iPhone 4S Big News for Marketers

Apple’s much anticipated introduction of the iPhone 4S yesterday will impact marketers in two immediate ways:

  • – It will get the iOS into more pockets and purses.
  • – It will make the iPhone more useful and more indispensible than ever before.


The first big wave of news to come out of Cupertino, of course, was the collective disappointment among iOS fans at the lack of a new iPhone 5. Although the 4S has the look and feel of the previous incarnation, like so many things in life, it’s the changes under the hood that matter.

And those changes put some significant marketing consideration in play.

Priced to Expand iOS Market Share

The upgraded iPhone 4S, with the dual core A5 processor and 8MP camera, comes in three basic flavors: the standard 16GB version, the more robust 32GB and, for the first time, a range-topping 64GB edition. The price points for the 16GB and 32GB remain in line with current pricing at $199 and $299, respectively. For the privilege of owning the flagship 64GB model, users will have to pony up $399.

While pushing the envelope at the top end, Apple also announced that the current iPhone 4 model will continue to be available, albeit with only 8GB of storage, for a mere $99. In addition, the 3GS version will be offered free with a two-year contract. The added performance at the high end, combined with the value pricing at the low end, will only serve to drive up iPhone market share.

Marketing Significance

Increased market share will make focusing solely on the iOS platform a much easier decision for some marketers and undoubtedly will influence how mobile marketing efforts and dollars are allocated. This increase in market share, leading to increased attention for the platform, may further slow adoption of the Android platform by end users.

The iPhone already had the penetration advantage for brands that need to reach executive-level decision-makers. While Android’s overall share of the market has grown rapidly over the last couple of years, much of this growth has been price driven. I can cite statistics, but your own experiment may be more telling: The next time you are in an airport terminal surrounded by other business travelers, look around … notice what mobile device they are using.

Still not convinced? Data released by Boingo, which provides more airport Wi-Fi than any other providers, notes that while Android adoption has expanded from zero to 45 percent in the broader market, the operating system only represents a paltry 11 percent among travelers.

Natural Language Processing

When Apple acquired Siri 18 months ago, most watchers knew it was just a matter of time before it was baked into the iPhone in one form or another. That wait ended with the iPhone 4S, and this technology brings new capabilities not only to the device itself but also to the various applications it runs. The company demonstrated how a voice-activated assistant built on Siri’s natural language processing can help the user check the weather, respond to text messages and even schedule an appointment across multiple applications. These tasks can even be accomplished via Bluetooth, without ever removing the iPhone itself from pocket or briefcase.

Marketing Opportunities

Once iPhone users become accustomed to this utility, naturally, it will make the platform even more appealing to consumers—particularly business users—while creating another significant barrier to changing to Android or other systems. However, it also presents challenges and opportunities for marketers.

This past summer, I worked on a campaign for Scotsman that included a mobile application designed to help users find nearby restaurants offering their favorite kind of chewable ice: nugget ice. The Luv the Nug app combines geolocation data with its own database of food and beverage establishments to give users a choice of ice cream shops, restaurants, etc., that serve nugget ice. But, with today’s technology, results appear only after the application is launched.

Picture your customers’ errands and shopping lists arranged not by category, but by geolocation. When a consumer adds, say, “fix basement light” to the task list, the personal assistant not only reminds him or her to do it but also points out when a hardware store that offers lighting fixtures is nearby. Maybe it even suggests a specific store or a particular brand.

Now imagine if your own application could combine its functionality with this newly launched feature.  Mobile users could simply ask their iPhone, “Where can I get my nug on?” to find nugget ice, and it will reference the database in the locator app in order to provide them with the answer. Better yet, when asking your phone to find a local spot for lunch, it could tailor its suggestions to include establishments that serve nugget ice, leveraging the functionality and data of the Nugget Ice Locator app, without explicitly launching the app.

The question is to what degree Apple will give developers access to the Siri API and what we will be permitted to do with it. If and when the assistant can access third-party applications, it will open up a new world of possibilities for mobile marketers.

For now, only Apple knows.

by Frank Garamy
Vice President, Technical Planning


Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network