This week Apple is showcasing its new products in a special “Spring Loaded” event. While there’s a lot to be excited for, such as the long-awaited and much-anticipated AirTags, we know the iPhone Mini won’t be center stage as Apple previously announced that it doesn’t have plans to release a new iPhone Mini in 2022. However, with more people working from home, reducing the need for large mobile devices, is cutting the small iPhone Mini a mistake?
Perhaps the better question is, what does the company valued at $2 trillion knows that we don’t when it comes to innovation and product strategy?
Why Logically It’s a Bad Decision
With the introduction of smartphones that served as mini-computers for on-the-go productivity and entertainment, it was only logical that users would want a larger screen for a better user experience. Naturally, larger phones were the top choice amongst commuters who had time to kill every day on their way to and from work. But now that fewer people are spending time sitting on a bus or train, the need for a big phone should be decreasing.
Those working from home have little need for a mini laptop in the palm of their hands when they have a computer in front of their face or an iPad in their hands. And yet, just as economics would indicate a shift back towards smaller phones, Apple decides to cut the iPhone Mini and focus on the large iPhone Pro Max.
Why It’s Not Surprising
First off, the iPhone Mini at 5.4″ was a flop, accounting for just 5% of Apple’s overall sales as of January this year–a small bite out of a large product library. Meanwhile the iPhone 12 Pro Max, not even one inch larger, at 6.1″ sold at a record rate, during the same (perfectly timed) release in the late fall of 2020–just in time for the holiday season and 5G.
Sales aside, there’s a pattern in tech development and innovation. The standard growth trajectory, for many consumer tech products, is to first grab the attention of consumers with small, streamlined devices. When the excitement wears off and becomes commonplace, shift gears and hold the attention by going larger, and adding new and/or improved features.
Why Psychologically It’s a Smart Move
When it comes to human psychology and consumption, ‘more is more.’ And though Apple is fully aware of the use cases for its devices and the fact that large screens are more useful to those on the go (such as commuters), it may know its audience better than they know themselves. Well, at least when it comes to subconscious psychology and consumer behavior.
What psychology tells us about the human mind, it’s that humans are often illogical when it comes to decision-making. Where it gets interesting is that we, as consumers, come up with reason to believe that our choices are not only justified but quite reasonable.
Now, add in the fact that humans are wired to believe that ‘bigger is better’ and ‘more is more.’ In fact, it’s a Darwinian belief that is conducive–if not necessary–for human survival. So even the consumers whose needs are best aligned with a small device, such as the iPhone Mini, are still naturally more attracted to the large iPhone Pro Max. And what that leads to is a list of reasons to justify why a consumer really needs the Pro Max.
Why Successful Startups Use Psychology Over Logic
Apple didn’t become a trillion-dollar business without taking a strategic approach to product development and marketing. Where Apple does a terrific job–and where a lot of startups fail– is knowing its consumers and baking that into its strategy. The way it does this has little to do with market research and talking with consumers, but in having a solid grasp on human psychology and consumer behavior.
In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find what consumers want by asking them. The reality is that people often don’t know, and there’s a large gap between what they think they want and what they will actually buy. Where Apple shines is in its ability to discover and produce innovative products that connect consumers to their unmet needs. In other words, creating products that fill a void people didn’t know existed and playing human psychology, such as ‘more is more.’
Startups have a tendency to fail by thinking they’re safe by giving audiences what they say they want. Or, by creating products that provide the solution to the problem their audience says they have. But as Henry Ford, (may or may not have) said, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
The role of innovation is to birth products and services consumers did not know could exist, or may not have realized would be the solution to the problem (or desires) they didn’t know they had. Bake psychology into your strategy like Apple, and build a more successful startup.