Ever since Apple announced Apply Pay my Twitter and Facebook streams have more than a few posts comparing iPhone 6 to the Nexus 4.
Usually they all poke fun at the fact that various features that Apple is hyping have been around in Android for years. Like the image above.
They all miss the point.
Throwing a grab bag of half working features together to create a confusing and crummy experience does not indicate that your product is more advanced. It only indicates that the manufacturer valued feature lists over customers actually using and enjoying the scenarios you enable.
In just one example, NFC payments has been a failure up until now. Despite Android having this for years. I’m willing to bet that Apple make NFC successful. And because Samsung and everyone else will copy Apple, they will drag Android along for the NFC party.
Android fans will yell that NFC was first on Android. But it is so much more than just an engineering problem. It requires a keen design over the end to end scenario, doing the hard partnership work to seed an ecosystem with payment processors and a platform that app developers can build on. And as Ars points out, timing is a crucial part of delivering a successful product as well.
Apple is about so much more than just blindly implementing the latest technology. They focus on how to make it work in the lives of people outside the tech industry.
I’ve worked in the tech industry as a Product Manager for 14 years, and have seen this mistake over and over again. Tech companies approaching a problem as an engineering problem when it required so much more. Most successful products are a combination of brilliant engineering, thoughtful design, well executed partnerships and a keen business strategy. If you think about it for a moment, some great products you know and use every day fall into this category:
- Xbox: Microsoft entered a market that Sony had won and brought a combination of hardware, software and services engineering together with solid design, strong partnerships with game developers and a long term strategy that allowed them to invest heavily for the eventual payoff. 10 years ago it would have been unfathomable that Sony would have such a strong competitor in the game console market.
- Google AdWords: AdWords is more than just a scalable 2nd price auction system on top of the most popular search engine. When the rest of the search world was destroying their interfaces with banner ads everywhere and polluting their search results Google took the strategic decision to make both search AND ads good for users. Using and refining metrics to rank ads was an important tool in Google’s design toolbox. Just as important was creating an ecosystem for advertisers.
- Apple iPod: It may be difficult to remember back to a time when the iPod wasn’t synonymous with MP3 player. Back when various manufacturers released devices with interfaces that made even the tech savvy want for some assistance. Apple’s genius wasn’t in just building great hardware and software (iTunes), it was the broad partnerships with the music industry and the revolutionary iTunes service that turned iPod from just another MP3 player into a category defining device. Apple displayed keen business acumen to go against everything in the company DNA to release iTunes for Windows.
As a technologist it’s easy to get wrapped up in the technology, and miss the true genius behind a great product. Avoid that temptation. Deliver something that users, partners, and your shareholders will love!