Detached Confusion

Earlier this week I was approached by a co-worker who comes to me often asking about the latest Apple rumor or whenever she has questions about whether or not it is a good time to by X or Y Apple product. In this instance, she asked me if the "new iPhone" was still coming out in September, just as I had told her it would when I heard the news in late May and early June saying as much. I informed her about the recent WSJ piece purporting the release data to now be set for sometime in October. She was disappointed at this news, as she has been holding out for the new iPhone since earlier this year. She had came to me in February, and I had told her to hold off until June. When the Apple enthusiast community learned it would be September, I told her to hold off again. After now telling her that it would be October, she was further disappointed. Her exact wording is what I wanted to share with you though. She specifically asked me of when the new "four" was coming out, and if she should just go "get the three". Confused, I corrected her by saying, "You mean the iPhone 4, right?". It turns out that she did not misspeak. After quizzing her further, I finally cleared up what she thought was correct. She thought the existing iPhone was the "3G" one, not really understanding the difference between the 3G and 3GS. She has seen so many Android commercials from various mobile carriers as of late, advertising 4G Android Phones, that she thought the iPhone 4 was 4G. After explaining to her the current iPhone was in fact called the iPhone 4 but that it did not carry the 4G, she immediately asked whether the iPhone coming out in the fall would have 4G. I told her I was pretty sure it would not, but that she shouldn't worry about that feature as its still very new, is in limited areas, and doesn't work very well (battery drain, etc). From the time this exchange happened a few days ago, it has kept popping up in my mind. I keep asking myself, how many other consumers are similarly confused? How many consumers, who've never owned an Android or iPhone, are now going into mobile phone stores and buying the phone the high-school grad carrier salesperson sells them because "this one has 4G so therefore it's better, and, it's just like an iPhone anyway". On top of that, you can usually go into any mobile store these days and find at least one or two Android phones available for less than $100 (the next time you hear about Android market share, step back and think of what percentage of those sales are tech illiterate people who don't actually use their new "smartphone" for anything other than a phone). I think that's why Androids are selling so well. More often than not, when I talk to co-workers who do not follow Apple-related tech news as closely as I do, I hear this type of incorrect assumption. Unfortunately, there is no way to measure which percentage of smartphone users are tech literate, and who are not. Well, there is, but that would require you to have access to all of the carrier analytics of mobile phone type vs bandwidth usage, and even then, how many of them are on Wi-Fi? I just don't think it can be measured. Be prepared to hear a lot more of "Android is winning because it has the most market share!" type arguments. Also the market is so confusing to non-tech literate consumers with tons of acronyms or model numbers they don't understand, that a poorly sophisticated marketing technique along the lines of "Hey look, your shoe is untied" is just sophisticated enough to confuse these same consumers into thinking your phone is better than a competitor. What I mean by that is carriers are advertising their networks are 4G or claiming to sell 4G phones when the 4G coverage is almost non-existent yet or they fail to mention it will reduce your battery to less than 5 hours (and result in Android blogs having to write articles like this). Other consumers are extrapolating these same assumptions to think that the model number of an iPhone also means which type of network it can connect to (iPhone 4 = 4G network). I think Apple is partially to blame by this when they decided on the name for the iPhone 3G. Apple was very un-Apple-like when they flip flopped from the iPhone, to iPhone 3G, to iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 naming convention. For better or worse, in the interests of eliminating user confusion, I think they should call the next iPhone just "iPhone", just like they do with the iPad. Apple geeks might not like it, but I think if they take that route, and let that new naming convention sink in for the next few years, it will do a world of good in simplifying Apple's message to consumers. That message would be, "We sell one phone. That is the iPhone. If you go into any store that sells the iPhone and ask for the iPhone, you know you're getting the latest and greatest. If you want the cheaper, 'last year's model' iPhone, call it that.". That message would be much easier for the average Joe/Jane consumer to grok.