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The problem with the iPad Mini isn’t the price: it’s the disappearance of the reality distortion field

By on October 24, 2012
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Apple yesterday announced the iPad Mini. My Twitter feed was full of discussion, disappointment and tweets to articles on Gizmodo like this one.


The heart of the article is that, compared with the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, the iPad Mini is underpowered, has less memory, won’t be able to “push the pixels” and, to cap it all, is priced at over $300, a 65% premium to its competition.

Nintendo has proven that power does not have to be a deciding factor, but to me, this is a sign. A sign of what the absence of Steve Jobs at the helm means for Apple.

It means that the rules of Apple’s engagement with its competition has changed.

It means that Apple now has to compete on features, price and capability.

It means that Apple can no longer automatically charge a premium for its products.

The iPhone converted me to Apple. My household now owns 2 iPhones, an iPad, expects another one this year and may even consider buying a Mac. (Just saying that makes me shiver in PC fanboy horror).

Some of their products are undeniably amazing. But back in the days of Steve Jobs, commentators and fans would cut the company slack. A lot of slack.

People called it Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field. Unfortunately for fanboys, sharedholders and staff, the reality distortion field is no more.

It died with Steve.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • You don’t know if it has a problem yet, talk about jumping the gun!

    A tiny sliver of the people who bought an iPhone or iPad ever sat down to watch one of Jobs’ self-fancying product launches. They just bought their great products[1]. Steve’s reality distortion field might have made him a great manipulator face-to-face, but it isn’t the reason people bought Apple products.

    Also, there was plenty of naysaying following every revolutionary Apple launch:

    1. iPod — more expensive and lower capacity than the Creative Nomad or whatever other ridiculous MP3 players were around at the time. — Slashdot.
    2. iPhone — “$500… for a phone?!?! Subsidised?” — Steve Ballmer
    3. iPad — “it’s just a big iPod Touch”. — Me. But not only me.

    If there is a problem with the iPad Mini it is because it is an uninspired, catch up product and for once the naysayers are right.

    [1] Considering “product” as the whole shebang: the device, the design, the packaging, the OS, the marketing, the apps, the network effect. Apple STILL has a product mix that no rival has managed to replicate after a decade of trying.

  • Sik

    Actually, the FBI seems to think the reality distortion field is a thing:
    Quoting from there: “Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs’s honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals”. Yes, I know that calling it a reality distortion field is an exaggeration but there’s some truth to it =P

    I think the biggest problem Apple is facing right now is that Steve Jobs was obsessed with aesthetics and perfection and now that he’s dead they don’t know where to go anymore so they just continue with what most companies would do. I was expecting something like this to eventually happen once Jobs would leave Apple.

    Not to say the iDevices are the only ones that have issues, I’m not happy with Android at all either… especially some which think that they’re entitled to install programs on your PC without asking for permission and which think they should stay on-line 100% of the time and will spazz out if they ever go off-line (my mum’s phone does that x_x and that’s not even going into UI issues).

  • nonameowns

    many people are too stupid to see that it was never about the hardware for mobile devices, it’s the EXPERIENCE. iPad mini will sell like hotcakes simply because of that.

  • I completely disagree with your characterisation of the “reality distortion field”. This was a pejorative term invented by Apple detractors – an attempt to encapsulate their argument that Apple customers were being conned by clever marketing into paying over the odds for sub-standard products. It was a phrase used by people who have never understood – and will never understand – that ideas of value are different from person to person. One consumer may see “value” in pure performance-vs-price terms, while others value experience, familiarity, build quality, design or various other factors (right now, the App Store ecosystem is a big one for Apple users) above performance issues.

    “Reality distortion field” was a phrase summing up their constant frustration at being wrong, again and again, in declaring that X product, by being higher specced and lower priced than Apple’s competing product, would automatically destroy it.

    The idea that these people were “cutting Apple slack” is far-fetched. A fair few mainstream commentators were Apple cheerleaders (the BBC certainly were for a whlie), and there have always been the John Gruber and MG Siegler style characters, but tech journalists have always been extremely harsh on Apple. They’ve declared each successive wave of Apple hardware disappointing, overpriced, etc., only to watch it sell better than anything before it. Their glee at the “Apple’s latest thing is a disappointment!” meme isn’t new; it’s been repeated each and every time, for many years.

    Beware your own echo-chamber! Your Twitter feed is, to put it politely, full of nerds. So is mine (and I include both of us in that definition). They’re deeply intelligent people, but can often fail to see the wood for the trees, because they care deeply about comparing the nitty-gritty of specifications and completely miss the wider picture – the mixture of design, experience, reputation, price, ecosystem, word-of-mouth and god knows what else that actually informs most consumers’ buying decisions. I don’t know if the Mini will be a huge success, but if it isn’t, it won’t be for ANY of the reasons being thrown around by the tech Twitterati.

  • People (and by people I mean the informed tech-heads you follow on Twitter, and journos for tech websites) have been backlashing against Apple for years. Look at the response to the iPhone 4S for example. Crucially though, people still buy their products in droves. The man on the street doesn’t seem to care if Gizmodo thinks the latest Apple gadget is disappointing.