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Apple’s iPhone XR: Bad marketing or sneakily clever?

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A communication problem? (Image: James Martin/CNET)

It happened during Christmas dinner.

I took out my iPhone XR to check a text — surely someone was finally wishing me a Merry Christmas — and one of my wife’s relatives asked: “What’s that?”

“It’s an iPhone XR,” I replied, sinking, as many people do, to the Eks-R pronunciation.

“What’s that?” she replied.

Also: Apple fixed my biggest complaint about the iPhone XR

I paused, a touch stumped for an explanation. Doesn’t everyone know about iPhones the minute they’re released — and often before?

“Well, it’s the newest iPhone,” I said.

“Never heard of it,” she replied. “Never seen one either.”

My thoughts drifted to how Apple has advertised these new, cheaper beasts. First, it did the usual phones-floating-in-mid-air sort of ad, with all sorts of product benefits featured in words.

Depth control. Liquid retina. Color-accurate LCD.

Did these things impress anyone? Did they even mean anything? And isn’t it a touch odd to see Apple splatter so many product benefits over an ad?

It used to be that Apple would simply present the phone, play a little modern music and the phones would enchant masses.

Then I seemed to remember another iPhone XR ad that had invaded a recent NFL game on my TV. This one touted the phone’s marvelous battery life. (And it is marvelous, for an iPhone.)

Could it be that Cupertino doesn’t have a clue how to sell a phone that, to many eyes — including my own — offers a far more satisfying value than, say, the XS?

It was fascinating that, on the morning of the XR’s launch, there were no lines outside the Apple store I visited. The staff were stunned.

Also: iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets 

Could it be that, by launching three new iPhones in quick succession, Apple has muddied the perception of all three?

This could be especially troubling at a time when people are keeping their phones longer and not being persuaded to trade up to the next supposed big thing.

And the XR/XS naming conundrum doesn’t offer a true differentiation either. It’s almost as if they’re minor variations on a theme, rather than each being a truly compelling proposition in its own right.

Of course, there are no numbers that reflect whether the XR is doing well or badly — and there may never be, as Apple is no longer releasing sales numbers for individual phones.

This week, however, research company Consumer Intelligence Research Partners emitted a survey suggesting that the XR enjoyed 32 percent of all US phone sales in its first month.


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That’s 2 percent more than the X in a comparable period. Another optimistic suggestion from the survey was that 16 percent of buyers were Android switchers. This compares to a mere 11 percent for iPhone X.

Many might conclude that the XR’s lower price is what makes it more attractive to sensitive Android types.

I wonder, though, whether it’s all so simple.

I fear many people, Android or not, are still attached to their home buttons and headphone jacks. They see these as offering a simpler way of life. They look upon FaceID with a fair helping of skepticism. Indeed, when I demonstrated it to my wife’s relative, she replied: “Hmm, that’s nice, but I’m not sure I’d want to do that.”

“Why?”

“It’s a bit creepy.”

Also: Apple’s iPhone XR: The Reasonable choice 

Many commentators wafted between startled and depressed when Apple created a very generous trade-in offer to potential upgraders from older phones.

Perhaps, though, the balance is shifting for Apple between selling hardware for as great a margin as possible to trying to find every way to get customers to upgrade, so that they disappear more deeply into the company’s service business.

Still, I fear Apple needs to be a lot clearer about its phones’ individual identities.

Otherwise more people will merely wonder “what’s that?” and move right along. If they even notice the phone at all.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple iPhone XR review: Lower cost comes with camera, reception compromises

Apple switched up release strategies a bit in 2018 with the two high end $1,000+ models released initially, followed by one priced $250 to $350 less. The iPhone XR arrives in six color options and honestly it may be the best option for the masses.

iPhone XS review: Everything Apple has to offer, but in a smaller package

The iPhone XS is the smallest of Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup, but don’t discount it.

iPhone XS Max review: The iPhone’s future is big and bright

Apple’s iPhone XS Max is as big as it gets.

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Twitter rolls out the ability for creators to host Super Follows-only Spaces – TechCrunch

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Twitter has announced that it’s rolling out Super Follows-only Spaces. Creators who offer Super Follows subscriptions can now host Spaces exclusively for their subscribers. The social media giant says this new option will give creators a way to “offer an extra layer of conversation to their biggest supporters.”

Subscribers globally on iOS and Android will be able to join and request to speak in Super Follows-only Spaces, whereas subscribers on Twitter’s web platform can join and listen, but won’t have the option to request to speak. Creators can start a Super Follows-only Space by selecting the “Only Super Followers can join” button when starting a new Space. Users who aren’t Super Following a creator will still see the Space, but won’t be able to access it unless they subscribe.  

It’s worth noting that the new Super Follow-only option for Spaces isn’t the only way for creators to hold exclusive Spaces. For example, Twitter launched its Ticketed Spaces feature last year to allow creators to set a price for users to listen in on a Space. Creators can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999 and can also limit how many tickets are sold.

Super Follows, which was first revealed in February 2021, allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Super Follows is currently in testing with select creators in the United States on iOS. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month.

The launch of Super Follows-only Spaces adds another layer of exclusivity to Super Follows subscriptions. Twitter says it plans to launch more Super Follows features to allow creators to grow their audiences and get closer to their most engaged followers.

Twitter says its research shows that hosting consistent Spaces leads to more follower growth and also gives creators more ways to engage with their followers. The company found that consistently hosting Spaces, around two times per week, leads to a 17% follower growth over a quarter. In addition, the company says creators who host consistent Spaces for a month see a 6-7% growth in followers, and creators who do so for two months see a 10% growth in followers.

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TikTok launches its first creator crediting tool to help video creators cite their inspiration – TechCrunch

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After years of stolen memes and uncredited dance trends, TikTok today is introducing a new feature that it says will be the first iteration of its creator crediting tools that allow creators to directly tag and credit others using a new button during the publishing process. This button lets creators credit all sorts of inspiration for their content, including dances, jokes, viral sounds, and more — and will help TikTok viewers discover the original creators behind the latest trend by tapping on the credit from the video’s caption.

Larger creators lifting ideas from smaller ones is an issue that’s not limited to TikTok. But as one of the largest social apps on the market, particularly among a younger Gen Z to Millennial demographic, how it approaches the issue of creator recognition matters.

To that end, TikTok says it’s now rolling out a new feature that will allow users to add a credit as part of the publishing process on the app.

Image Credits: TikTok

To access the feature, users will tap on a new “video” icon on the posting page after creating or editing their own video. Once on the video page, users will be able to select a video they have liked, favorited, posted, or that had used the same sound.

After this video is selected, the video tag will be added as a mention in the caption.

Those whose videos were tagged by another creator will then be alerted to this via an alert in their TikTok app Inbox.

Image Credits: TikTok

The feature’s launch follows years of controversy over creator credits and attribution on TikTok.

In particular, TikTok had struggled with some of its top stars sourcing new choreography to perform in their dance videos from creators on other, smaller platforms — like the rival short-form video app Dubsmash, later acquired by Reddit. Many of these unknown creators had helped kick off TikTok’s biggest dance trends in years past, like the Renegade, Backpack Kid, or Shiggy. And many were creators of color, who saw their dances go viral after more famous TikTokers would perform their moves without tagging them as the inspiration. This issue came to a head when The New York Times in 2020 reported on the original creator of the Renegade, then a 14-year-old Atlanta teen, Jalaiah Harmon, who hadn’t received credit for her work after TikTok’s largest creator, Charli D’Amelio, performed her dance for her millions of fans, helping her to further grow her already outsized celebrity status.

The following year, a similar controversy made headlines after TikTok star Addison Rae went on “The Tonight Show” where she taught host Jimmy Fallon a number of popular TikTok dances. Meanwhile, the dances’ original creators, many of whom are Black, remained uncredited in the segment. Later, a number of Black creators went on strike as part of a viral campaign to call attention to the issue of creator credits by refusing to choreograph a dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single.

D’Amelio and some other creators have since begun to handwrite dance credits in their video descriptions, often using the shorthand “dc” for dance credit followed by a tag pointing to the username of the creator. A famous Hollywood choreographer, JaQuel Knight, who made history as the first to copyright his work, has also begun helping other dancers on TikTok get credit for their work too, Vice reported in December.

But dances aren’t the only things being stolen on TikTok. Creators have fielded accusations of stealing everything from cheerleading routines to comedy bits to challenge ideas to music or sounds and much more.

 

A TikTok spokesperson acknowledged the problem with credits on the platform, noting that the culture of credit was “critical” for the community and for  TikTok’s future. “Equitable creator amplification is important for creators, especially the BIPOC creator community,” they added.

Image Credits: TikTok

In an announcement, Director of the Creator Community at TikTok, Kudzi Chikumbu introduced the feature and highlighted other efforts the company has made to help better highlight original creator work on its platform.

Chikumbu pointed to TikTok’s Originators series, launched last October, which showcases trend originators through the app’s Discover List feature. TikTok also recently debuted a TikTok Originators monthly social series highlighting Originators on the platform. In addition, the TikTok Creator Portal includes a “Crediting Creators” section that highlights the importance of attributing trend originators for their work. Here, the company lays out best practices for crediting originators and explains how to find the originators if you aren’t sure who had started a trend.

The use of the new crediting tag could help make it easier for creators to cite their inspiration. However, it still relies on user adoption to work. If a creator wants to lift ideas without credit, they could simply not use the feature.

“It’s important to see a culture of credit take shape across the digital landscape and to support underrepresented creators in being properly credited and celebrated for their work,” said Chikumbu. “We’re eager to see how these new creator crediting tools inspire more creativity and encourage trend attribution across the global TikTok community.”

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TikTok’s new ad product gives creators a chance to partner with marketers on branded content – TechCrunch

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TikTok announced today that it’s launching a new ad product called “Branded Mission” that will allow creators to connect with brands and possibly receive rewards for videos. With the new ad product, advertisers can crowdsource content from creators and turn top-performing videos into ads. Advertisers can launch branded campaigns and encourage creators to take part in them. Brands can develop a brief and release it to the creator community encouraging them to participate in Branded Missions.

Creators can then decide what Branded Missions they want to participate in. All creators who are at least 18 years old and have at least 1,000 followers are eligible to participate in a Branded Mission. TikTok says eligible creators whose videos are selected by brands will “benefit from a cash payment and boosted traffic.” On each Branded Mission page, creators will be able to view how much money they have the potential to earn if their video is selected.

Branded Mission is now in beta testing and available to brands in more than a dozen markets. TikTok says the new ad product will be available in additional markets later this year.

The company says this new form of two-way engagement between brands and creators allows the TikTok community to have a creative hand in the ads that are part of a brand campaign. TikTok notes that it’s always looking for creative ways to support creators and help brands reach users on its platforms with relevant content.

tiktok branded mission

Image Credits: TikTok

“Creators are at the center of creativity, culture and entertainment on TikTok,” the company said in a blog post. “With Branded Mission, we’re excited to bring even more creators into the branded content ecosystem and explore ways to reward emerging and established creators.”

TikTok and brands already leverage creators for ads on the platform, but the new Branded Mission ad product will give creators, especially newer ones, a new way to partner with brands and grow their audiences.

Today’s announcement comes as TikTok recently introduced a new way to lure advertisers to its platform by giving them the ability to showcase their brands’ content next to the best videos on TikTok. TikTok launched TikTok Pulse, which is a new contextual advertising solution that ensures brands’ ads are placed next to the top 4% of all videos on TikTok. Notably, the solution is also the first ad product that involves a revenue share with creators. Creators and publishers with at least 100,000 followers on TikTok will be eligible for the revenue share program during the initial stage of the TikTok Pulse program.

TikTok has also been looking for ways to help brands better reach users on its platform. Last month, the company launched a new Creative Agency Partnerships (CAP) University program that is designed to help creative agencies become “TikTok experts.” The five-week program teaches enrollees what they need to know about getting started on TikTok and how to use the platform to up their marketing game.

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