Tag Archives: apple

Apple HomePod: Worth the Steep Price Tag?


Apple’s HomePod has arrived. On February 9, 2018, the $349 HomePod debuted in the US, UK and Australia. Apple, who is used to being the first on the technology scene, is the late-comer to the voice assistant speaker market, launching three years after Amazon’s Echo.  And as the first consumer reviews come streaming in, whether it was worth the wait is up for debate.

While Apple CEO Tim Cook insists the HomePod isn’t competing with those other voice activated speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Sonos One), it’s hard for consumers not to compare them. According to Cook, the speaker is meant to fill the void in the market of a quality audio experience. And it seems to do that well; with an Apple A8 chip, a large woofer (a loudspeaker designed to reproduce low frequencies) and seven tweeters, by all reports, the HomePod does provide a good home music speaker.

Now for it’s drawbacks. First, and perhaps most importantly for consumers, is it’s price. At $349, it’s the most expensive voice activated speaker on the market—by far. Amazon Echo costs $180, Google Home is $129, and a Sonos speaker is $199. Are consumers willing to pay almost double for the HomePod? Apple’s argument is that the HomePod is worth the cost because it combines smart features and great sound, but the jury is still out. Second, the only music service supported by the HomePod is Apple Music. You can rig it to work with Pandora or Spotify, but it won’t respond to voice-based commands to manage those services. Third, —and a big selling point for the other voice activated devices on the market—is the inability to order pizza, hail an Uber, or even make a phone call.

According to a recent study conducted by QuestionPro Audience, 54% of smart speaker users are concerned about security and privacy. iPhone Siri has the capability to understand only the owner of the phone, but that technology was not transferred to the HomePod. HomePod Siri will respond to anyone who speaks to it, which may cause potential privacy issues if someone else asks to listen to the owner’s messages. On the other hand, both Amazon and Google store your audio data for a period of time, but the HomePod anonymizes your data, so it cannot be traced back to your device.

Consensus: the HomePod definitely isn’t for everyone, but for those who are already tied into the Apple ecosystem, and are looking for a great sound system to play Apple Music, the HomePod won’t disappoint.

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact us for your next research project.

Our Top 5 Blogs of 2017

In 2017, QuestionPro Audience developed blogs, infographics, and data-based surveys filled with compelling information. If you missed them the first time, never fear! We have compiled a list of our top 5 blog posts for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Seven Sins to Avoid When Designing a Survey 5. The Seven Deadly Sins of Questionnaire Design

A year ago, we published a series of best practice for questionnaire development. This year, we would like to highlight some common mistakes that research practitioners should avoid, to ensure their data collection effort is…


The Landline Survey: An Antiquated Methodology 4. The Landline Survey: An Antiquated Methodology

Back in the 1990’s, virtually every household had a landline, and people would answer the phone and talk to survey research callers. However, times have changed, even though some researchers are stubborn about admitting the change.


Declaration of War? North Korea and What Americans Think About Recent Threats 3. Declaration of War? North Korea and What Americans Think About Recent Threats

QuestionPro Audience conducted a survey to understand what Americans think about this international crisis. Respondents were asked a series of questions to gauge their perception and attitude towards this much critical topic. Find the full research inside.


  2. iPhone X – Are Consumers Willing to Pay?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve heard of, used, and/or own an Apple product. When Apple first debuted the iPhone in 2007, it revolutionized smartphones and changed the industry.

 Lies And The Lying — Survey Takers Who Tell Them 1. Lies and the Lying Survey Takers Who Them 

Ok, I couldn’t help myself here. I’m playing off the title of a great satirical book by Al Franken, a comedian who later became the Democratic Senator for the State of Minnesota. According to the…

iPhone X – Are Consumers Willing to Pay?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve heard of, used, and/or own an Apple product. When Apple first debuted the iPhone in 2007, it revolutionized smartphones and changed the industry. The touchscreen was unlike anything else on the market, and with a price of $399, took some getting used to for the average consumer. However, over the past ten years, we have become accustomed to and grown to expect a higher price point for the sort of innovation Apple produces. There are now more than 700 million iPhones currently in use worldwide, and that number is expected to grow 13% over the next year.

On November 3rd, their most anticipated product was released, the iPhone X. iPhone release day has become something of a national holiday for Apple fans, and the iPhone X release was no different. In cities all over the world, eager customers camped out in hopes of purchasing the $999 phone. According to Apple’s website, the phones were sold out in Apple stores by day end in New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Austin, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Apple has earned a reputation as an industry innovator, and the iPhone X doesn’t disappoint. The iPhone X has facial recognition so you can bypass the fingerprint entry. Also, the home button has been removed, allowing for the high-resolution screen to cover almost all of the device, and Apple promises an additional two hours of battery life. Now for what all the cool kids are already talking about: Animojis. You can create animated emoji animals that mirror more than 50 different muscle movements of your face.

These features sound very cool, but we wanted to know—does any of that really matter to the average consumer when they are deciding which new phone to buy? We polled over 300 people across the United States to see if features such as the newest technology and brand name outweigh a steep price tag to the average mobile phone consumer. We found that an overwhelming 80% of respondents are most interested in a moderate price point. The newest technology is a selling point for 50% of our respondents, but only 29% feel features such as a megapixel camera are extremely important. 24% are interested in the brand name, and 84% of our audience is looking for a phone with a long battery life.

Apple has assembled a cult of followers, and they are always eager to purchase the newest model. Reception across the board for the iPhone X has been mostly positive, with many users saying this changes what we’ll look for in a phone from now on. Every few years, Apple has come up with a new product that turns the market upside down, and it sounds like the Apple X is no different. But if you’re not interested in the newest technology and features, there are many other great, conservatively-priced options on the market.

Is Apple Watch Finally Being Accepted By Consumers?


Not that long ago our syndicated research pointed to the tepid attitude towards the Apple Watch. Right before the release of the much-touted wearable in spring of 2015, our custom audiences in essence collectively shrugged cold shoulders (41% said they were not interested while 18% were not aware of its arrival). Later on and early that summer, in an article for Quirks, we further demonstrated that the iPhone accessory (which it basically is) wasn’t the next watershed tech moment.

Could qSample have been wrong about the Apple Watch, now that it’s early 2016? Could market forces be changing, once again revealing Apple as a slayer of conventional wisdom and even conventional market research?

There’s a case to be made for saying yes to the above questions, although it’s ultimately hard for a reason: Apple doesn’t release sales figures on the Apple Watch. During the last Holidays—with some fuzzy math and fuzzy analysis—the projected estimates of Apple Watch sales range from 3 million on the low-end to 10 million on the high-end. Nobody really knows the sales of the gadget, except for Tim Cook and his band of merry executives.

However, there are hints the Apple Watch might be finally breaking through, as provided by the insights of popular Linked Influencer, Anurag Harsh, in his post Is Apple Watch Killing the Mainstream Swiss Watch Industry?

Harsh makes an astute case by juxtaposing the rise in popularity of smartwatches with the slow collapse of traditional Swiss watches (based on data by Strategy Analytics). The data reveals that smartwatch shipments dramatically increased to 8.1 million units in the last quarter of 2015 compared to traditional Swiss watches that shipped 7.9 million units (down 5 percent from 2014).

Here is a graph from the article demonstrating the changes:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers


We did our own search through Quartz, and found corresponding data:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 2.png

Harsh further offers this graph revealing how Apple’s stocks have risen while other watch companies continue to tumble, all around the release of the Apple Watch:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 3.png.jpg


Lastly, Harsh has some harsh words for traditional watchmakers:

There will always be a market, albeit evidently a smaller one, for traditional regular watches for the more discerning customer, but the Swiss companies have criminally underestimated the rise of timepieces of the smart variety, and their original display of arrogance towards them could prove to be deadly. No matter what we believe, the numbers are starting to indicate that very fact.

In the end, we agree with Harsh that traditional watchmakers are making the same mistake as video stores, book publishers and PC makers: resting on their alleged omnipotence and disregarding consumer tech trends.

Regardless, it’s too soon to claim that consumers have fully embraced the Apple Watch. After all and somewhat tellingly, the release of the Apple Watch 2 has already been moved from March to September. It’s doubtfully the reasons are due to technical or distribution setbacks.

What can be inferred from all the mentioned data above, though, is that the watch market has become more competitive and more fragmented. Fitbit and other wearable-makers exploded into the watch market with their own products in the last five years. Even before, companies like Samsung and Microsoft already offered a variety of smartwatches and electronic wristbands.

There are indeed some tectonic shifts in the watch industry, and no one is sure who will remain on the surface or who will be cast down to the underworld of the forgotten with such, once-glorious companies such as MySpace, BlackBerry or Yahoo!

The Apple Watch may not be a tent pole item, but it certainly seems to be enjoying being part of a growing acceptance of wearable tech (and thus qSample stands by its research). Also, one shouldn’t forget that presently Apple inspires the most love out of consumers than any other tech company, according to the brand engagement indexes. All of this will at least grant the smartwatch some time to evolve and survive.

It’s the traditional watchmakers who ironically might have finally run out of time.


Latest Research Makes It Clear: Most Medical Apps Suck

hand holding smartphone with of snake oil adverstisement

One of qSample’s proprietary online panels is physicians. The panel is vetted and continually engaged, and we feel it serves a crucial role in medical research and beyond. We like to think that our work represents that hallowed point where online and medicine meet for significant benefits on society.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem the case for medical apps, according to the latest research. Medical apps have evolved, sure, but most of them just suck.

These findings are a takeaway from an IMS Institute’s mHealth app report: Patient Adoption of mHealth—as highlighted in a recent MedCity News piece.

According to the article:

Of the 165,000 apps from the iOS and Android app stores that claim a connection with healthcare, IMS Institute focused on the ones with more than 1,000 user ratings — 67, 424 and found only 26,864 consumer oriented health apps were applicable.

The majority of these studied apps would be better classified as fitness apps (the percentage is probably growing with this year’s arrival of the Apple Watch). Only 10% were connected to a device or sensor, though.

Sure, medical apps that monitor the holistic wellbeing of individuals can indeed make an impact. Yet the quality of apps, according to the study, is lacking for such health functions as blood pressure or blood glucose (that’s a nicer, more PC way of saying they suck).

According to the data, patients do tend to follow the suggestions of doctors on medical apps—mostly in the fitness and diet areas—but at the core there are intrinsic issues that stifle the effectiveness many medical apps. These include:

Absence of reimbursement by insurance companies
Lack of HIPAA compliance
 Little clinical validation
Inability to connect to electronic health records

The MedCity News article does note the IMS Institute report needs a larger scope. The research focused primarily on app stores and not on medical apps used exclusively between digital healthcare companies and medical providers—such as those that deal with chronic conditions like diabetes management and congestive heart failure.

Not all is suck, though. 135 apps were involved in clinical trials in 2013 compared with 300 in the most recent report.

There is also another issue that must be dealt with—what exactly is a medical app?  In another report, the IMS Institute called into question the standards for medical apps. It claimed that “of the 43,689 apps it studied from the app store, about 20,000 were either not health apps at all or only loosely affiliated with health.”

What a mess! Some apps that try to pass themselves as healthcare-oriented include:

Veterinarian apps
Fashion and beauty (like salons selling their services)
Gimmick apps with no tangible health benefits (an example would be apps that make the user sound sick or demonstrate how he or she would look obese)
Apps that are peripheral to health issues, such as fertility or pregnancy contraction-timing apps
Product presentation apps for sales representatives/retailers in the medical or pharmaceutical industries
Apps intended for members of specific clubs/universities in the healthcare field
Apps that fall into the “New Age” category, dealing mostly with such notions as body energies, yoga regiments or generalized spirituality

Sorry, but apps that use the smartphone light to disintegrate acne or hypnotize you into losing your fear of clowns should not be considered valid medical apps. Neither should the one I use to monitor my dog’s diet, although it certainly serves an important role.

In the end, genuine medical apps include approximately 7,400 designed for healthcare professionals and 16,275 designed for patients. But again, their evolution compared to other fields is rather measured and their value questionable in many respects.

Therefore, it would be prudent to formalize some standard or oversight to the certification and genuine medical apps. As a recent study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, both physicians and patients widely support the use of data on smartphones and other devices for medical use. However, when it comes to self-diagnosis and privacy, physicians break away and become resistant.

I understand the point of medical professionals and private data, as well as the herculean notion of policing apps in a market inundated with them. There are over 3 million apps available in 2015 from Google and Apple alone. Yet it’s key to find some authenticating framework for medical apps or at least some clarity for both physicians and patients.

The physician panel qSample manages contains more than 80k respondents. As with our other proprietary panels, it took years to build, nurture and maintain for quality data. It took work. I’m sure this can be duplicated in time with medical apps, at least for less suck and more healthy exhaling in the healthcare industry.


Is Apple Going Through a Final Apocalypse?

Tim Cook watching Apple logo burn

The Apocalypse seems to have arrived early (if that makes sense). Recently, it sounded like the roar of 1000 angry lions hunting down a dentist in the wilderness.

Okay, what happened is that Apple’s stocks have recently drastically fallen and likely will continue to plummet, according to many experts. In a way, that is apocalyptical, beyond the mindboggling fact Apple has lost more than $115 billion in the stock market since April. As an article in Market Watch explained, Apple “has the largest market value in the world, a bigger drop might bring the broader market down with it.” Even now, the tech giant’s stock woes have basically dragged down the entire Dow Jones Industrial average!

That’s alarming, but not all that surprising when coming from the most profitable company in the history of all histories. Apple cannot afford to miss a dollar beat so sustain its behemoth growth. It has actually created its own gravity field because of its size, affecting the entire tech economy.

So what is going with Apple? Not too long ago, the Cupertino company possessed the Midas digital touch. As always, it’s not a simple question to answer, but some of it correlates to qSample’s own research.

Let’s see what is rotting in Apple.


What does Apple have to do with all the tea in China?


Little, as you will find out.

It’s no secret that China remains as the last bastion for a meaningful smartphone market. Everyone (especially China!) wants to flood its economy with their gadgets. As Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said:

I think China is a fantastic geography with an incredible, unprecedented level of opportunity there. And we’re going to be there.

Cook may be a day late and a dollar short in his plan. After all, a new study from Canalys claimed Apple’s iPhone has fallen to third place in the Chinese smartphone market (with Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi and Huawei in first and second respectively).

Add to that the reality that the Chinese economy is slowing down drastically, it could mean that China might not be the solution to feed the beast that is a suddenly-starved Apple.


We got Windows 10, where is the iPhone 7?


It’s also no secret that here in the West, the smartphone market is saturated. The iPhone is still king and queen of smartphones, but it just doesn’t have the elbow room with so many other players.

Instead of continuing its radical innovation and marketing, Apple decided to release the iPhone6s series instead of an iPhone 7 at the end of the year. In the same interview mentioned, Cook explained that during his company’s last quarterly earnings report just 27% of the iPhone installed base has upgraded to the latest generation iPhone 6 series. “We view that as a very bullish sign on the future, and there’s a lot of headroom left for upgraders,” Cook said.

Well, Tim my boy, the market ain’t buying it. It’s assuming that the iPhone6s will have a moderate welcome from the public. Expectations are more valuable than present profits when it comes to the stock market and its investors. Perception is reality, and right now it’s not good for Apple—even if Cook suddenly declares that the Iphone6s will come with its own coffee maker.


Did the Apple Watch vanish to the same parallel dimension as Google Glass?

It seems the Apple Watch exploded on the scene early this year, but exited stage left with a whimper.

As with the iPhone6s, perception is becoming reality when it comes to the Apple Watch, yet it seems no one on Wall Street really knows the reality. As the article in Market Watch explained:

Apple didn’t segregate Watch sales as a separate line item in its latest earnings report, so analysts can only guess how it’s really selling.

TechRadar proposes that sales cannot be hidden, and the Apple Watch is flopping:

Using e-receipts from 2.5 million online shoppers in the US, the analytics company Slice Intelligence has tweeted a graph estimating that the number of Apple Watch sales has plummeted to under 5,000 units per day. A stark comparison from the 30,000 to 35,000 units per day the company was pushing in the weeks after its launch.

qSample’s own study revealed that only 41% of respondents were interested in Apple Watch when it was released earlier this year. 39% claimed that wearable technology just wasn’t that interesting. Furthermore, 26% stated the new smartwatch was just too pricey (18% held a “see and wait” attitude for the gadget, but that will never happen unless it materializes back on earth, or at least in the press).

In an article for Quirks, we granted several reasons for the tepid reception of the Apple Watch, apparent now by Apple’s stocks slide and moribund sales:

The price: The Apple Watch ranges from $350 to $17,000 to purchase. Our study revealed that 50% of respondents would not pay more than the baseline price of $350, while only 13% said cost was not an issue.

Apple is not a pioneer this time: Smartwatches have already settled in the marketplace, mainly as a niche/supplementary product. The first smartwatch ever sold was the IBM WatchPad in 2001. Apple is not in its customary role as a torchbearer, as with personal computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Apple isn’t leader of the tech hill anymore: According to a study, Samsung beat Apple in customer loyalty—although Apple still has the edge when it comes to customer service. Apple spent decades and vast amounts of energy perfecting its image. Today its competitors work just as hard at branding. And don’t forget that Cook is still struggling to have Apple branded in China!




Not all is stagnant for Apple, though. Its new streaming music service is booming with subscribers and its iTunes store is breaking records.

That’s just not enough.

It looks like Apple’s position at the top of the tech business chain could be in peril. The Apple Watch, music services, and iPhone6s won’t keep it on the throne this year, at least in investor and public perception. Neither will a faltering China market.

Nobody is king of the hill forever, although if I were a betting man I would never go against Apple. Let’s not forget that Apple is the kind of remarkable company that has faced many end time scenarios before, and basically rewrote the very fabric of the tech cosmos. It has made fools of many digital doomsday prophets.

Apple knows better than any business entity how to reshape both perception and reality in a way that grants consumers something akin to a religious experience. It just won’t happen in 2015.


Study reveals consumer resistance to Apple Watch

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Is Google in Trouble? Yes, and There is No Coming Back

The recent past has not been kind to Google. Beyond a shifting financial tech landscape, many of its latest injuries have been self-inflicted. One has to wonder what is happening to the once seemingly-omniscient internet pioneer that was ushering a new age of information and transparency. In reality, the Mountain View company might be in trouble.

The reason is plain to see—and with foreboding precedent—but first a glance at the stumblings of the tech giant over a much different landscape than when it came to existence in 1998.

The tea leaves of Google’s fall might have been read as early as 2013, when The Internship tanked at the box office. The movie paired Vince Vaugh and Owen Wilson, in similar roles to their Wedding Crashers hit in 2005. Instead of weddings, though, Google was both the backdrop and underlying ethos of the film. What could go wrong?

Audiences not showing up is what went wrong. It was almost as if the fawning era when tech bloggers would obsess about minutia like the animation banner on the Google page had officially ended.

Then came the expensive failure of Google+. It launched in 2012, trumpeted as the new social media player in a not-so-crowded field. Now it’s basically dead, being slowly dismembered into several manageable pieces like Photos and Hangouts. One of the main architects of Google+ (and the inventor of the hashtag), Chris Messina, even told CNN plainly: “I f–ed up. So has Google.”

Whoa! That’s Google you’re talking about, Mr. Hashtag! Yes, the company dared put out Facebook Lite, but they’re THE search engine.

It doesn’t matter. As Forbes explained, Google listened more to its engineers than its customers, moved away from its search engine capabilities, and copied other social media companies instead attempting innovation.

We’re not done, though. The disaster that is Google Glass came at the heels of Google+. As a matter of fact, both tripped over each other in attention of press mockery.

As we reported, what was meant to be the official start of the wearable tech era became one of the worst market disasters in history. Google skipped sensible beta testing and ignored public sentiments (as with Google+). This is a bit odd for a company whose mission statement is to “organize the world’s information.”

Google Glass was unceremoniously killed last year, although there are rumblings of a Frankenstein resurrection. Let’s see.

It hasn’t gotten better for Google in 2015, especially in the last month. A new study exposes some very bad practices by the search giant (the study was suspiciously sponsored by Yelp, but that’s fierce tech competition for you). The research claims that Google ranks higher its own services and products in search listings. Sure, Google is a private company in the business of making dough; however, it has claimed time and time again that its algorithms are completely unbiased.

The damaging study doesn’t mean that people will flock to Bing (God forbid). Yet, this type of news could bolster Europe’s antitrust case against the search giant, which would be disastrous. But this is Google, right? It’s the near-perfect entity that, according to Fortune, is the best company in America to work for. These are mere burps, right?

No, the news gets worse…actually disgusting. Just last month, Google’s image recognition software—employed in its Google Photos application with auto-tagging—mislabeled a photograph of an African American couple. It labeled them “gorillas.”

Google apologized for the gaffe. Moreover, many in the industry remarked that Flickr’s auto-tagging system had done the same—including mislabeling concentration camps as “jungle gyms” and people of various races as “apes.”

That’s the point, though. Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and we know where Yahoo has been headed to for a long time. Is Google on the same path?

It seems so. Again, Google is in trouble.

Bloomberg technology columnist Katie Benner agrees. In a column, she explains the numbers pointing to the fall from grace of Google that include:

Missteps in trends (e.g., Google Glass and Google+).
Underperforming stocks.
A falling share of the U.S. search market, down to 75% in 2014 from 80% in 2013 (and remember, Europe is ready to break them up).
Unhappy investors.
Unable to made headway in foreign markets like China or Russia.

Benner points out a simple but interest axiom on the foibles and fortunes of Google, and it’s not hubris as some might think from reading this article.

You see, when a company reaches a “too big to fail” size it can’t help but begin to fail. Regardless of its altruistic core mission and nimble business attitude, a suddenly-enormous company will begin to fossilize under the pressure of its own density. As Benner says:

Google is a 55,000-person behemoth, and it’s nearly impossible for any company to move quickly and creatively at that size. Among tech giants, only Apple has managed to innovate after becoming so big. Hewlett Packard? Nope. IBM? No way.

Benner draws a comparison of Google to another company that once appeared it could do no wrong and possessed that tech Midas touch:

The Google of 2015 is not unlike the early 2000s Microsoft – a hugely profitable company that is having a hard time innovating around its core product. Unless something is done, it will likely go through spasms of flailing and discontent that will be familiar to longtime veterans of the Redmond, Washington software giant.

Ironically, it was Google that helped begin the erosion of Microsoft when it came into the scene. A decade ago, consumers gradually began to divorce a PC-centric world for internet and cloud-based territories. But again, Microsoft’s large size impeded it from moving with the times, and that gave the universe the widely-detested Windows 8.

Obviously, Google isn’t going to vanish. The question is whether it can do anything not to relegate itself into a cyber Jurassic World? Can it avoid being just another corporate dinosaur to amuse consumers instead of inspiring them, much in the same way that happened to Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and others? Or can it find its inner innovator and remain fresh like Apple or Facebook?

Benner claims that Google will never regain its innovative spirit. Nevertheless, it can invest in buying smaller companies that have an innovative spirit (like it did with YouTube; or as Facebook did with Instagram). Google could buy Snapchat or Pinterest, again both shocking and pleasing the world. Then again, Microsoft bought Skype and not much came from it…

Perhaps there is some pioneering spark left in Google. It recently started publicizing the accidents of its self-driving cars. That is one big step for transparency, although it might end up being a step backward for public relations once the numbers are crunched by Neo-Luddites out there.

In the end, transparency and investing in creativity might be Google’s best and only choices. At least these moves would give it press beyond fiascos like Google Glass, bigoted photo tagging, or bad Hollywood movies.

And if this article suddenly disappears from search engine rankings, come look for me at the Yelp boards…

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The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the BlackBerry

Iron Man with BlackBerry head fighting rising iPhones

One of my fascinations has always been how seemingly “too big to fail” companies actually fail. I’m not referring to collateral damage caused some bursting bubble as happened to so many tech companies at the turn of the century. It’s more of the rapid and (almost) unexpected plunge that occurred with such companies as Myspace, Groupon or Viddy—all once entrenched in the very psyche of popular culture but quickly left behind by the public as nothing more than mammoth fossils (and still making some money, mind you).

Research in Motion (RIM, but now BlackBerry Limited), the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry, is such an example, as equally poignant and absorbing as the rest of the mammoth fossils. Yet its tragic tale might be more intriguing because there might be a resurrection from the tech graves into something close to its former glory.

It’s a captivating narrative in a society that loves comebacks and second chances as much as giddy schadenfreude.


rise of blackberrry2

Once upon a time, not even a decade ago, BlackBerry was the prime smartphone in the market. The phone was a well-built gadget known for its patented visible keyboard, with the ability to peer-to-peer message, fax and email. The device seemed to appear in the hands of seemingly every CEO and world leader; and that was part of RIM’s marketing: making influencers support its product. President Obama famously refused to give his BlackBerry up when he took office. At one point, RIM was valued at $55 billion. In 2007, it was the most valuable company on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In those days, RIM was rapidly expanding beyond the business sector, as an article TechRadar explained:

Initially popular with the business community, by 2006 RIM was attracting major mass market attention. The 7100 “Charm” series marked a new focus on consumers and more features followed in the “Electron” and “Pearl” releases, including cameras, navigation, and chat features.

The sky was the limit for the “CrackBerry” (as it was dubbed). What could possibly go wrong?

Apple was what went wrong.


fall of the blackberry2

The release of the iPhone in 2007 was a watershed moment for mobile devices, and it quickly drowned the BlackBerry. It’s almost that simple. Since 2011, RIM has laid off 10,000 employees, more than half of its workforce. These days it only occupies three percent of the smartphone market.

What happened? Was Apple (and later Samsung and Google) that good? Was the public that fickle?

The answers have to do with, as always, faulty market research.

It’s all detailed in Losing the Signal, written by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. This new book explains several of the missteps the brass at RIM committed when the iPhone came into existence. Some of these erroneous assumptions included:

That phone providers like AT&T would not be able to handle the network power the iPhone demanded.
Consumers would eventually reject the iPhone because of its rapid battery drain.
The iPhone would only resonate with those interested in YouTube, social media, and shallow web browsing—not true professionals.
  Blackberry offered better security and a more stable network.

Consumers shrugged these issues off. In the first three months of its release, a million iPhones were sold. Put simply, Apple understood that the Internet Age was shifting to a more epicurean state. Consumers were ready for style over functionality. Look-conscious millennials—tech savvy and vociferous over social media—carried as much influence as drab businesspeople. It was just time for the World Wide Web and all of its fruits to start looking good.

Thus, the public embraced the iPhone and later smartphones for really the reason one RIM executive admitted: “Beauty matters.”

In all fairness, RIM wasn’t the only who underestimated the iPhone. Nokia, Palm and other mobile phone giants dismissed Apple’s foray into mobile technology.

RIM (at the time the world’s largest smartphone maker) attempted to counter the iPhone with its own version of beauty. It resurrected an old prototype called Storm. Like the iPhone, Storm featured a glass screen. Unlike Apple’s phone, its screen was movable. Users could activate the phone’s digital keyboard by pressing the screen down, replicating the click and tactile pleasure that made BlackBerry’s physical keyboard so well-liked.

But RIM rushed the product, and that proved to be another terrible mistake. Storm wasn’t ready, but RIM was under tremendous pressure to answer Apple. The new smartphone was released late in 2008, with strong sales at first, but with so many flaws it flat-lined soon after. Adding insult to injury, RIM’s hallowed reputation of quality products took a hit, which later affected many of its other releases.

As one article explained:

The Storm was a watershed moment, not only hurting RIM financially but wrecking public opinion and its partnership with Verizon. The company then had no idea of which path it needed to take. “We’re grappling with who we are because we can’t be who we used to be anymore, which sucked…It’s not clear what the hell to do,” said one of the company’s former CEOs, Jim Balsille.

Apple owned the image of producing superior products (which it didn’t in the early days of the iPhone) and controlled the narrative of “style over functionality.”

That should have been the end of the BlackBerry, and the fossilizing of RIM.

But the story doesn’t end there.


return of blackberry2

RIM (now called BlackBerry Limited) went back to basics, just last year, to what worked for it in the beginning, and improved on it. As an article in Advertising Age explained:

The campaign, “Work Wide,” launched in September and cast BlackBerry as a serious business tool, offering security, mobility, and connectivity through the internet of things. In one video, which showed consumers using handheld devices to play games, competitive smartphones were portrayed as toys, not serious business tools. In the first week of the launch, BlackBerry sold over 200,000 Passport devices.

In an era of rising hacking and security threats, it seems consumers are ready to return to functionality. BlackBerry has capitalized on this for added success. As one analyst joked about the resurged popularity of BlackBerry smartphones: “Snowden takes over for Alicia Keys.”

In addition, BlackBerry is willing to make sensible risks, for there are hints it may adopt an Android platform on its new devices.

From losing $1.2 Billion a quarter, BlackBerry is now officially profitable. This doesn’t mean the company will ever truly play with Apple or the other smartphone giants, or even return to its former glory. Nevertheless, it is on the right track, unlike the other companies mentioned at the beginning of the article.

Besides, it should be mentioned that not too many years before the release of the first iPhone, many experts contended that Apple was already a mammoth fossil. The rest is a history of beauty.


The 7 Best Market Research Podcasts

Mobile technology is rapidly transforming the business landscape. We have written extensively on its effects on market research and online survey methodologies.

The rise of podcasting is another popular side effect. In 2014, podcast listening increased 25% in the U.S., while nearly 1 in 3 Americans reported listening to a podcast. In addition, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago—with an average of more than 91,000 podcasts produced a year.

There is demand and there is supply for podcasts, and there is certainly both when it comes to market research.

First, though, some may wonder, about the history and the sudden renaissance of the podcast.

The word podcast was coined early in 2004 in an article in The Guardian. It referred to audio files that can be streamed or downloaded from the internet. Although lauded as an emerging form of media, podcasts never truly exploded, remaining more of a niche expression or vanity venture for popular figures.

Then came the explosion of mobile technology. It has made accessing podcasts effortless as they can be streamed on any mobile device (and downloaded into hard drives or cloud accounts). Podcasts are just as available in vehicles through such services as Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and Stitcher Dash. Furthermore, in an era of competitive content and inbound marketing, podcasts are that extra digital mile a company or individual can harness to stay ahead of the game (not to mention podcasting’s relative low overhead).

So while crunching numbers or deciphering the psychology of consumers, why not play a podcast at work or while driving in traffic? After all, podcasts are just another symptom of the 21st-century individual’s thirst and ability to handle a wide range of information.

With all of this in mind, here are the top six podcasts we recommend for market research:

1. American Marketing Association Podcasts: Not a single show, but an entire list of podcasts—ranging from thought leadership to mobile marketing. Branding, ROIs, market trends…it’s all there with a varied but knowledgeable guest list.

2. HBR IdeaCast: The Harvard Business Review has long been regarded as the leading resource for business research, and their Podcast doesn’t miss a beat on this. You can’t go wrong when some of its guests include Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as a slew of Harvard business professors and Wall Street exemplars.

3. AdAge Outlook: This podcast certainly deals with marketing news, and it’s second to none when it comes to market, product, and research trends. Whether it’s understanding millennial media habits or Hispanic buying preferences, understanding brand failures or Holiday shopping predictions, this is the podcast to download.

4. Market Recap Podcast: Bernie Schaeffer, Chairman and CEO of Schaeffer’s Investment Research, and his staff take the listener on a vast journey into market analysis. They discuss all topics Wall Street from a contrarian perspective.

5. Edge of the Web Radio: Although it focuses on online forms of marketing, this podcast does concentrate on the latest tech trends and how they may impact various forms of research. It provides very interesting discussions with round-table guests on where marketing is headed in this fast-changing world.

6. The BeanCast: The show proclaims itself as the “best marketing podcast anywhere.” Many in the industry agree with this claim, as do its high ratings. Veteran podcaster Bob Knorpp (also founder of AdAge Outlook) brings a weekly episode pregnant with the finest in marketing, advertising, and public relations.

7. Actually: A new venture by a joint venture of Quartz and Marketplace, combining the best of old and new podcasting. The show explores global business and entrepreneurship from a very intimate yet timely angle. The first episode was broadcast from Havana, dealing with the new market in Cuba, so you know this podcast means business for businesses.

There are definitely many other podcasts dealing with market research and its satellite topics. Like anything on the internet, though, it comes down to personal preference in the vast sea of free or affordable digital choices. It might take a little search on Google or iTunes (the latter which does a fit job of ranking), but the data in the form of sound waves is widely available.

If an individual wants to start a podcast on market research (or its satellite topics), in order to go that extra digital mile of competition, it’s actually not difficult or costly. Lifehacker provides an approachable but thorough tutorial. Regardless of what side of the microphone you choose to be, podcasts offer another dimension to the best possible market research.

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Infographic of the Week: The Four Senses of Buying Decisions

This week’s eye-vitamin is based on our article How Much Control Do We Really Have Over What We Buy?

This continues our recent theme on deciphering the psychology of the consumer (and even the market researcher behind the proverbial curtain!). We feel this is salient to market research, as many experts understand we are entering a golden era of qualitative research. This has been made possible by mobile technology; big data side effects like predictive analysis; breakthrough online survey techniques such as gamification; and other factors in the digital kingdoms.

The data in our infographic, along with other qualitative data, has been known for decades by marketers, but now it can weaponized for the benefit of both consumers and researchers.

Please enjoy, and as always have wonderful (and safe) weekend.

4 Senses of Buying Vertical
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