THE BLOG

Put a Ding on It, iPhone

09/16/2013 05:21 pm ET | Updated Nov 16, 2013

"I want to put a ding in the universe."

Don't we all? At least so I fantasize....

But that quote isn't from me - it's classic Steve Jobs.

In fact, I'd argue that it's a defining statement and a lens through which to judge Apple....

Bottom line from Jobs: that ding isn't a fantasy, it's the legacy he left.

So here is my question:

Does the newly announced iPhone 5c, a "cheaper" - read less expensive - model designed for, and to be sold in, China (as a start), meet the "ding" criteria?

Is it a world changer?

Will it make other companies squirm with envy; will it make consumers lust after it; will it make the market rethink itself; will it change anything...or is it a too-late me-too product with no redeeming features other than - possibly - price?

Final question, why do I care?

Let me begin with the latter...because I do care.

I care because Apple has always inspired me and truth told, still does...or did...even as I no longer really use their products.

You see - I got "dinged" by them - in the Jobs way - like so many others did. I had an Apple when most didn't have anything. I had a MAC at work when it required begging for IT support. I had a Gen1 iPod, Day One iPhone and the same for iPad. I was bitten, "dinged...."

And I was bitten because I understood that Apple was leading the way - "dinging the universe" - but I also knew that others would soon follow..."repairing the ding," if you will. But then expanding the universe so that Jobs could ding once again - who knows, maybe way down they were waiting for those dings...because he saw things no one else did...including us consumers....

So I ask again - does the iPhone 5c meet the Jobs Ding Factor?

Let me be clear - this is not a diatribe against Apple - nor do I mean this to be about Apple at all - it's just that we need a Ding Factor in developing markets - they took a big PR plunge - and to my mind, this isn't it.

Developing Markets are, according to many, more "smartly mobile" than Developed Markets, and not just because they have less of a legacy landline infrastructure - which in and of itself just means they need mobile phones.

The Developing World is innovating in mobile because it is a clear pathway to economic development - not as in monetization for the app developers or Facebook - but absolute development of the countries themselves.

Books are being distributed on 2G phones all across Africa; farmers get weather reports and market prices on the go in India and Indonesia; fishermen know what ports to dock in in order to sell all of their catch; AIDs patients are being reminded to take their drugs and workers can be paid securely and use their mobile currency to make secure purchases in places where banks just don't exist and robbery is a way of life.

So while I am obsessing on Temple Run and Bad Piggies (no excuses, I am obsessed) - people's lives are being transformed - not by the digibabble rhetoric of engagement and experience, but rather by the full and true power inherent in mobile technology - the Ding Factor - if you will.

So if I was looking to "Ding the Universe" - would I look at a market like China, say, where sales of luxury items are outpacing the West, and enviously try to steal market share in the high end of the smartphone market, or would I look at the rest of the country and the vast underdeveloped world and really Ding the Universe by once again "reinventing the phone"? ("What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super easy to use. That is what iPhone is. OK? So, we're going to reinvent the phone." Steve Jobs).

Reaction to Apple is lukewarm in China - "Meh" according to Christina Larson of Bloomberg Businessweek. And "meh" is just not strong enough to "ding...."

There is an opportunity here for us as marketers, developers, business people to make a real difference - to follow the Jobs Ding and change the universe - or to ding something new and get the ball rolling...and by the way - make money too...I am not suggesting charity....

Some thought starters - and by the way, you can find folks working on all of these - often young people from Western countries who want to make a difference and Ding the Universe themselves:
Quick-charging/long-lasting small solar batteries; batteries that charge from cooking fires; sun filters for screens; waterproofing; shock-proofing; larger-size quick-key shortcuts; built-in family sharing...in many places one phone is owned or used by many; better night viewing; emergency signals to NGOs; simple app programming for user development....

And I'm sure you can add your own.

As I'm on my way to Beijing and as this is a story that begins in China, I thought I'd end with a true master...listen:

"The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell." Confucius

Interestingly I'd argue that Jobs always understood what was right...he never went for what was selling...and by the way, he made a fortune doing it...not a shabby proposition - no?

What do you think?