Product Strategy and Innovation Blog

The iPhone Feature Mistake


The iPhone 5 has launched and critics are already saying it doesn’t have the features to compete. Jessica Vascellaro writes in The Wall Street Journal, “the iPhone 5 doesn’t have several features that are becoming standard across other smartphones,” and “Even some hard-core Apple fans questioned whether the iPhone can continue to trail blaze or if it’s becoming a snoozer. One Apple employee recently confided he had been hoping the new device would have more dramatic changes.”

Jessica concludes, “Whether the missing features matter remains to be seen.”

So let’s analyze the traditional analysis of the iPhone to see where reviewers and competitors miss the mark. It will show the power of thinking about markets differently.

The type of analysis in the WSJ article is the industry standard not only for product reviewers, but also for product managers. To analyze markets in this way is a lethal mistake.

Traditionally, competitive analysis is based on product by product comparisons. Product features are compared, and the winner is believed to be the product with the most features. Product managers and product marketers are paid to do this type of analysis, as shown in the table in the slide below.

Traditional competitive analysis.

When comparing products, the one with more features should win. It has more check boxes! The iPhone is doomed!

But this type of competitive analysis almost never works, and it is why so many reviewers predict the failure of Apple products only to be proven wrong by the market.

Why does this happen? Because the unit to use for competitive analysis is not the product, it is the job-to-be-done that the customer is hiring the product to do. Customers are hiring a smart phone to help them execute jobs, so the job (not the product) has to be the unit of analysis.

Let’s use an example. Smart phones are being hired, for example, by parents to tell a child’s life story. This is an outcome-driven job, meaning that it has metrics that can be measured that are independent of any solution.

This solution independence is extremely important because the job (and the job executor) create the market. Parents have been telling their child’s life story since there have been children. And they have used a wide variety of technologies and solutions to execute this job: pen and paper, film, slide carousels, videotape, and more recently, blogs, digital photos, digital videos, and photo streams.

This is why we always define the market as the job and job executor. There is no such thing as a market based on a product. Just ask Kodak if they should have remained focused on the “film market” or the “slide carousel” market. Ask Sony if they should have remained in the “Walkman” market.

Is the iPhone 5 doomed to fail because, as the WSJ reports, it doesn’t have “touch to share?” This traditional product and feature-based competitive analysis is too limiting because customers don’t want features, they want to get a job done.

So how can we tell if the iPhone 5 without “touch to share” will succeed? We need customer-based metrics, which we call outcomes, to judge how well the product gets the job done. Outcomes are the customer needs in the market.

As we have shown over two decades, the outcomes for a job can be known and measured. (And we have developed patented methods to do this). Outcomes are key to understanding market success because they are the metrics customers (the job executors) will use to judge the product.

Let’s look at an outcome (a customer need) to demonstrate why our method is better. The customer we are targeting is a parent and the job is to tell a child’s life story. So when parents are telling their child’s life story, they need a solution to minimize the time it takes to share a childhood memory with friends and family. This is an outcome.

My Dad used to take tons of family photos. Every couple of months he would develop the slides and organize them into Kodak slide carousels. (Mad men had great a scene about the Kodak Carousel that approaches the underlying functional job-to-be-done nicely, although its emphasis was on the emotional jobs).

What my Dad was doing, of course, was telling a child’s life story (in this case mine). And the time it took him to share a childhood memory with friends and family was measured in days and hours.

As the father of three, I am now executing this job on a daily basis. And blogging photos of my three daughters is the solution I use to get the job done and satisfy the outcome (people also use Facebook to get this job done). In our language, I am using a blog to tell my children’s life story and to minimize the time it takes to share a childhood memory with friends and family.

This is just one outcome in the job, and we have data on hundreds and hundreds of markets that proves that every job has between 50-150 outcomes. So markets (jobs) are complex.

Now let’s get quantitative to see if the iPhone will fail.

What should we measure in the market? Because we know the market is the job, the executors, and the outcomes, we need to measure the importance and the satisfaction of each outcome to see if the market is underserved. We measure importance and satisfaction because this reveals where we can improve to help get the job done better.

For example, it is extremely important to me that I can minimize the time it takes to share a childhood memory with friends and family. I have friends and family all over the country. If I had to create a slide carousel for each one, I would not be happy.

Family blogging is a good solution, but it still has limitations. It takes multiple steps to blog and comment on a photo, and I have to notify friends and family that there is a new photo on the blog. So I would say that I am somewhat satisfied with a blog’s ability to minimize the time it takes to share.

This difference between importance and satisfaction (weighted for importance) is how we define a market opportunity (an unmet customer need). In other words, if a new solution comes along that is faster (time is the outcome’s metric), it will add value to helping me get the job done.

The following slide illustrates what we call our Opportunity Landscape. It shows all the needs (outcomes) in a market (for the job and the job executor) and their importance and satisfaction scores as rated by customers (the job executors).

Strategyn Market Opportunities

So how does this help us analyze the iPhone’s success or failure?

Our opportunity landscape is a view of the market from the customer’s perspective independent of any product. Again, this solution independence is critical. It shows where customers struggle to get the job done. And it enables us to compare (from the point of view of the customer’s job) how well each product will get the job done. The key difference is that it enables us to analyze products vs. the job, rather than products vs. products.

Apple released a new iOS 6 feature called shared photo streams. It attempts to satisfy the customer need to minimize the time it takes to share a childhood memory with friends and family. So will this beat “touch to share”?

For me (a sample of one), it definitely will. But more importantly, Apple is targeting the whole job of telling a child’s life story. Shared photo streams is just one feature. “Touch to share” is a feature that only targets one context in which the job is executed, i.e. when I am near the person with whom I want to share. For me, this is not often, so the shared photo stream feature will add more value, i.e. increase my satisfaction, more than touch to share.

Of course, to fully analyze a market we analyze every outcome in a job, not just one. Every smart phone is also targeting multiple jobs, and thus thousands of outcomes. So analyzing the iPhone through the simple lens of competitive features is unlikely to lead to any valuable insight into its market success.

The history of iPhone Claim Chowder shows this to be true.


Started by Tony Ulwick, Strategyn has generated billions of dollars in equity value for its clients and has achieved the highest innovation success rate of any firm. Whether your goal is to protect, grow or disrupt existing markets, successfully enter new markets or to optimize your customer’s product/service experience, Strategyn will help you achieve your growth objectives.

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