Customers have traditionally had an almost romantic attachment to Apple and its products. They stand on line overnight so they can be the first to buy the newest iPhone. They video themselves reverently "unboxing" their new purchases. They willingly pay more for iPhones, iPads and Macs than they would for comparable Android phones and tablets or Windows computers. They are firm in their belief that Apple products are simply better than anything else out there.

But every beautiful romance must come to an end sometime, and that time may have come for Apple and U.S. consumers. A new survey of 1,520 Americans by The Verge measured how we feel about technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. One thing is clear: Our feelings for Apple aren't what they used to be. 

Sixty-four percent of Americans own an Apple product, and the average household contains more than two of them, according to a separate CNBC poll. With that many Apple products in U.S. households, you'd think the brand would be widely loved and trusted, and that Americans would care deeply about its future. Not so.

When asked how much they enjoyed using a company's product, respondents said they "somewhat liked" or "greatly liked" using Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft products more than liked using Apple ones. When asked how likely they were to recommend a company's products to others, only 80 percent said they would recommend Apple products, compared to more than 90 percent each for Google and Amazon. On the other hand, 15 percent said they were "not at all likely" to recommend Apple products to others, with only Facebook scoring worse. 

On the question of how much respondents trusted each of the companies, Apple came in behind both Amazon and Google. Perhaps most tellingly, when respondents were asked how much they would care if a company and its products disappeared, Apple came in dead last. Less than 40 percent of respondents said they would care "very much" if Apple vanished, and 20 percent said they would care "not at all."

What's changed? The last year or so of product releases, have had less oomph than those of previous years, for one thing. As my colleague Erik Sherman reported, Apple abruptly stopped sharing first-weekend iPhone sales figures with its most recent release, and some outside analysts think this may be because sales are dropping. It's worth noting that the new iPhone features were all available already in existing Android phones.

Apple's one true iPhone innovation--removing the headphone jack--met with widespread derision. Worse, it raised accusations that Apple had broken faith with its customers, forcing them to buy unwanted accessories. And in a survey 7,000 Android users, 70 percent said the absence of a headphone jack was a primary reason they would not consider a switch to iOS. Similarly, the new MacBook Pro met with criticism from many Apple users who were especially unhappy that the laptop only sports USB-C slots. That means, among other things, that you can't plug in an iPhone without a special adaptor--another unwanted accessory Apple customers will be forced to buy.

Where will this all lead for Apple? The company is still a tech giant, of course. On the other hand, it built its empire on creating products that ignited users' passion. If that passion is waning, Apple's future may be less glorious than its past.

Published on: Oct 28, 2017
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