Last week, Apple announced they were removing the headphone jack for their new iPhone. It wasn’t the first time they removed an “essential” feature; most of us remember losing the floppy drive, disc drives, Ethernet ports, and even the traditional file system (on iPad and iPhone).
News like this usually doesn’t pan out well, but this time it was particularly tone-deaf. When Marketing SVP Phil Schiller said they were removing the headphone jack because they had “courage,” I think the internet broke. I’ve never seen Twitter turn anything into a meme so quickly.
But it wasn’t the first time Apple had used that line.
Full credit to 9to5Mac for noticing this first, but Steve Jobs once said something similar. Here’s a link to the YouTube video that’s been making the rounds this weekend. If you can’t watch it, or don’t have the time for it, here’s a quick transcription (again, courtesy of 9to5Mac):
We’re trying to make great products for people, and we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that, they’re going to call us names […] but we’re going to take the heat [and] instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think are going to be the right technologies for customers. And you know what? They’re paying us to make those choices […] If we succeed, they’ll buy them, and if we don’t, they won’t, and it’ll all work itself out.
Apple didn’t have to say anything different when they debuted the iPhone 7 last Wednesday. Steve already said it perfectly.
I don’t think Apple is doomed, and I don’t think they’re any worse for wear without Jobs. These marketing blunders can happen to anyone. Apple is the world’s largest company, and they put good design at the core of everything they do — but sometimes, they can’t get their own story straight. Jobs was great at that.
The thing is, Jobs knew it’s not always what you say. It’s how you say it. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it’s pretty simple: choose your words carefully.
Even Apple picks the wrong words sometimes.