The danger of the iPhone design

It's not actually the iPhone. It's any good design or production quality. I've kicked around production value ideas at work: looking at what good examples are.

But yesterday, in reviewing some of the competition's offering, I found something that they were doing poorly: and that we risked doing poorly as well. They fell into this gap:


(Note: this chart is a tweak from Seth Godin's post here.) I've seen this chart in different forms (e.g. the uncanny valley), but this is a succint / general version of it.

This, in my opinion, is basically the graphical version of saying "don't get stuck half-way, it's no good."

Following me?

For mobile phones, the iPhone is Everest. It's slick and impressive.

Lots of other mobile phones are at Mt. St. Helens. They aren't slick or impressive, but they work. They do what you need them to do - and they are probably cheap too. They aren't the tallest, but they are worth the drive.

You can sell Everest phones. You can sell Mt. St. Helens phones. They both are perceived well. What you can't sell? "C" phones. Or anything else "C." Those are down in the valley: well below Mt. St. Helens.

C is the valley where it was clear that you were trying to do something better and you failed. Not that failure is something to run away from, but it isn't going to sell well either.

Back to work: we were looking at some competition work that is clearly "C" (or at least, nearer to C than either mountain top). They were trying to get to the top of Everest, but didn't make it. Our work, on the other hand, was Mt. St. Helens - and we were eyeballing Everest and how to get there.

The danger of Everest is that it's hard to get there. But falling in the gap is common.

The trick is that Mt. St. Helens is crowded and lots more people come everyday. Staying on Mt. St. Helens is a dangerous proposition.

Friday, August 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: innovation, products, quality, iphone, design, uncannyvalley