T-Mobile gets hip and challenges Apple

Originally published November 12, 2010

Say what you want about the quality of its products, but Apple has practically defined modern cool in the information age.

The iPhone revolutionized mobile communication with the launch of the App Store and the iMac went from a spunky newcomer in a  PC market to becoming a cult object, worshipped by many.

Despite their innovation, it is the Apple attitude that has made its products into a juggernaut and all of that boils down to nothing but purely genius marketing.

Apple managed to make people think that the old PC they had set up in the den was a relic, something for squares and the out of touch. Justin Long became a sort of nebbish spokesman that made up for his lack of charisma by being effortlessly cooler than the incredibly with-it John Hodgman, and an empire was born.

From there, it was nothing but blandly twee ballads and stark advertising before Apple revolutionized both the personal computer and advertising industry.

They realized that people wanted to think they were individuals, but they wanted to be told that in a bland, easily consumable way. Just crank up the “I gotta feeling that I don’t belong” lyrics and the radio ready beat, and wait for people to line up.

I say all this as an Apple fan. I’ve had two iPods and two iMacs, and I can’t imagine going back to a PC. I think Apple’s products are a love letter to their die-hard fans, making programs that initially seem simple to use but hide plenty of rewards for those who experiment with what is there.

However, I also see the backlash. Steve Jobs knows he has become a new media guru and he works with it, releasing products that appeal to a hip, urban crowd as well as those looking for something simple and original.

But with that much success, someone wants to take you down. And I wouldn’t have expected it would be the relatively tiny T-Mobile.

The iPhone has dominated the 3G market, and Apple was hoping that its revolutionary, if somewhat confusing, Face Time feature would secure their position at the top of the heap, but in recent weeks, T-Mobile has released an ad that puts Apple in its place.

A girl in a June Cleaver meets Jackson Pollock dress stands by a guy in last year’s sports jacket and faux bed head.

While the guy struggles with an older balding man clinging to him, the girl explains the advantages of T-Mobile’s newest MyTouch phone, but the message isn’t that important. The implications are what make the commercial.

T-Mobile’s lady stands on the left, where Justin Long stood in Apple ads, while Apple takes the place of what was formerly its PC opponents.

Claiming that the man is the iPhone while his rider is the AT&T network, tying their modern chic female model to the future and Apple to the pre-economic crash suits.

It’s a canny bit of advertising that works by destroying what we have grown to love and not even allowing us to notice.

I don’t want Apple to fail. They’re one of the most creative and innovative companies in the business today.

However, Apple is smug and virtually ushered in an era of faux-hip advertising and aggressively chic images. It’s high time someone nailed them for it.