Has Apple Lost Its Luster?


photo of Manhattan Apple Store

I’ve been an Apple fan ever since my Dad bought me my first Mac in college, a beige Power Mac 6400 tower. The love I have for the Apple brand runs deep, so much so, my closest friends joke that the company should be paying ME for being the fanatical brand evangelist that I am.

My home office supply closet is literally a history of my devotion to the brand. I prided myself on having the latest and greatest Apple device, proud to be an early-adopter at a time when Apple was fresh, cool and innovative. Since 1999, I have watched every Apple Special Event keynote, but on September 7, 2016 – for the first time, I opted not to watch; and I don’t plan to.

photo of Steve Jobs

The late, great Steve Jobs

You see, I’m frustrated. The Apple that I grew up with has disappointed me year after year. I cried when Steve Jobs passed, like he was a member of the family. I blindly supported and vigorously defended various product releases and feature enhancements after his death, no matter how uninspired they were (no matter if other companies had introduced them already). Prickly personality aside, Steve Jobs was and still is a source of inspiration for me. After his passing, I often wondered who would champion true innovation now?  Who was going to be the visionary at the helm of one of the most exciting brands in the world? Can they still capture the hearts of their loyal base while appealing to new customers? Sadly, I believe that Apple has indeed lost its luster, which was painfully apparent yesterday.

image of old and new Apple products

On the Left: My home office supply closet, a repository of Apple products past and present. My brand loyalty runs deep! On the Right: The very first Mac I owned (Macintosh Perfoma PC Tower), that my Dad bought me in college nearly 20 years ago, collecting dust and grime in storage.

I’ve now been forced to concede to my Android device carrying friends, that the innovative features and functionality they flaunt, have far surpassed those of Apple; although I think the iOS platform delivers a better user experience than Android. It pains me to say that Apple is not competitive anymore. From my perspective, the brand is coasting on the residual affinity that was garnered from the cult following they built in the late 90s and early 2000s. While that residual affinity has sustained over the years, it’s weaning.

photo of Tim Cook

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Cook and Jobs’ Shadow

Don’t get me wrong, I do like Tim Cook. He seems to be a genuine person who is concerned not with profit, but how to be a productive citizen; whose social activism and philanthropy is to be commended. Standing up to legislators that try to quell LGBTQ rights, his position on protecting user privacy and considerable charitable donations are admirable. But Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, and that’s okay, those shoes are hard to fill. I don’t expect for Cook to be the innovator; he is the Chief Executive Officer, the administrative director that shepherds his employees to greatness. But, I’ve yet to see any greatness from by beloved brand in quite a few years since Cook’s installment as CEO. Inherently with new leadership, companies evolve, brand positions evolve and business models evolve – but so too should their products. Bigger screens, better cameras, photos that move, stylus pens, waterproofing, new color options and wireless headphones ARE. NOTHING. NEW.

I Want That Old Thing Back

But as much as I have my qualms about Apple’s future, I’m too far deep into their ecosystem and there’s no way out. Both my business and my personal life are managed through the interconnectedness of my Apple devices. I can’t walk away, like a co-dependent relationship. Sadly, our union is one-sided and it has been for years. I’ve been invested, but the brand has not been invested in me or other loyal brand fans. I may upgrade my Apple Watch, the idea of being able to now track my laps in the pool is appealing. But other than that, September 9th will be the first time that I don’t wake up in the wee hours of the morning, eagerly waiting to purchase a new iPhone 7. I have no desire to upgrade my, not even a year old, iPhone 6s Plus until a truly game-changing product hits the market. Until then, I remain in this relationship with the hope that Apple will get its mojo back – to one day see a glimmer of the greatness that once was in the days of Jobs.

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