Sunday, February 6, 2011

A call to revitalize the iPods

Apple has had a problem for some time. It showed on each quarterly results. It is the declining iPod sales. There is something in the iPod that decreases sales. So, lets speculate a bit about what it is an how to fix it.

I would immediately argue that this is the naming of the products; the much delayed acknowledgment that the iPod touch >> other iPods for more than a year. It has matured into its own device bursting with potential to be recognized by the company that made it.

I will come from a different angle. Ask someone what do they picture when they hear the work "iPhone"? It will likely be the iconic device having the familiar homescreen. Ask the same about the "iPad" and you will get a similar response. Now ask what they picture when they hear the word iPod? You will likely hear a few very different things. If you make a statistic of the response to "what is an iPod?" the dominant response will likely be a click wheel equipped device. Yet, last quarter sales-results have shown that over 50% of iPod sales belong to the iPod toch. This branding separation between what people think of an iPod is and what Apple sales as iPod has cost it a lot of sales.

I have tried to explain what the iPod Touch is to my dad so many times and he has an iPhone for more than 2 years now. Until he actually saw it himself he couldn't get a round the most popular explanation I tried: it's an iPhone without the phone part. And now we have an iPod Touch at home too - strike that - we have an old iPhone 2G on airplane mode masquerading as a iPod touch that my 3rd grade brother uses.

But lets look at the iPod lineup and see the overall cause of the confusion.

iPod shuffle - the smallest and simplest music player. No screen, just controls and a great clip. used exclusively for music but sometimes as a thumb drive too. Overshadowed by its iOS peers.
iPod nano - in it's current generation looks and is often used as a watch with ipod features. It uses muti-touch controls only and looks nothing like the original iPod nano. Almost as good a watch as the first iPhone was a phone. Watch this one!
iPod classic - a device soon to be retires due to Apple moving to mass usage of Flash memory and streaming cloud services as compared to hard disks and entirely local storage.
iPod touch - an iPhone looking iPod without the celular related hardware. Runs iOS just like the iPhone and the iPad. Used mainly for gaming and entreatment content. The Ace in the whole. Think iPad Nano potential.

It is clear how the iPod brand has diluted over several very different class of devices which have only the name prefix in common. In my option this has created user confusion and has hurt the sales of those devices. Apple should take a bold step and recognize them for what they are used for an market them accordingly.

I would like to mention the iPhone again. While the iPhone has turned out to be this great device with many more uses that a phone, people have long recognized it and bought it because they needed a phone. One of the very best thing Apple did was to get is the name "iPhone" from Cisco. How much easier it is for person to move from a device he calls calls a "Phone" to a device that is called "iPhone"? It's the easiest thing ever.

Apple has jus in the past year redefined another iconic type of product and got the same benefit from the name it chose. People have heard of tablets but they did not necessary understood them, mostly because the proponents and creators of tablets did not. People did knew what "pads" are. They use them on a daily basis. A "pad" is a small work plot. It could be for writing, cooking e.t.c. Well, there were of course all those embarrassing to talk uses but they were only familiar to part of the human population. And so Apple grabbed the general definition of a "pad" and made it into the "iPad" - an "intelligent pad".

I think in general people do not give the brand names Apple has created for iPhone & iPad enough credits for device's huge success.

Where is the iPod touch in all of this? How can the less than a year old and much more expensive iPad almost reach the sales of a 3-4 year product? Wasn't the iPad just a big iPod touch? Sales proved that is wasn't but then isn't the iPod touch like a small iPad? Yes, apps for the iPad are much more powerful but iPod is so much more affordable and mobile. So what's keeping this 3rd and most affordable iOS product from being a complete market dominator?

The "name" is the reason. Apple for a long time had difficulties in how to market the device. What has seamed to help is recognizing its main use as game and entertainment device and using that in its commercials. But Apple has been marketing the brand iPod for years and has worked hard to define a clear image of that the iPod is. Even the icon for the iPod on all iOS devices looks like a classic iPod Nano. The iPod touch is not your dad's iPod. It's a game console, it's a video player, its entertainment computer to-go and it should have its name changed...

To iPlay. Period

Even iTouch as many naturally refer to it would be better than iPod touch. Apple! It's not an just an widescreen iPod with touch controls. Get over it!

Its a similar train of thought that will leave us to recognize that the iPod nano name does not suit the product as well. Especially if Apple releases in september a new version optimized for the most iconic use for the Nano so far: a "Watch". Yes, Apple should rename it too...

To iWatch

Everybody knows what a watch is and making a product with iWatch brand will be an instant marketing success. Especially if Apple manages to pair it up with its own App store for little apps. There is just soo much useful inovation an iWatch can bring. Just think of the integration possibility of having your iWatch alert you about things that happen on your iPhone that is in your pocket. You no longer have to wander who calling. You can just check your iWatch and see their picture. I could go on. Apple, embrace that its about time you do an iOS watch.

Next is the iPod shuffle.
The shuffle is on the right track to becoming the definite iPod. It has adopted many new technologies that make the original iPod better at listening music. A clip, a headphone controls, voice controls, the shuffle function. This little music player has also remained true to the iPod. In its latest design, it has reintegrated the click wheel and boosted capacity to almost match the original iPod. There is no reason Apple cannot sell a 4GB shuffle. The iPod Shuffle is the iPod now. Yet, there is plenty of room for further enovation and device convergence. A NFC chip can also alert you about calls on your iPhone while you liten to music on the shuffle. I also think that Apple should integrate a retractable USB connector into the design of the shuffle, removing the need to get an extra cable. This will make the iPod a perfect replacement for a thumb drive and give you one more reason to have one. Apple cold even make a software to enable file storage with password protection.
Finally, Apple could make the end of the clip to key ring holder friendly and switch the orientation of the button in 90 deg counter clockwise. This modification will make the iPod the coolest key-holder enabling the clip to hold the keys hanging halfway in your pocket while the controls stay horizontal.

Ater all, its an iPod - an "intelligent Pod".

So after all said, here is how the next holiday iPod Product lineup could look like if Apple follows on my advice:

iPod - the previous shuffle, now with self contained USD cable and protected filestorage software. Clip enabled and optimized to hold your keys. Sound call notifications from your iPhone via NFC chip.
2GB - $49
8GB - $99*
*version with file storage software.
Perhaps they could give away those with a new Mac purchase instead of a thumb drive for OS reinstallation or they could sell its Mac OS X on iPods.

iWatch - the previous nano, now the coolest watch with OLED multitouch screen with apps and video notifications from your iPhone via Bluetooth pairing or NFC chip
4GB - $129
8GB - $149
16GB - $179

iPlay - the previous iPod touch, now in 5" (1024 x 768 pixels) version as well with iPad graphical power and GPS receiver, for a true challenge to the NGP by Sonny
8GB - 3.5" - $199
16GB - 5" - $299
64GB - 5" - $399

Apple, its your call.

P.S. I just have to find a way to make a 3D model of the new iPod idea. IMHO it's soo cool.

1 comment:

Mister Snitch! said...

Some great ideas here. You're right, it's time for Apple to really shake up the iPod line. Time to re-imagine those products! And you've pointed toward a good direction for this.