This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine
My first camera phone clung onto the back of a Sony Ericsson T610. It took grainy 285*250px pics after negotiating the maze like menu and waiting almost a minute for it to turn on. This was back in 2003 when phone were becoming a new age techo swiss army knife with flashlights, flashing lights, matrix style flip down microphones, music players, and spirit levels. And even though it was a virtually useless camera, I still melt when I see photos of my early years at university. My best camera wasn’t my clunky 3mpx Sony beast, but the one I had in my pocket.
Unexpected snow on Cornmarket.
Hundreds of almost unrecognisable photos and it was time to upgrade. After fastidious research I choose the most useless phone ever produced, the HTC TyTn. This jack of all trades promised so much; wifi, email, internet, document editing, a keyboard, and a fiendishly addictive game called bubbles. And yet it delivered so little, most features were poorly designed to the point where you don’t use them, and the phone was so badly made half of it eventually stopped working. The frustration of not having a working directional key is hard to put into words.
And yet having a camera made it indispensable. Especially when you find a way onto the college roof when they are filming a Hollywood movie to get a snap of the action.
Next came iPhone. The technology was already available but Apple’s genius was making it usable. On many occasions I’ve left higher quality cameras at home and relied on the always ready iPhone to take the snap. So when in Berlin, and you’ve crashed a party, you can get that awesome photo.
Your house is on fire. What do you take with you? Assuming your loved ones escape the flames, memories are high on the list to escape chardom. Photos are important. No wonder people develop such a close attachment to their cameras.
Understanding this emotional connection between user and device is how Apple nailed the iPhone, and why the iPhone is now the world’s most popular camera. Apple made it easier than ever before to take pictures with their phones, get them onto their computers, and then shared or printed. They removed all the clutter which got in the way on other platforms.
When showing off the iPhone’s photography features, Apple don’t brag about technical specifications, instead they show the emotional connection between user and phone. One of Apple’s most successful adverts was for Facetime, which shows friends and relatives having video chats. There isn’t any quoting of technical specification which no-one cares about, the technology gets out of the way. Because people care about stories they can relate to and not new fancy technology.
When presenting to Kodak in Mad Men, Donald Draper gives a great summary which I think applies as much to product design as it does to marketing.
“Technology is a glittering lure, but there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash. If they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job I was in-house at a fur company. This old pro copy writer. A Greek named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new.” It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond to a product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate but potent.”