This is really interesting, and I think really important for early 21st-century mass-market brands.
The JD Powers Initial Quality Survey is widely watched in the automotive industry for trends in how many people who actually bought cars had problems with them in the first 90 days after the purchase. This is believed to be a very high factor in brand loyalty.
Most years, industry analysis of the survey looks for things like US brands versus imports, and specific engineering issues.
Last year, Porsche topped the list, and in 30 years, only one non-premium brand had been at the top: Toyota. Once.
And this year, Kia came in number one. Really surprising.
But as analysts started to dig deeper into the responses what they found was that it was The nontransportation features that were dragging the premium brands down. The entertainment system, GPS system, voice control, Geo presence, etc.
And the customer complaints dealt with features that were difficult to use, nonintuitive and lacking discoverability, or didn’t meet expectations set by the marketing. Most of them were not actual defects, although there were some reliability issues.
Kia hit the top of the list by not offering most of those features, and by making the ones that they did offer intuitive and reliable.
As a whole, nonpremium brands topped premium brands for the first time in a decade, Stephens said. Overall, nonpremium gains were driven by a “simplification” in technology features, she said.
The Simplicity Factor in IOT
In IOT, we see this most clearly with the success of the Phillips hue bridge. It doesn’t do that much. But what it does it does very reliably and largely intuitively. When combined with echo, another device that puts simplicity first, it gives customers features that they don’t have without it, but in a nearly maintenance free design.
( All of this put together is why I’ve often said I personally would be happy if the Smart TV-based version of SmartThings had fewer features than the hub, as long as the features that it did have were useful and the system as a whole was reliable and easy to use. I know other people will expect much more, I’m just saying I myself don’t really need all that much in order to be really happy with home automation. )
IOS 10 and HomeKit: the Simplicity Factor Again?
I’ve been digging into the details of the new HomeKit announcement for iOS 10, and I’m fascinated by the fact that the four new device categories are cameras, video doorbells, humidifiers, and air purifiers. Yet they still don’t have a battery-operated contact sensor or motion sensor that can trigger other events.
While it’s true that a video doorbell or a security camera is a much more complicated device than a simple contact sensor, The use cases for the first two actually tend to be much simpler. And the conditionals for them are typically built into the device itself.
So if we look at the four new HomeKit device categories, we can see some commonalities. They are expensive devices with reasonable profit margins, so the manufacturers can afford to do some customer support. They have straightforward use cases. (No one has to ask for ideas about what to do with a humidifier.) They are either mains-powered or have lots of battery power – – these are not low energy devices. They often benefit from Geopresence. If they would benefit from sensors, the more expensive models typically have their own sensors built in, whether it’s a motion sensor for a camera or a humidity sensor for a humidifier.
It looks like HomeKit with IOS 10 is looking to nail a few simple use case categories:
Voice control and voice status (which so far echo does not have as a native feature) of lights, locks, HVAC equipment, window coverings, and somewhat for security cameras.
simple reliable time-based schedules for lights, HVAC equipment, and window coverings, with an easy way to temporarily pause any schedule.
simple reliable Geopresence controls for multiple locations (so HomeKit knows when you leave the office as well as when you get home) for lights, locks, HVAC equipment, and window coverings.
And that’s pretty much it. It’s going to be a limited set of use cases. No modes. No stacked conditionals. And when you think about it, not really any new device classes. You will have a smarter light switch, a smarter thermostat, a smarter humidifier. But if you didn’t have motion sensors in your home before you brought HomeKit, there’s no real reason for you to buy them when you do get HomeKit.
HomeKit is going to have many fewer features, and many fewer device classes, then SmartThings or classic Insteon or Lowe’s Iris. It remains to be seen whether Apple can nail reliability and discoverability, but with IOS 10 it definitely looks like that’s what they’re aiming for.
Getting this approach right was much of the reason for the Phillips hue success. You just bought lightbulbs. Plus one controller piece. They were much smarter lightbulbs, but they were still just lightbulbs.
And clearly this fits into the Kia example. It’s the simplicity factor. The system that doesn’t do as much doesn’t have as many points of vulnerability and is perceived as higher quality by the person who actually spent the money on it, Which builds brand loyalty.
When Less is More?
A lot of people criticize apple and say that they often just copy features that other companies pioneered. That’s not always true, but it is true for a lot of features. However, the important thing to note is that when Apple picks up a feature that’s already been out in the market for a year or two, they often strip it down to the options that they can deliver with very high discoverability and reliability. The simplicity factor is part of the “just works” calculation.
anyway, I was way wrong as far as what home automation options would be available in the summer of 2016. Seriously wrong. I thought HomeKit was going to come out with something that had features equivalent to classic Insteon, that would be plug-and-play, and that that would drive other companies to come out with similar home automation offerings in the under $5000 price range. It didn’t happen.
And with the details of iOS 10, it seems very clear that it’s not going to happen. HomeKit will offer many many fewer features than classic Insteon. But what they’re going to offer will be simple, practical, intuitive, and presumably they’re aiming for reliable.
We’ll have to see what actually gets delivered by the end of the year, but if HomeKit ends up being a success just by offering a somewhat smarter home, rather then a truly smart home, it’s going to have a really interesting impact on the industry.