Marketing guru: Apple iPod needs to stay away from phones altogether

“All signs point to iPod’s nascent Nano becoming a huge hit. Apple’s iPod is a divergence brand if I ever saw one. And the new Nano enhances Apple’s reputation as the country’s most brilliant exploiter of divergence concepts,” Laura Ries writes for The Origin of Brands. “Divergence products create a new category, have a new name, and perform a single function. Example: Gameboy in handheld games, Palm in handheld computers, Nokia in cellphones, Lexus in luxury Japanese cars, BlackBerry in wireless email.”

“Unlike divergence devices, convergence products try to bring two categories together. Most companies are chasing this dream with products like interactive television, the tablet computer, the TV computer, and the smart phone,” Ries writes. “But even Apple made the error of partnering with Motorola for the ROKR phone which can play iTunes. The early reviews were mostly negative and sales have been dismal. Yet critics still insist that Apple needs to hurry up with a true iPod/phone combo. And that they face a big risk by not going after the iPod-phone market quickly. Even though the ROKR is a failure, critics don’t ever question the validity of the convergence theory but rather insist that product execution is at fault.”

Ries writes, “Wrong. What iPod needs to do is stay away from phones all together [sic]. Animal species don’t combine and neither do product categories. While flying cars, auto boats, interactive television and smart phones capture the imagination of the public, they seldom do well in the marketplace. Think about it. An auto boat at best will only float like a car and drive like a boat. A Nano will beat the combo device every time.”

Full article here.
Unless, of course, Apple produces an iPhone which clips onto the iPod nano or an Apple iPhone into which an iPod nano slips.

Related articles:
If Apple isn’t working on their own iPhone, they’re making a stupid mistake – September 12, 2005

Fortune’s Lewis: Apple iTunes software the only cute thing about Motorola’s ROKR mobile phone – September 21, 2005
Consumer Reports: Apple’s iPod nano ‘sizzles,’ Motorola ROKR mobile phone ‘fizzles’ – September 21, 2005
BBC: Motorola ROKR iTunes mobile phone design ‘feels like yesterday’s phone by UK standards’ – September 17, 2005
Hands on review of Motorola ROKR Apple iTunes mobile phone – September 12, 2005
Motorola ROKR iTunes-enabled mobile phone greeted with cool response – September 12, 2005
Music phones pose no threat to Apple iPod – September 09, 2005
Does Apple need a mobile phone of its own design? – September 09, 2005
USA Today: Motorola ROKR iTunes mobile phone provides ‘snazzy’ first impression – September 08, 2005
NYT’s Pogue: Motorola ROKR iTunes phone ‘great-sounding, reasonably priced and a lot of fun’ – September 08, 2005
Apple’s iPod nano will make competitors whimper, Motorola’s ROKR inexplicably bland – September 07, 2005
Tech pundit Enderle: ‘iPod Nano is a hit,’ Motorola ROKR ‘simply doesn’t have enough Apple in it’ – September 07, 2005
Apple announces Motorola ROKR iTunes phone, Cingular partnership, iTunes 5 – September 07, 2005
Apple, Motorola & Cingular debut world’s first iTunes mobile phone – September 07, 2005
Motorola ROKR Apple iTunes mobile phone availability dates for Europe, North America, and Asia – September 07, 2005


  1. I can’t count how many times I’ve been on the cell phone and looked up a phone number or address on my Palm and for the last two years, iPod. I don’t want one device – a phone is a phone. The iPod does a nice job of replacing my Palm but I don’t want it combined with a phone.

    The only way Apple should do a phone is if they can do it better than anyone had ever expected.

  2. Convergence as an idea is great, if it does with reason. Cell phones really are successful at converging phones and address books, some calendars. These tie nicely together. But all-in-one devices usually sacrifice somwething to offer “more.” If Apple converged a bunch of utilities together, I stioll think they’d be able to do it with class and refinement.

    A horse made by most committees ends up looking like a giraffe. By Apple– Pegasus. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue rolleye” style=”border:0;” />

  3. The article does bring up an interesting point. When products try to bring together too many features, they wind up doing all of them poorly.

    I was holding out for the “iTunes Phone” for a while because I was hoping the interface would be spiffy and it would have some other great features. It turned out to be not what I’m looking for, so I’ll likely wind up getting a RAZR or something else. (I’m holding out a little bit to see if anything snazzy new comes out in time for the holiday season).

    I want a phone that gets
    – great reception
    – doesn’t look fugly
    – has bluetooth
    – can link my PowerBook to the Internet

    screw the camera and the ringtones and the other stupid crap.

  4. Why doesn’t some third party maker just produce a clipping device specific for various popular phones? Why does it have to integrate and use the phone’s battery at all? The nano is small enough that this might work. And you would just have to carry around “one” thing, which seems to be the major advantage of a Phone with an iPod built in.

  5. Ries is very very smart, and has written (with dad) the book on branding.

    Of course, this convergence thing is shit, but Apple HAD to do something.. they couldn’t just sit idly by while phone companies built WMA into their phones…

    What does Apple lose? Not much, it’s not even their product.. they just do the software.. eh.. *ahem.. kinda like.. MS

    Hey.. funny .. all the people who want Apple to lisence OS X take a look at the ROKR.. it took about an hour for all the whining “Apple should just do their own phone” to start..

    *shakes head..

    can you imagine..? OS X for x86 comes out and some genius like Enderle “Apple should just do their own computers, these things are crap…”

    tee hee.

  6. This “marketing guru” is right. iPod (not iTunes) needs to stay away from cell phones. iTunes on cell phones with limited capabilities leads to iPod sales. All roads lead to iPod sales.

    Apple does not need to get into the cell phone business because Apple likely will not become a carrier. Therefore, Apple’s phone, which may be a great device in and of itself, would suffer from the poor quality and service of the wireless carrier markets.

  7. I think the future is very clear, and very bright.

    Imagine a Motorola RAZR (already a much cooler phone than the ROKR), with a click wheel on the outside, and the little screen is already has serves as the iPod/phone screen.

    When closed: The RAZR works like an iPod, BUT can also call people while connected to a Bluetooth headset. Just scroll through the contact list already in the iPod, and center click the contact, select the appropriate phone, and center click again. Wala, calling your contact.

    When open: Works like a normal phone (keypad, or preferably QWERTY keypad), etc.

    Seamless execution, just a matter of time. The battery is another issue, easily overcome with restrictions on how much battery power is left exclusively for the phone, like a reserve gas tank.

    I would definitely get a product like that, and be happy about it. A click-wheel would be a much better navigating device than anything currently out there, the only limitation being the lack of easy input, which would be addressed with a flip out phone/keypad.

    You heard it here first, within 1 year is my prediction.

  8. I have no problem with being able to play songs on a cell phone. It’s basically a shuffle in your phone. For some people it will be all they want. For others they will prefer more storage.

    The issues with the ROKR are more asthetic. Not a very attractive phone. Still it is the first generation and we all know what the ipod looked like when it first came out.

    A bigger issue are the carriers in the US. They are milking the business for as much as it can get. I want to see a time when I can buy a phone and use it on any network. All this locking in for 2 years is ridiculous.

    Maybe this situation will sort itself out.

  9. review already suggest that supergluing the nano to a RAZR was a superior alternative to the ROKR? I think that comment nicely gets at the issue.

    THe ROKR is lame, in part b/c of the design, but also because it was neutered by the financial interests of the carriers (can’t buy songs wireessly because they want to charge $2-3 a song for ringers) and Apple (100 song capacity is obviously to prevent taking from iPod sales). An Apple phonepod only takes away the first two problems since. The carriers are always going to be a problem.

    Aside from that, I just don’t believe the technology is there to deliver a phone/player combo with the battery life and capacity I want. However, it can’t be that far off. When a RAZR size phone with 8GB of flash memory and 18+ hours of battery life (continuous play + normal phone use) for less than $200 with a contract, then I’ll be interested. Maybe 12 months from now?

    I’m not hugely into convergence, but with the right minimum specs, the phonepod makes sense simply because of pocket real estate. But I don’t want it to be the worst of both worlds simply to get the convergence.

  10. TydalForce,

    Here, here! It shows you just how braindead the phone manufacturers are when they can’t get the basics right. Instead, you have companies that somehow view Bluetooth as a threat (Verizon) and promote silly and mostly useless features like downloading ringtones off the air.

    As you said, if a phone has:

    – great reception
    – doesn’t look fugly
    – has bluetooth
    – can link my PowerBook to the Internet

    It will be a category killer. iTunes would be great ONLY if the phone meets these criteria first.

    It seems to me the ROKR just proves that the only company capable of producing a sexy iTunes phone may be Apple itself.

  11. I think people are making more of Apple’s contribution to the ROKR than is applicable. They had nothing to do with the phone’s design or even the OS. They simply made a version of iTunes to ship on it. That’s it. The ROKR isn’t an “iTunes Phone”. It’s a phone with iTunes on it.

    Besides that, her assertion that it has failed is a little odd. It was only announced a couple weeks ago. Give it a chance to die before you start digging the grave.

  12. Rather than trying to fit the nano into a phone, it would be easier and smarter to slip a shuffle into the phone with software in the phone which could display the contents of the shuffle. I have a Motorola V710 phone which is pretty big and the nano is just as long as the phone. With a connector it would be even larger. The combo of a shuffle and a phone would be a lot less expensive as well.

  13. Did anybody else notice the oily, conman personality of the Cingular pres at the ROKR introduction. That’s what’s wrong with the whole cell phone/cable industry. They’re all nickel and diming leeches whose profits depend on convincing you to follow through on an impulse buy, or otherwise do something not in your own best interest. I’ll bet Jobs went and stood in a hot shower immediately after the presentation to get the smell off.

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