On 7th September this year, over 100million people tuned in to the unveiling of the latest Apple suite of products. Amongst them, the greatly anticipated iPhone 7. One of the main product design innovations: the removal of the 3.5mm jack in favour of bluetooth. Covered extensively in the global press, publications like the NYTimes reported "Apple nudges consumers to a wireless future". We are being nudged beyond the beloved earphone jack, to a future of lightning ports.
The Godfathers of Nudge - Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein - define a nudge as "any aspect of choice architecture that alters people's behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives." And then: "to count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid."
With over 600 million (wired) apple headsets in circulation at the moment, apple earpods are currently the most popular earphones in the world, so it's no small shift to switch users over to wireless versions.
Apple has of course released its heralded wireless earpod, supposed to mark the beginning of a new dawn of wireless headphones. At £159 a set, they are far from cheap, And sadly the reality is pretty far off Apple's frictionless vision, with the fiddly small things lost in handbags, down storm drains and generally pesky to keep hold of. The internet is not a fan.
For those less willing to ditch their beloved wired earphones, there's a dongle/adaptor (see feature image) which lets you keep using them. However the verdict has been a resounding 'meh' from all those who've already lost the adaptor at least once and have had to kit themselves out with a handful of the widgets for work/home/handbag, just to make it through the day with sanity intact. The view of many is, if it ain't broke, why fix it? Invented in 1878, the headphone jack has been a steady feature surviving all manner of applications from wartime switchboards to walkmans.
Are we just over-nostalgic and victims of our own loss-aversion or has Apple gone a step too far this time?
Julie A. Ask, an analyst at Forrester Research says."Apple has a history of doing what it wants and making people believe that it's the best idea ever. The company has an affluent customer base that has in the past paid to upgrade because it cares about the quality of the experience."
However the actual user experience of bluetooth technology is simply not great. More here from Owen Williams on Medium. TL; DR is that Bluetooth is a pain, 3.5mm jacks just work.
Apple has the market leadership and fan-base to get away with this kind of bold nudge (shove) towards adoption of new technologies. The attitude is 'the customer will get over it, they always do.' But will the goodwill and trust remain? For a company so centred on design, and ostensibly empathy, have business drivers overtaken user empathy on this occasion?
Whether Apple customers embrace this new development wholeheartedly remains to be seen. In the meantime, has anyone seen my adaptor?
To sign up to The Brief, a roundup of the most interesting articles and events in business psychology and behaviour change, CLICK HERE >>