Apple’s Chosen 27

The Control v. Choice Debate Rages On for Apple

Every person — all 20+ million of them — who buys an iPhone 5S or 5C in the next few months will see the same thing once they complete their unwrapping ritual.

They’ll see 27 squares on a black screen.

Each perfectly set to a rounding of 10 pixels. Each void of lines and borders, as to conform to the iOS7 crusade.

These 27 squares are Apple’s 27 default apps. They range from a compass to a contact book, and no matter who you are, you get the exact same 27 apps to begin with.

Apple says it does what’s best for customers, even if (as often is the case) they don’t know it yet.

But, are these 27 default apps really the best experience to begin your iPhone experience with?

The Utility App Revolution — My Experience

I never use 16 of Apple’s 27 default apps. Why?

  • No Use (9) — I have not launched the following more than once. These sit on my phone, each and every day, as clutter that I can’t delete.
Apple’s default apps which I have no use for
  • Better Alternative (7) — The following have been displaced by a challenger. These sit on my phone, each and every day, as clutter that I can’t delete.
Apple’s default apps, and the apps which have disprupted them, for my personal experience

That leaves 9 of 27 default apps — just 33% — which I actually use.

And, I’m not the only one. Turns out lots of people are in a similar situation….

The Utility App Revolution — The Movement

People are getting fed up with Apple’s growing pre-bundled apps.

  • See the Google Trends chart below for the term “hide iphone apps.”
Google Trend for “hide iphone apps”
  • A quick YouTube search for “hide iphone apps” displays 147,000 results, each promising to give you back your precious screen real estate.
  • More than 2,200 results are returned for a “clock” search in the App Store.
  • 12 of the 50 top Apps in the App Store on the Free Charts are direct competitors to default Apple apps. It’s nearly the same — 10 of 50 — on the Paid Charts. People are so fed up, they are paying for alternatives.

Apple Fights Back

Apple has noticed this trend, too. So far, they’ve done two things to react:

  • Mimic Challengers— Is it a coincidence that Apple’s newest Camera app has filters built in? Absolutely not.
  • Acquire Challengers — As Google Maps took off, Apple acquired not one, not two, but three map startups. And as the key to the entire kingdom, the App Store, was threatened by Chomp, Apple quickly snatched up the App Store competitor.

Apple’s Next Opportunity: Curation & Personalization

Apple’s next move is one which will require a level of finesse and precision that only a company like Apple can pull off.

Apple must answer how to create an amazing first user experience beyond the hardware.

And when it comes to software on the iPhone, for as much noise as there was about new colors and flat surfaces, Apps are the true software layer that users touch each and every day.

As someone starts their phone, should they be taken thru a personalization path that suggests the apps most relevant to them?

Should users be able to delete, or truly hide, default apps?

Apple’s Quandary: Control or Choice?

Does Apple have incentives to keep you in their default apps?

The question sits at the intersection of two of Apple’s most notorious issues: control of their ecosystem, and the balance between software and hardware priority.

On the one hand, Apple wants to make sure that NewsStand has prime real estate on your phone, no matter how many times you try and delete it. It’s their attempt to have a hand in digital publications, just as they’ve played a crucial role in the digital music scene.

On the other hand, if you decide that Apple’s dinky, default Stock app isn’t cutting it, and you choose to upgrade to Shares 2, your $1.99 purchase will net Apple roughly 60 cents.

Ultimately, we’re all living inside Apple’s walls, and as the landowner, they’ll benefit from nearly everything that happens in the ecosystem.

Photo via CBS Interactive

Waiting for Apple to Amaze Us

Apple is a company we all love. It’s a company that inspires us and delights us nearly every day.

In varying degrees, each App — all billion of them — contain a piece of this magic we’ve come to expect from Apple.

Apple obsesses over each detail of the unboxing experience, from the material of the box to the way your phone pops out of the tray for the first time.

Now, it’s time for Apple to realize the next opportunity: the first experience once the phone actually turns on.

Apple has showed us, time and time again, that it knows how to bring people to experience that delight them.

Here’s another chance. Your move, Apple.

I'm building Bamboo, a user acquisition agency focused on helping mobile commerce products grow.
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