that. Apple’s devices have always been on the higher end of the price spectrum, and while today most of its competitors on the smartphone market have similarly priced devices, subconsciously, people still think “expensive” when they see the latest iPhone more so than any other flagship device. Apple isn’t shying away from that term either, in fact, it calls the lowest priced models “least expensive” just to avoid having the word “cheap” connected to the Apple brand. iPhones are sold with the highest profit margin and the company is more than happy to keep things that way. People often perceive products as being of superior quality based on the higher price. And in the States, where “keeping up with the Joneses” is a thing, having the latest iPhone means you’re the top dog when it comes to smartphones.

The “cool” factor

It’s hard to describe this element of the puzzle with one word, but this is one of the main contributors to the iPhone’s appeal. While Apple has put a lot of effort (and money) to create the conditions for this X-factor to flourish, the extent to which it manifested over the years is beyond the wildest dreams of any marketing guru.

We’re talking about the widespread iPhone use by celebrities, actors, musicians, athletes and all sorts of people in the public eye. They can be seen using iPhones in paparazzi photos, mention them during interviews and post from them on social media. We’ve all seen the glowing Apple logo on the back of a DJ’s laptop, or the iMac our favorite YouTuber is editing his videos on. It’s a sure bet that they also use an iPhone as their daily driver. Apple has become the go-to brand of not only the creative type, but also the sporty, the business oriented and so on. The common thing among all of those is that if we know about them, it means they are successful at something, and that gives the iPhone a “coolness” aura.

And while many people think that celebrities have larger influence than they should, mimicking what the powerful of the day are doing has been around since the first cave people put a piece of animal skin around their waist (speculation). And when someone famous is seen using an iPhone, that’s not just free advertising for Apple, it’s also a point of connection between the popular person and its fans.

While we also see celebrities drive Lamborghinis and carry around Louis Vuitton bags, those are things most people can’t afford. But a smartphone? Everyone has a smartphone anyway, so when it’s time to buy one, why not spend $20 a month more and have the same iPhone as your favorite star! Sure, it also has a top of the line hardware and great benchmark scores, but chances are most people wouldn’t even come close to using its full potential. There’s a reason people jokingly call the iPhone X “$1000 Facebook machine”. 

When you think about it, the smartphone is one of the few non-consumable products that the rich and famous get from the same places as you do. Having an iPhone is the smartphone equivalent of sitting at the cool kids table in the school cafeteria, except the barrier is not your coolness, but the depth of your pocket.

The iPhone obsession

This leads to a weird phenomenon where people, for which the iPhone is obviously outside of their price range, will make sacrifices, just so they can have the latest device by Apple. Getting a piece of technology to make yourself look like you are better off might sound ridiculous to some, but the mind can be easily tricked, and people might really feel better having an iPhone to play around with while eating instant noodles. Lives are revolving so much around smartphones today that an expensive device can be an oasis you go to temporarily escape from your troubles. And what better way to scroll through celebrity Instagram vacation pictures than on the same phone they used to take said pictures?

Something even harder to explain are the lines in front of Apple stores. People sometimes spend multiple days camping on the street before the release of the latest iPhone, just to get one a few days earlier than if they’ve ordered it online. This is more similar to the release of a new Star Wars movie than to the launch of a device that happens every year.

This cult-like loyalty can’t be achieved purely by marketing. And it’s not something hardware specs can trigger either. Now Android phones can match or exceed the measurable qualities of iPhones, but the “cool” factor still weighs heavily in Apple’s favor. The combination of all the factors we talked about has made Apple more than just a tech company: it is now closer to a lifestyle company that sells technology products to support that lifestyle. The strong customer base it has created allows them not only to reap financial benefits, but also to get away with things other manufacturers would pay dearly for. People defend Apple, sometimes illogically, not because that’s the brand of their smartphone, but because that’s a tribe to which they belong. And an attack on their tribe is an attack on them.

Of course, on the Android side of things there are strong brand communities as well: besides Samsung, the Chinese brands Xiaomi and OnePlus have some of the most dedicated users. The difference is that for them, it’s more about what the device can do functionally, rather than what it represents in society.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when smartphones became such a factor in our lives, but thanks to their usefulness and relatively short lifespan, buying a phone has become one of the more important purchasing decisions people make. And the factors that go into account when making that decision can be so different, that people almost get into physical confrontations because of differences in smartphone preferences.

And while factors like “What would people think if I have this phone?” might seem silly and superficial to some, humans have proven time and time again that the image we’re going after has a big influence over our actions. Sometimes a slight shift in perspective can be enough to understand behavior that might seem illogical or perplexing. For some an iPhone might be an overpriced manifestation of capitalism, but for others it’s a piece of a world beyond their reach. And it’s important to remember that both states aren't mutually exclusive.



1. OneLove123

Posts: 1297; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I ain’t one of them so called?:)

10. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Meh. Brand value which was first brought about by marketing (Steve jobs, celebrities, hype), genuine innovation (OS, multitouch display), ecosystem, Superior design (OG iPhone, iPhone 4/4s, iPhone 5/5s), attention to detail (like screen quality, far better camera & UI), and the general exclusivity of IOS. But all these things have been surpassed by some Android oems like Huawei and Samsung and maybe even Google. Apple is now riding on all that past glory/achievements and building on the foundation they've laid in the past. And one more thing; THEY ARE AN AMERICAN COMPANY!!!!!!!!!!!!

16. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Btw, I'm yet to see any smartphone design that has come close to the iPhone 4 to this day tbh. Maybe pre smartphone era with the likes of the N95, or Nokia N8 but certainly not post smartphone era in my very honest opinion. The Galaxy S8 came close though but Samsung's overall image as regards design was already severely tainted and it runs the supposedly "cheap" operating system, so there's that.

19. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

This article is pure clickbait. But to answer the question, it's the same reason that the Kardashians are multi-millionaires...... Ignorance and marketing.

86. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 974; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Strong marketing, strong customer loyalty, quality devices. Does there REALLY need to be another PA article about why people like Apple products? I think we've all figured that out by now, well since the iPhone has been out for 11+ years. Seems like a pointless article these days. Sells ad space tho.

72. lyndon420

Posts: 6918; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

This article made me throw up my mouth a little. Really hit the mark though...most people buy iPhones because they feel it makes them superior or part of the cool crowd. It's basically a religious cult for them, and if their leader says "get on the floor, roll around and chant" the majority will do it without question or hesitation.

74. Ninetysix

Posts: 2966; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

Any idea if the leader is also saying the same thing for the watch, homepod, airpod, atv?

76. Loveneesh

Posts: 452; Member since: Jul 14, 2015

What makes the iPhone so uniquely desirable? Ans.= Fruit logo.

2. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Apple has the best mobile software and the best ecosystem over every OEM out there. You can never find a line of products works seamlessly together very well like Apple products, period. What frustrates me the most is their s**tty business management and how they rip off their customers with something feels really stupid like the headphone dongle and the fast charger. “Cool factor” is something for the little kids to brag about and I don’t care about it.

25. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

"Apple has the best mobile software and the best ecosystem over every OEM out there.". So if you mean the best closed, locked down, and restricted mobile software and matching ecosystem. Then yeah, Apple wins that category. But if you want the best mobile software, with the most flexible and diverse ecosystem that offers technology on the fringe. Then Android is by far way ahead of Apples ecosystem. With categories not even supported or allowed by Apple. For reasons that Apple either doesn't allow, or won't even support. Everything with Apple is it's our way, or its the highway. Just look a few years ago the big push with 3D touch, and now Apple looks like they are backing away from it with the XR. Apple is so controlling that they even FORCEs it's developers to support things like the notch, or your app will be rejected. Google's approach to something like the notch is it's up to the users and developers. Support it or not, it's in your hands. Apple is a dictatorship platform, where customers are subjugated. Google's is the freedom approach.

28. skips

Posts: 490; Member since: Oct 04, 2015

And why would you even want the developers have the freedom to not add support for the hardware on certain phones, which would just create the bad image on android at the end of the day. why y'all want things broken. freedom comes at a cost. enthusiasts can have a field day with android, but trust me the average person just wants something reliable long-term, which doesn't need a constant cleanup, resetting, tinkering at the end of devices lifespan.

65. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

First of all Android isn't on a single device. There is thousands and thousands of devices. To Apple's few devices. Google also gives developers the tools so they can make or support anything they want. If you knew that, then you wouldn't have said what you did. Also it's clear you haven't been using Android devices in a long time (if ever), because you don't have to do a constant cleanup, resetting, or tinkering like you said.

37. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

You are repeating the same thing over and over again like a broken record sgodtroll, but keep trying. Maybe one day someone from Apple will notice your toxic posts.

27. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1114; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

The cool factor (I want it because my friends have it/ I want my messages to be blue) may be for kids to brag, but once they get you in they make it harder to leave. All of your prior texts are locked up in iMessage, pictures and contacts in iCloud, all of your purchased apps/songs locked through AppStore/iTunes. For a casual consumer most of these make you feel as though if you leave apple, you have to start your mobile life from scratch. For more experienced users, we're aware of how to get most, if not all, of our content back into our control

33. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

that exact same thing also apply to casual users leaving from Android.

40. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Nonsense. Files, photos, music etc are accessible from any platform if you leave android.

48. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Just like they are If you leave from iOS, but i was talking about casual users who don't know how to do it, that's why i said same thing for casual Android users.

90. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

You don't have to do anything if you have them stored on any Google app. Just download the relevant Google app to your new ios or android device and everything is right there. Seamless. Oh wait! I can't download ios apps and stored data like iMessages to my android device can I? Aren't you the same Midan that didn't know there was no Playstore in China from another article? Ignorance is iSheep bliss.

3. waqarz

Posts: 41; Member since: Nov 21, 2012

Q- What makes the iPhone so uniquely desirable? Ans- Because this site name is PhoneArena

5. cmdacos

Posts: 4392; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

For me, I don't consider them desirable in the least because of systemic limitations, poor design elements and the practice of telling customers what they want instead of giving them what they want. That said their marketing is the key to their desirability. Good enough software on good hardware plus exceptional marketing is a win especially in a market so tied to vanity like North America.

6. Cat97

Posts: 2026; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

It's the premium price that makes it a status symbol.

8. gamehead unregistered

Premium part, great customer service and beautiful store. I'll give Apple that at least.

12. maherk

Posts: 7065; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

"great costumer service" lol https://youtu.be/_XneTBhRPYk

18. Sakeem

Posts: 865; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

Maherk, why does PA refuse to do an article on this? I sent this tip to them weeks ago, posted a link in some comments as well, but it goes ignored. What would happen if this was another OEM???

22. maherk

Posts: 7065; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

They have a well known agenda and they were never shy in pushing it through their articles. You'll never see them talk about this on this website.

81. slim3bdo

Posts: 186; Member since: Jun 05, 2017

You can watch Louis rossmann channel who was interviewed in the documentary you linked , he expose how are apple Macs are poorly designed for years with same problems , and how apple Fu*ks thier customers . Apple is full of Sh*t

23. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I also posted this because i had never heard this was happening. But of course i was the one that was wrong.

26. Sakeem

Posts: 865; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

One of the commenters here, forgot who it was, said I was spamming the board when I posted a link. Lol. I guess I will add to my original comment of Apple's "desirability" is how protected they are in the media. They can literally do no wrong and if they do get caught, they receive the lightest slap on the wrist.

9. Sakeem

Posts: 865; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

It's the marketing, ecosystem, and simplicity of their products. I don't know about the "cool factor.." We can leave that to the kids of the world.

11. maherk

Posts: 7065; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Wall Street! Apple has survived plenty of scandals thanks to Wall Street. They have major media outlets, the judicial system, senators, etc.. all in their pockets, so they make sure every scandal goes under the rug, no one going after them, and even if they did, that Apple gets on top. There's a reason why Apple don't pay taxes and never gets even a slap on wrist, and why their biggest wins in courts were on American soil. Also they knew how, and thanks to Hollywood stars, to portray Apple as the brand for the elites, turning their products into status symbol items. Only Apple can sue people in the US for fixing Apple products, or for posting a fixing manual on the web. Do they make great products? You bet your @ss they do. But are they overrated? Yup, there's no question about that.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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