Apple has surpassed even its own legendary reputation for product innovation and customer delight. A study by Creative Strategies and Experian found that Apple AirPods customer satisfaction is the highest of any company product in history. The survey found that 82% of users were “very satisfied” and 16% were “satisfied” to generate an Apple AirPod customer satisfaction score of 98%. For comparison, the iPhone in 2007 received a 92% customer satisfaction score.
AirPods Are Core to Apple’s Voice Strategy
So what? You may be thinking that bluetooth headphones have little to do with the voice assistant battles being played out most notably through Amazon Echo and Google Home sales. That is wrong. This is a multi-front battle in the home, on the phone, on the person and soon in the car. We saw from a recent Apple patent filing that the company anticipates users accessing voice and AI through a portfolio of devices. In a January Voicebot interview, David Beisel of NextView Ventures put Apple’s strategy this way:
Their approach is ubiquitous access to voice input.
Apple Watch and AirPods are about easy access on your person to voice input. The iPhone is easy access to voice input near your person. The rumored Apple smart speaker will provide easy voice access in your immediate environment. It will also extend the personal voice assistant experience to a shared experience. Apple is covering all of the bases.
The First to a Complete Voice-First Portfolio?
Despite inventing the modern concept of a voice assistant with its 2011 Siri launch, Apple is almost universally viewed as behind Amazon, Google and Microsoft. That is due in part to Siri’s more limited functionality that Alexa, Assistant and Cortana. The company is also suffering from the optics of not having a smart speaker. That gap is likely to be filled next week.
However, if we look at the voice-first portfolio concept, it is immediately clear that Amazon, Google and Microsoft have their own gaps. Alexa and Cortana are racing to be included on smartphones and access deep integration into the devices. Google has smartphones, watches and a smart speaker, but doesn’t have a bluetooth headset for seamlessly accessing Google Assistant. Amazon, Google and Microsoft have a lead in terms of adoption until you consider the billion Siri users today through iPhone. As Siri becomes more capable beyond simple task execution, you may have an instant hit with a tremendously large user base and a complete set of complementary products.
Where is Apple Coming Up Short?
Being late to market for a smart speaker may not be a big issue for Apple. It’s brand along with Beats are formidable in consumer perception for audio quality and style. The product will sell well even at an expected premium price over Amazon Echo, Google Home and the Cortana-enabled Invoke. However, Apple’s reluctance to open up Siri to third party developers will continue to be an issue. Alexa has more than 12,000 unique skills that add to its utility and Google and Microsoft are working feverishly to close that gap.
You should expect announcements at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week about increased developer access to Siri. The iPhone’s enduring success was ultimately built on apps as much as device engineering. Siri needs a robust voice app ecosystem because Apple is good at creating a great computing environment but cannot fill every consumer need alone.