Apple’s New iPhone Pitch To Parents

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In my line of work  I’m often called on to think critically about the usability of both hardware and software, especially smartphones. One of my big touchstones, and one that’s ignored by a surprising amount of designers — is that stuff doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

If your goal is to have thousands, or millions, of people use your thing then you’ve got to consider how it works when you’re riding on a crowded bus or subway, jammed between sweaty angry people. Or how easy it is to use in blazing sunlight, or a car, or while doing something with your other hand.

My appreciation for these ‘hardship usage scenarios’ only increased when I had a kid. Everything you do is ten times harder when you’re trying to help something learn, eat, sleep and just generally not die.

That, I feel, is still a strength that the iPhone has over many other devices. I have and enjoy devices based on other platforms like Android, but Apple’s heavy focus on clear, accessible design in both their hardware and software has given the iPhone an edge when it comes to being friendly to the busy, harried, tired and overtaxed.

When you’re juggling one, two or ten kids and just trying to get things done, having the ability to twiddle around with your operating system at a system level just doesn’t feel as important as having things work right.

That’s the premise Apple is tapping with the latest spot in its ‘more powerful’ series of iPhone ads. The ad, entitled Parenthood, airs this afternoon for the first time and focuses on parents doing parenty things.

The iPhone stars, of course, taking on a variety of kid tasks like baby monitoring, learning to brush your toofers, party games, monster defense and exercise.

One interesting thing I noted: the spot doesn’t show the iPhone being used to passively entertain. The apps are all carefully chosen to show things being done, not something that positions the iPhone as a surrogate parent.

The song in the spot is  ‘Life of Dreams’, by Julie Doiran and the apps featured, in order, are Withings WithbabyMy TeethDrawnimal, Pet Manager pro, Kinsa, WemoNike+ Running and Parrot Flower Power.

  • As with its last iPhone spot focused on health, Apple continues to play the hardware angle hard. This isn’t too surprising, as its heavily rumored to debut a wearable device with a health focus and just spent a chunk of keynote time at WWDC talking about its new hardware framework HomeKit.

iPhone connected devices featured in the spot include the Withings WithbabyLight deviceTractive collar, Proscope MicroKinsa thermometer and Parrot Flower Power plant monitor.

Note that I’m not saying you can’t do this stuff on an Android device. I can do most of these things on my Nexus 5, but they’re not nearly as easy or foolproof. It’s also a good thing, I think, that Apple is focused inward in these spots, on showing what their devices are capable of.

Contrast that with this grating and tone-deaf spot Samsung posted this week — which also has a ‘parental’ angle — bagging on the iPhone’s camera:

The tone comes off as harsh and defensive, and doesn’t even show the supposedly better camera in action. And, given that the iPhone is the most popular camera in the world, with over 515M sold, it’s also not attacking a weak point at all.

The Apple spot, once again, focuses directly on what the iPhone can do for you and not on competitors. Usability is a deep strength of the iPhone and Apple knows it, and that usability is held dear by parents more than most other groups.

I also like that the simple LED gets its day in the sun because who hasn’t used that thing as a flashlight.

Overall, to quote my wife, “it’s pretty cute.”