Enrique Dans
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Enrique Dans

Apple: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

The seven cellphones in the accompanying image were launched or unveiled at last week’s Mobile World Congress 2018, just a few months after the release of the iPhone X: all of them with an infinity screen, all of them with a camera notch: in other words similar to the iPhone X. Some of them might have features that set them apart: the price, battery life, whatever… but with few exceptions, the idea at the moment is to look like the iPhone X.

This is not something that happens often, and is worth flagging up, both for companies and analysts. I discussed this in November, when the iPhone X was launched, noting the many reasons why I had decided to buy one, even though my previous smartphone was, and still is, working perfectly:

“In a few months, all other smartphones will be trying to look like the iPhone X, but none will succeed. With the iPhone X, Apple has once again shown how important a company it is.”

There is only one Apple, and when it brings out a new model, the rest of the world watches, observes, learns… and then tries to copy it. Copying what Apple says and does will become a trend. It doesn’t matter if that makes sense or is simply a way to copy a design that in has established itself as an icon in short order: what matters is to look as much as possible like the iPhone X, even if that means copying the screen wallpaper. Anything goes. The important thing is to show that your brand is in the game, although of course, the rules of that game are decided by Apple. When you see an iPhone with unique elements, be it the infinity screen, the absence of an on/off button or audio jack, rounded corners, facial recognition or the camera notch, just remember that you’ll soon be seeing all these features on other phones pretty soon. And here’s the really important thing: it doesn’t even matter whether Apple invented those features; what matters is that it turns them into trends, and few brands can resist following trends.

As a teacher of innovation, for me it is essential to understand and analyze this phenomenon: it has nothing to do with being a fanboy or not. This is how we answer the question as to why Apple is the most valuable company in the world and why it earns more than $1,400 every second of every day. Quite simply, every time it launches a new model, Apple defines what smartphones must look like and what features they must have: it’s the brand that forces its competitors to copy it. And when it comes down to it, that’s the only thing that really matters.

(En español, aquí)




On the effects of technology and innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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Enrique Dans

Enrique Dans

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

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