updated 12:59 am EDT, Sat September 22, 2012
Return to 'product as hero' styling in new commercials
Apple on Friday debuted a clutch of new television commercials, with a trio of new spots promoting the new iPhone 5 and one devoted to the new EarPods earbuds that now come with the iPhone and iPod Touch (and are available separately for $29). All four of the ads feature a narrator (Jeff Daniels) extolling the virtue of the highlighted features with a jaunty musical background in the style that has become a signature for Apple and was described by SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller in a recent court appearance as a "product as hero" approach.
In "Thumb," Apple points out the while the iPhone 5 features a taller screen, it is still usable entirely with one hand -- a gentle knock on the tendency of rival phones to go both taller and wider in an effort to make their phones seem better than the iPhone, and more like miniaturized tablets (resulting in the coining of the word "phablet" for the largest of this category). While some phones with larger screens have proven popular with buyers, reports of drops or needing to use two hands and styluses to effectively utilize them have also increased -- problems that plagued the laptop-replacement Windows tablets of the pre-iPad era.
"Cheese" takes the iPhone 5 into an area that is clearly one of Apple's key areas of interest, photography. The spot shows off exactly how to create a panoramic shot (in this case of a group of children in costumes, subtly playing into the coming Halloween holiday) using a new feature built into the iPhone 5. The resulting shot is then shown as a portrait hanging on a wall. The ad does not mention the faster and substantially-improved camera system in the iPhone, but just demonstrates the Panorama feature alone.
The "Physics" ad attempts to communicate an important element of the new iPhone's likely sales appeal that can't really be shown well on television -- the 20 percent drop in weight, along with the 18 percent thinner design. Because no previous iPhone (or rival smartphone) is seen for comparative purposes, the narrator is employed to illustrate the change by pondering how the new iPhone can be both "bigger" (as in the larger 4-inch screen) and yet "smaller" (volumetrically, the entire iPhone 5 is 12 percent smaller than the iPhone 4S). "There's more of it," the voice says of the features, "and yet ... less of it," referring to the weight. The ad concludes with the narrator amusingly suggesting that the "laws" of physics may rather just be "general guidelines."
Echoing the explanatory technical video that was shown during the iPhone 5 rollout, Apple's new EarPods spot starts off with a close-up of several ears. "Ears," says the narrator, "are weird." He points out the odd shape of the human ear generally, and says "[ears] aren't round ... so why would headphones be round?" Visually an earbud comes into view at this point, shot from an angle that makes it look like Apple's own previous earbud (which are still included with the non-Touch iPod products).
"They should be shaped like this," the voice says as the camera cuts in and the EarPods are shown in profile, which displays their shape more identifiably. "[They're] ... ear-shaped," we are told as the EarPods are then inserted into a woman's ears, showing that they fit better and yet retain the characteristic look of iPhone headphones.
The effect is deliberately that of Apple questioning its own previous approach to earphones rather than implying that earbuds made by others are poorly-designed. While Apple's original earbuds are still used by hundreds of millions of people, they are generally considered simply "adequate" on a scale of headphones, and music lovers tend to shun them in favor of larger headphones or higher-quality earbuds.
Early reviews of the EarPods appear to rate them as vastly better than the original Apple earbuds, but not quite as good as the most expensive and well-regarded in the same product class. A brief Electronista hands-on rates them as comparable to $100-plus earbuds from other manufacturers, and almost as good as Apple's own higher-end entry, the $80 "In Ear" headphones it sells as an alternative.
The ad does not mention that they are now included with the iPhone 5 and newly-revised iPod Touch, and the spots were posted by the company to YouTube in resolutions up to 1080p.