How Apple lost its way: The simplicity Steve Jobs loved is gone

“Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve’s Apple,” Ken Segall writes for The Guardian. “They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.”

“My experience with Steve has led me to admire Apple – but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current ‘state of simplicity,'” Segall writes. “First, we need to get one critical fact out of the way: Steve Jobs cannot be replaced. He had the credibility of the founder, extraordinary instinct, vision and energy, and he could make things happen by sheer force of will. It’s just not possible for Apple to be the same without him – but it can still succeed. Tim Cook has a different style… Steve’s vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. That kind of performance doesn’t come as naturally to Tim.”

“With the current models consisting of iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and SE, Apple’s naming scheme is becoming noticeably less simple” Segall writes. “Then there’s the issue of the S. For some reason, Apple has decided that every other year, it should just add an S to the current model number, because the S-year improvements are internal only. So Apple’s own actions have served to train the public that S years are the ‘off years.’ This is an absurdity, given that such revolutionary features as Siri, Touch ID and 64-bit processing have all been introduced in S models. The S naming has only served to confuse customers, and make it significantly more difficult for marketing to do its job.”

Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yes.

That’s been one of my mantras: Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. — Steve Jobs

Death to the S!

As we wrote last September:

Apple, enough with the stupid iPhone ‘S’ naming already.

iPhone “S” years usher in hugely significant features, such as oleophobic displays, significant GPU improvements, world phone capability, Siri personal assistant, video stabilization, panorama photos, 64-bit processors, TD-LTE support, Touch ID, and 3D Touch, among other improvements and additions. Each year’s iPhone deserves its own number. By not doing so, Apple is shooting itself in the foot; handicapping iPhones with an “S” every other year. Why Tim Cook or Phil Schiller haven’t put an end to this stupid – yes, stupid – “S” naming is inexplicable. Why don’t you just name it “iPhone No Big Deal This Year,” Tim and Phil?

Here’s what you say onstage and in the press release when there’s no “iPhone 7s” and you jump directly from iPhone 7 to iPhone 8: “The improvements are such that the new iPhone deserves its own number.” Period. Done. Mission accomplished. It’s your naming convention, Apple, and you can correct your stupid mistake at any time.

And from April:

Apple should strive to execute annual iPhone updates, in three display sizes if the SE is successful (which we think it will be), and drop the off-year “S” model concept. Apple is certainly big enough and rich enough to do a new iPhone family each and every year. Apple should have killed the tock year “S” model idea years ago.

What’s happened with iPhone is painfully obvious: Apple was at least a year (more likely two years) late with properly-sized iPhones. When iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus finally, blessedly materialized, buyers quite literally stampeded to get them. Then, when faced with such a “tough compare” this year, Apple was still sticking with their ill-conceived “S” model concept – making the tough compare much, much tougher.

The “iPhone 7” family – three models with the same case design and all with 3D Touch — comprised of the 4-inch iPhone 7 SE, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus — should have debuted last September. That would have taken care of the current tough compare with iPhone 6/Plus. Then, this year, the iPhone 8 family, again with a new case design, but now waterproof, with dual cameras, etc. would debut this September. In 2017, perhaps Liquidmetal and AMOLED will be ready go for the iPhone 9. Etcetera. No more “S” years, Apple. Duh.

Had Apple done as we’ve just described, they’d have sold millions more iPhone units this year and millions upon millions more each year going forward.

Apple’s raison d’être is to delight customers. “S” model “tock” year iPhones do not delight customers in the same way as new “tick” year models. Obviously. They’re still the best smartphones on the planet, but they’re just okay. A bit of a meh. We all know that “S” models exist so Apple can wring out nice margins from existing designs and tooling, not expressly to delight customers. When Apple strays from its main goal is when things get wobbly. Just delight customers, Apple, and the world will beat a path to your door.

If we didn’t work for MacDailyNews, we’d have skipped the iPhone 6s Plus and held onto our iPhone 6 Plus units with no qualms – and we’re the most rabid Day One iPhone buyers you’ll ever find.

Why have an annual iPhone upgrade program, if you’re not going to wow us annually with new iPhones?

Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right, the 3GS was a Jobs naming scheme. As far as keeping things simple, Apple has two choices, either keep it simple and that means leave out functionality, or keep it as simple and consistent as possible, but add functionality. I do think the speed at which functionality has been added has often outpaced needed refinements in the interface design, but really, would you rather Apple slow down and add less, or address interface complexities and inconsistencies that arise only after phones are in users hands? I’m not really sure there is a third way.

      1. Apple doesn’t even have a cohesive product marketing plan anymore. It’s apparently run by committees without a guiding leader. The marketeers slap on labels as if they meant something.

        Is the iPhone 5SE a “special edition”? no, it’s a rehash of old hardware at a bargain price, thankfully without the childish plastic.
        Is the “Pro” ready for professional use? No, not particularly.
        Is the MacBook Air thinner than the standard model? Nope.
        Was there ever an iPad 3? Well, sure, but Apple decided not to advertise it as such.
        Does the “S” model have measurably more speed than the prior year? or just more optical advancements?
        Will OS X / MacOS / whatever desktop users need continue to have cute cat nicknames that would be universally admired around the world? No, Apple decided instead to pick California tourist destinations in an apparent nod to the Tourist Board. But wait, now we appear to be changing our minds — it looks like we will have a Macintosh Fuji. That appears to be some sort of new hybrid apple mashup that makes no technical sense whatsoever.

        Apple would be wise to figure out its product lines sooner rather than later, and cull the sick marketing folks who can’t seem to deliver new Mac hardware to fill the many gaps in Apple’s lineups. It’s getting to be a confused and very stale mess.

        1. 5SE! Call it it what it is, the 6SE. There are limits to perfect design. The smartphone market has matured. My hand at least recognises an ideal shape for the handset even if you don’t.

      1. I agree, on the no big deal.
        However, in my opinion the naming conventions should be the same throughout the product lines.

        I.E. a product is a product iMac, Mac Pro, etc. so that the iPhone should be the iPhone. Period.

        Differentiate via size and year, just like the iMacs and MacBooks do.

        iPhone (5.5 inch Late 2015)
        iPhone (4.7 inch Late 2015)
        iPhone (4 inch Early 2016)

        This is done with Airports, AppleTV’s, nearly the whole rest of the product line. Time to get iPhone’s and iPad’s in on that naming action.

    2. Names can be changed easily in the next gen., thank God.

      Simplicity was mentioned & is achievable in product names, but the user interface is truly where simplicity must remain. Apple’s products are immensely complex “inside.”

      On S. Jobs: He presided in the era of ‘new functional devices’ and now the low hanging fruit of needed devices has been filled with a crowded field of products.

      Cook (& the neglected Board of Directors) must look for ways to attack products where their skills will let them enter the market as a leader and achieve significant growth. That is the toughest job of all. Looks like autos are the thing.

  1. One can debate it but surely there is a good reason for the naming convention. If s wasn’t used people would complain that there wasn’t an obvious change in the phone in the s years. Also the upgrade cycle includes people who buy every year regardless, and people who upgrade every other year. Giving them a naming convention to know they have to upgrade every other year (either with or without s) can be helpful.

    1. The current naming convention arose when the 3G was renamed the 3GS, and at that time, the S stood for “speed.” Why the S has managed to survive past that original consideration is anybody’s guess.

      Go to 2:20 for the S announcement.

  2. Excellent article. Totally agree. I hate the S naming system, it made sense initially when 2 year contracts were the norm, and gave the case manufactures an easier time getting up to speed. But now it makes zero sense. It should just be called iPhone with whatever generation number it is. For example, next year they could call it iPhone 10th generation, and have 3 sizes. And that would be correct. Same thing with iPad. It doesn’t need numbers at the end. Just call it mini, ipad, and pro. Lose the air moniker. And since iPads last an incredibly long time, maybe dropping the numbers will allow people to stop thinking of something as outdated just because of the number.

    Amazingly the mac lineup has stayed remarkably consistent. The outlier right now is MacBook Air, but I think that will be renamed or discontinued in favor of having MacBook and MacBook Pro again. Idk again all speculation but it would simplify the lineup.

  3. Captain Cook is sailing Apple into the rocks. The guy is clueless.

    He’s been living off the last of the Jobs vapors and now that vapor is all gone. Without that vapor, Cook has no idea what to do and where to go. The net result is that he’s waiting to see what the completion does, so he can copy them.

    Cook is sailing Apple into the rocks.

    1. Just a quick note on Cook. He is merely an employee who serves at the pleasure of an extremely experienced board of directors.

      If his VPs were not organized and performing well, the BoD would replace Cook.

      Cook has the most difficult job in the world and that is to maintain growth in an already HUGE company. Apple today is not what it was when Jobs was there before the recession.

      1. Just an employee? You mean like the cafeteria worker who is just an employee?

        He’s the CEO for Pete’s sake. Since there is no Jobs, the clueless BOD are hoping and praying that there’s still some Job’s pixie dust on Cook’s shirt. It’s like the blind leading the blind. Everyone is looking at each other hoping the other guy has the answers. Problem is nobody does.

        Maybe Cook can grow market share by staying at home releasing updates that don’t brick your iPad pro, or expand market share by making great products instead of flying around the world with bribe money.

        1. It is easy to forget that if Jobs were still CEO, Cook would still be handling the CEO day to day job. Jobs thought a lot of Cook. Jobs & Cook together would still face difficult choices.

          By the ramp up of Capital Spending, it is obvious something huge is going on at Apple.

          Cook is NOT sitting idly in his Gulfstream sipping drinks all day.

  4. The crowd is constantly yelling – Apple is doomed and can’t get anything right because Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs!

    If Tim Cook could walked on water, the crowd would yell – see he can’t swim.

    1. True, If Tim Cook could swim, they would guess he would drown soon. Therefore, Tim Cook must fly high and away in order for Wall Street recognitions.

  5. The Guardian is always desperate to piss on Apple these days. The pattern is to write misguided and highly subjective pieces and adorn them with a click-bait headline. Their headline when reviewing the SE was ‘Too small for most people” and criticised it for being a small iPhone – which is precisely what it was designed to be.

    If the author’s biggest complaint is that he doesn’t like Apple’s naming conventions, then I don’t think that Apple is doing too badly.

    The names of iPhones are pretty irrelevant. Hardly anybody uses the full name and simply calls it an iPhone. If you go into a shop and ask for an iPhone, you will only be offered those models currently in production, which will amount to three sizes and possibly one almost end of line model. Beyond that, you choose the colour and the amount of memory. If somebody thinks that it’s too much choice, then I would suggest that they never go into a Starbucks and order a coffee. They will be required to make far more choices than their diminutive brain can handle.

    A recurrent criticism of Apple is that they don’t offer enough choices and now without anything changing, they are being criticised for offering too many confusing choices.

  6. What nonsense; the iPhone has essentially remained the same since its inception in 2007, thats 9 years ago & it began with the ‘s’ naming convention; as Steve said in the introduction, its one big screen with no keys, just a home button. Nothing, but nothing has changed in the form factor. However, everyone else, bar none, has multiple look-alike ‘pretend iPhones’ and if you want to talk complexity, just look at the choice and confusion amongst Android phones!

    “the S years are the off years” … well Apple Inc. certainly sell a lot of iPhones in their “off years”.

    If there was no “s” year, naysayers and analysts would be crowing for a redesigned iPhone outer shell every damn year, so Apple inc. would be called out whichever way they turn.

  7. Sheesh
    So MDN likes to reference outdated memes from the SJ era, to bolster it’s blustering self-esteem with “We told you so” schtik nonsense?
    So you’d prefer the iPhone MMXVI Model CF/ZP Super Plus?
    Words fail me.
    Entitlement generation much?
    How about MDN sorting out the rogue ad injections and WordPress implementation for starters?

  8. There’s a lot more wrong with Apple than adding an “S” to the iPhone name. Apple has abandoned the Mac pro, the Mac Mini Aperture, iLife, iWork, and on and on and on.

    What software remains is of very poor quality.

    Very little of the Apple that I grew up with from back in the late 70’s exists anymore. The Apple experience has been diluted down to almost nothing.

  9. what a load of crap, benevolent dictator my ass, steve was ruthless. this comes from the same POS that cries there’s no innovation, apple is doomed because it will die with the iPhone, Cook doesn’t know what he’s doing, blah blah blah.

    Steve picked Tim, I would prefer a return to secrecy, but that was Steve’s choice and that ship has sailed. Apple is huge and will be here for a long long time

    1. Sure, Apple will be here for a long time. I just wish that it was the Apple I remember instead of a social activist fashion retailer with Microsoft quality software and practically no professional hardware.

      Also, if the rumors of an Apple car are true, then Apple’s cash burn will be staggeringly fast to support a notoriously high-overhead, low-profit business. We shall see whatever is taking the attention away from Apple leadership soon enough, but I see a severe lack of focus. Apple is not a diversified company, today it’s mostly reliant on a walled garden iOS ecosystem. Apple can’t or won’t compete in other emerging technologies with high margins, and instead is rumored to be playing with cars, which could easily cause the demise of Apple’s current product line competitiveness while swallowing huge portions of Cook’s cash pile. If Timid Tim thinks that going slow and following whatever Tesla and Google and Amazon does is the answer, he’s mistaken. Apple needs to lead in personal computing technologies again before it completely loses its way.

      1. I seem to recall the same remarks about phones and then later with tablets. I was a tablet naysayer myself until they came out. I didn’t get a first gen, but later did get one of my own.

        Apple didn’t enter the tv market although I thought they could have pulled it off. A 55 inch iMac was my dream but no. So I’ll wait until they actual come out with a a car to see what it has before condemning it…

  10. I don’t think the situation is as dire as some people want to believe.

    Steve was a visionary and one of a kind but he was also human and it took a long time for him to return and right the ship at Apple.

    He won’t be the last visionary to walk the earth and for all we know the next great leader is already at Apple or is just finishing his/her own walk through the woods and trials that define a great leader.

    Have faith and stand strong. Steve would tell you to believe in Apple.

  11. If you’re not a car guy, you might not know how the modified 1965 Mustang that became the Shelby GT350 was named.

    Shelby and some of his engineers were standing around the completed car trying to decide on a name. Shelby asked one of them how far he thought it was to some feature across the runway. The engineer guessed “350 feet.”

    Shelby then said, “OK, we’ll call it a GT350. If it’s a lousy car, it’s not gonna matter what we call it. If it’s a great car, same deal.”

  12. Putting Steve on top of the tops!

    That guy made mistake. Made flops. Nevertheless his hits were so big they overshadowed his fails.

    Stubborn and a bit narcissic (btw, I loved the guy) he was convinced in the iPhone screen size been that of the 5 series. Tim brought those bigger iPhones screens and Apple skyrocketed… History can’t be recreate or substituate but hey Steve was not on the right track on this one… Tim made it happen.

    Then everything when so fast, nobody on heath knew how to manage a compagny that big while offering online service 24/7/365 on so on.

    Cheers to Tim. He will get Apple back were they once were in software and hardware, just give him time. It is a big boat.

    1. Tim made the bigger iPhone screens happen far too late. It was evident that customers wanted larger screens because they were buying them like hot cakes from the competition. Tim dragged his ass until it was painfully obvious that he was missing the boat.

      1. That summarizes just about everything Tim has done: a day late and a dollar short.

        Here is a so-called leader with so much resources yet so sloppy with software quality, entirely a slave to superficial fashion, and late to market with so many things, while old hardware lingers on the shelves years after its obsolescence date. Very sad.

        One doesn’t have to glorify Steve Jobs to recognize that Cook doesn’t measure up in any sense of the word. Apple is now a follower, not a leader, and MDN is finally waking up to the facts.

        1. Yea a day late and a dollar short. That’s why Apple sold more iPhone 6’s than any other model.

          Yep Apple sure screwed the pooch producing record sales numbers! They even compounded their failure by taking even MORE of the total cell phone profits! How horrible a failure!

          1. Don’t get too smug. Apple’s agility is gone. What we now have is a slow, predictable giant lumbering along. But instead of continuous product updates across the board, Apple seems to go exceedingly long times between significant product refreshes.

            Boom and bust product cycles happen when a company allows pent-up demand to build for too long, then finally answers it — in the case of the iPhone 6, with not one but two all-new models. Apple could have skipped the 5C and moved forward the iP6, but they didn’t. So sales of 6 and 6+ models set records for a short time. …and then iPhone sales dropped down to reality afterwards, which as you know helped tank the stock for the last year as Apple coasts for a while with no all-new products at all so for for 2016. The long pent up demand for a 4″ iPhone update was answered not with current tech, but with and old chassis that doesn’t match the rest of the lineup.

            That’s now typical for Cook’s company — long droughts between new products, and lots of rehashing of old iPhone 5 hardware to extend production cycles even further. Innovative? Nope, just mature and slow.

            By the way, you should also realize that while handset profit margin on iPhones remains strong, the profit share of app sales has been in continual decline since Android arrived on the scene. The lead that Apple once had in getting the first/best/exclusive apps is long gone, and we are seeing another Windows/Mac user share ratio. We all know how that turned out.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.