Amazon optimization is more than just listing optimization.
Listing and sales optimization on Amazon isn’t always intuitive, especially if you come from a Google SEO background.
While both Amazon and Google are primarily powered through search, what they value for organic ranking is strikingly different.
Amazon’s organic search algorithm is made up of several factors that, like Google, can take some time to understand. Amazon tells us what it values in search:
“Customers should able to find your products before they can buy them, and searching is the primary way they can do that.
Customers search by entering keywords and Amazon matches this against the information (title, description, delivery speed, and so on) that you provide for a product.
Factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results.
By providing relevant and complete information for your product, you can increase your product’s visibility and sales.”
Overall, on Amazon, sales beget sales.
Amazon will prioritize listings that it feels has the best chance of converting to a purchase.
While that sounds simple, there are a broad array of factors that influence how the algorithm ranks your product.
Optimizing a listing on Amazon is more than just making it “look pretty.”
Here are some of the considerations you should have as you craft your listings for Amazon.
- Targeted, buyer-oriented keywords.
- Maximizing the number of highly relevant keywords you are indexed for.
- Ensuring your listing is “retail-ready” by focusing on elements that ensure conversion.
- Jumpstarting sales and conversions for your listing.
1. Targeted, Buyer-Oriented Keywords
When my team and I are reviewing listings for clients, we generally see one of a few common mistakes when it comes to the keywords they use as the foundation for their listing.
Not Being Diligent in Their Keyword Research
Many listings stop with a list of 5-10 keywords they are targeting. This generally is based around the title for product, brand, color, flavor, size, and use types.
When we do keyword research to rewrite listings for clients, we take a much more intense look sometimes harvesting thousands of words.
We then prioritize it based on:
- The product.
- Keyword frequency.
- Estimated monthly search volume.
- Our target customer profile.
We start our keyword research by looking at the product packaging, company website, customer reviews, customer questions, and by asking this question:
If I didn’t know the name or brand of this product, how would I find it?
Then we expand our search by looking for alternative uses, looking at competitive listings, and potential alternative uses.
We then take each of those words and run them individually through a tool called Merchant Words.
Merchant Words helps us to identify additional words we missed and identify an estimated number of monthly search volume.
We use that data and the frequency of keywords appear to prioritize which words will be used in the listings.
Not Understanding the Role of Keywords
Since customers primarily find products through search on Amazon, keywords are how you target your buyers.
This means not just focusing on what words you would use to describe your product, but what words your ideal customer would use to describe your product.
For example, if you had a 6-line PBX office phone and generally, you find that that type of phone is purchased by smaller companies, where it could be the office manager or the CEO ordering the phone. In this case, you might not focus on PBX as a keyword.
However, for your 12-line office phone, that is ordered by larger companies, and generally by a chief technology officer, you would focus on PBX and other technical specifications focused keywords more than [office phone system].
2. Maximizing the Number of Highly Relevant Keywords You Are Indexed For
I recently wrote an article specifically about making sure your listing is indexed for the words that you feel are highly relevant to your listing.
Being indexed for a word means that on Amazon your product will come up in the SERP for that search term at any point in the ranking.
There are several places you can put words to become indexed for a listing on Amazon.
Additionally, sometimes customer traffic patterns can also allow you to become indexed for a listing.
However, primarily there are a few areas you want to focus on for keywords:
- Back end keywords
- Structured or other data
Unlike Google technical SEO, you don’t have to worry about backlinks, schema markup, or duplicate content. However, there are specific recommendations for each segment of the listing.
Amazon has been making a concerted effort to clean up and standardize the ways that titles appear on Amazon.
It has specific style guidelines for titles. Keeping your titles optimized for buyer conversion can significantly improve your keyword ranking, as opposed to keyword stuffing your titles.
The title is where you put your most relevant keywords. This generally includes the brand name, product name, size, flavor, and words describing the product use.
Titles should be brief but descriptive, and avoid keyword stuffing.
Your title and images are all that is visible “above the fold” for most smartphone users.
This makes having a highly relevant title that makes it clear what the product is and that helps customers identify that your product is a relevant search result for their query.
You want to include brief but benefit laden bullets for your products. I recommend around 100-250 characters per bullet.
This is where you can put a larger quantity of keywords. However, you again want to focus on making the bullets appeal to your target buyer.
The bullets should answer the most common questions a customer would look for if they were able to touch and feel the product. This includes size, flavor, uses, compatibility, material, and what problem does that product solve.
You can enter up to 250 bytes in the backend keywords. You do not need to repeat any words in the title, bullets, or other structured data.
The backend keywords can be a great place to put alternate uses that you may not want to be publicized on your main page or simply words that didn’t make sense within the other areas of data.
Structured Data (Other Data)
One common mistake I find when auditing a listing is all data that ends up being customer-facing (title, bullets, description) end up being completed by whoever created the listing.
Amazon provides a lot of category-specific opportunities to select genre, fabric type, age ranges, etc.
This allows you to identify that your Star Wars Apron is Cotton, Unisex, etc. even if those particular keywords don’t fit well in the bullets or title of your listing.
You want to complete as many of these fields as are relevant to your product as they can provide additional words you are indexed for organically.
It used to be the only way to access these item-specific data points was through uploading your listings via flat file. However, recently Amazon has added these additional fields in the interface under “more details”.
An important side note, because the fields available in the “more details” section of the listing is dependent on the subcategory for the product and because of many other reasons.
Live relevancy for Amazon advertising, it is vitally important that your product is in the appropriate subcategory.
3. Ensuring Your Listing Is ‘Retail-Ready’ by Focusing on Elements That Ensure Conversion
Up to this point, I have been talking about techniques to get your listing to show up in relevant searches. However, none of that matters if your listings are missing elements that aid in the conversion of those products.
If you are unsure if your product is not selling because it isn’t getting enough traffic or it isn’t converting the traffic that it is getting, you can look at the Detailed Sales and Traffic Report to see your:
- Order session percentage.
- Buy box percentage.
Here are some of the primary areas I focus on for conversion:
Multiple High-Quality Images
You want to use as many images as you have available to you.
In addition to including an image your product, use infographic images that mirror:
- The benefits you highlighted in the bullets.
- Any product transformations (i.e., showing an expandable duffel bag both expanded and folded down).
- Images showing scale and size.
- Lifestyle photos of your product in use.
Fulfillment Method/Prime Eligibility
Underestimating the power of having your product be eligible for a Prime offer can be another common mistake.
I have seen increases of over 400% in sales velocity when we move products from Merchant Fulfilled to a Prime eligible offer.
There are currently three ways you can make your products Prime-eligible:
- Selling your product through Amazon Vendor Central.
- Utilizing Amazon’s fulfillment by Amazon through Seller Central.
- Utilizing Seller-fulfilled Prime through Seller Central.
Every once and a while, we have a client that for one reason or another doesn’t feel comfortable using Amazon FBA or SFP.
You might want to look at utilizing a 3P seller in this situation or be aware that your product velocity may not have the same growth curve as products that are made available with a Prime offer.
There are two different ways you need to be watching your pricing on Amazon.
The first is pricing on the same Product Detail Page. This would be making sure you are Buy Box eligible against other sellers on the same listing.
Most customers simply click the “Add to Cart” button when they are ready to purchase, because of this most of the purchases on a product detail page will happen with the merchant that currently has the Buy Box.
You can see your Buy Box percentage for a product detail page on the Detail Sales and Traffic Report mentioned earlier in this article.
You also need to be watching your price against similar products.
One of the ways we start to identify if a competing product is taking market share because of a better offer is to look at that same Detailed Sales and Traffic Report.
If your pageviews and sessions are close to the same number, that tells us that when people leave your listing they are not coming back and we need to look at the price or listing quality to increase conversion.
Enhanced Brand Content & Video
If you have a live trademark, you can participate in the Brand Registry program.
This gives you the ability to add videos and Enhanced Brand Content (A+ Content is used to describe an almost identical feature on Vendor Central).
Enhanced Brand Content can increase conversions of about 7-11%. Video can have an even more dramatic lift on appropriate products.
Adding videos to your listing is another of the many benefits to being part of the Brand Registry program. You can easily add video to your listing.
Video is also available on to Vendor Central clients as well.
If you have been selling on Amazon for a long time, you have been probably waiting for me to talk about reviews. Reviews used to be the way people would bolster their search rankings.
As with all things SEO, marketers exploit the loophole, and it gets closed.
Most of the review focused methods of bolstering your search ranking are not as effective as they used to be.
Amazon has reduced its value for search and has been actively banning sellers who have not come into alignment with the community standards for reviews.
However, reviews are still very important.
Jeff Cohen, CMO for SellerLabs, the company behind software Feedback Genius that helps sellers garner more reviews from their organic buyers, says,
“Reviews are the final pieces that tie the flywheel together. The let the search engine know that a search term was entered, a product detail page was viewed, a purchase was made, and the customer liked/disliked the product. Customer feedback and is a critical component to the voice of the customer and ensure that Amazon is showing products that people want to purchase when looking for a particular term.”
4. Jumpstarting Sales & Conversions for Your Listing
On Amazon, sales beget sales.
So once your listing is optimized, part of organic rank relies on you getting some initial sales to signal to Amazon that your listing will be a good fit for the keywords you are targeting.
Here are a few ways you can use to help jumpstart those initial sales:
One of the first things I do when taking on a new client is to look for duplicate listings and any appropriate listings to move into a parent-child variation (sometimes called a “twister”).
Making these adjustments allows us to focus the traffic on a smaller number of listings, which naturally decreases the rank of the product.
One note of caution, make sure you are only merging exact duplicates and only moving listings into parent-child relationships if they approved variation types for that category.
Amazon has been suspending vendors and sellers who have been using the parent-child relationships of products to manipulate sales rank.
Clippable Coupons & Promotions
Since Amazon has made purchasing products about as low friction as possible, there are only so many things you can do to lower the friction to encourage buyers. One of those is to offer a discount.
I recommend that you use a coupon or a promotion code instead of simply lowering your price if you are offering a significant discount, as it can cause you to end up with a Suppressed Buy Box which can hurt sales long term.
Black Hat Tactics
There is always a lot of chatter about what is working on Amazon.
However, I have an important recommendation for those looking to have a long-term relationship selling on Amazon.
That is to make sure you are staying with approved white hat tactics for optimization.
Part of Amazon’s culture is being customer-obsessed.
If you are manipulating the system or causing a negative customer experience, Amazon could suspend or ban you from the site completely.
There are black hat tactics that still work on Amazon. However, as the search on Amazon gets more sophisticated, those tactics predictably lose their efficacy.
Chris McCabe of EcommerceChris.com a company that focuses on reinstatement for suspended sellers says this about black hat tactics.
“Sellers must be aware of the increasing signs that Amazon’s feeling the pressure to investigate the groups behinds fake reviews and sales rank manipulation. Once they devote more resources to this issue, many fewer sellers and services will be able to rely upon past bad practices. Beyond that, when Amazon eventually sues a service (as they have before) part of that process may involve the black hat’s disclosure of a client list. That means you could be named, or outed, or included in whatever actions that come next.“
Like Google, Amazon SEO is not a “set it and forget it”. Amazon is constantly changing their guidelines and the search algorithm that powers the site itself.
Continue to test new copy, images, and optimization techniques to find what works best for your products.
However, the items outlined in this article will give you a good start for how to begin to capture more sales on Amazon.
HOW MICROSOFT BUILT ITS FOLDING ANDROID PHONE
Microsoft is returning to making phones this week, as part of an ambitious project to usher in a new era of dual-screen and folding devices. The company has spent around six years developing Surface Duo, its Android-powered device that folds out to be a phone or a miniature tablet. It’s taken Microsoft years to get the hardware and software right, but the company firmly believes now is the ideal time for something new. When it goes on sale tomorrow, we’ll see if the company got it right.
This is the story of how Microsoft’s new folding Android phone came to be.
POCKETABLE AND MINI SURFACES
Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, is known for his onstage energy and for constantly feeling pumped, but when it came time to build his dream Moleskine-like device, he spent months walking around in secret with a peculiar piece of hardware in his pocket. “We literally had two pieces of metal and a hinge that we put together,” explains Panay in an interview with The Verge. “We had this piece of metal that I carried around in my pocket for months.”
It was the early and primitive form for what eventually became the Surface Duo, and Panay spent months analyzing things like “fidget factor” and measuring how often he opened and closed the device. “Does it fit in your pocket? Can you sit on it? How big would the screen have to be if it wasn’t a traditional slab you were holding every day?” were some of the many questions he and his team were looking to answer.
Panay has been thinking about a pocketable or a small Surface device for years, even describing the idea as his “baby” at one point, but it was a painful journey to get to the Surface Duo. Work began on the Duo just after Microsoft had canceled the Surface Mini, an eight-inch tablet running Windows. Microsoft had been planning to launch this smaller Surface, but it ultimately wasn’t the right time back in 2014.
“It was emotional to stop,” says Panay. “Products are a reflection of the people that make them, that’s how we talk as a team. These products become who you are at work, and we spend a lot of time at work.”
If there’s anything that Microsoft has learned from trying to harmonize Surface hardware and software, it’s that timing is everything. “One of things that we’ve really developed a strong muscle for is the ability to know timing for when a product is right,” explains Steven Bathiche, who oversees all hardware innovation for Microsoft devices like Surface, Xbox, and HoloLens. “Timing is a thing I’ve learned is the most important thing, it’s more important than the idea itself in fact. All the ingredients really have to be right. This is probably why in the past you haven’t seen some of these ideas really make it through.”
That’s why the Surface Mini never launched. “Mini just wasn’t right because it didn’t have the apps for the form factor,” explains Panay. “There were a lot of challenges for Mini. I still have my Mini, it’s running Windows RT, but it didn’t have everything it needed for that form.” Surface Mini would have run Windows, which meant apps would have needed to be updated for the form factor, and the size and OS choice meant you’d still have to carry around a mobile phone.
While the Surface Mini cancellation was painful, it was an important part of the history of the Surface Duo and influenced what hardware choices were made. Microsoft moved on to a device codenamed “Andromeda” before shifting to the Surface Duo. While the Surface team is reluctant to talk about Andromeda in detail, sources tell The Verge it was a similar dual-screen device that was thicker and bulkier than the Surface Duo. Microsoft had planned to run a custom variant of Windows on Andromeda, and the camera hardware was also different to what exists in the Duo.
“At that time, it was different hardware, it’s not the same hardware… it’s not even remotely close,” says Panay. The key principles of Surface Duo existed in Andromeda, though: two screens side by side, with a hinge that allowed the device to fold out into place. “We’re in so many generations later of development [with Surface Duo], we understand how thin it is, we understand reliability, we understand the robustness of the screens. It has been generationally made, it’s years in the making.”
Surface Mini and Andromeda helped Microsoft experiment with the idea of a pocketable Surface device, and the learnings have helped. The idea of a foldable display, like what’s found on Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, was quickly discarded in favor of the reliability of two flat screens. “It wasn’t difficult for us to realize that taking a screen and folding it wasn’t the right option for this product,” explains Bathiche. “We wanted glass. We wanted glass that wouldn’t scratch because we also wanted to give you a pen. We also wanted a 360-degree hinge, and we wanted to be able to do that without compromising the thickness of the device.”
Microsoft decided early on that there wouldn’t be a cover display, meaning you have to make an intentional choice to unfold the Duo to see the displays and even notifications. These fundamental choices allowed Microsoft to focus on important hardware aspects like keeping the device thin, creating a reliable hinge, and the idea of bringing the dual-screen computing you’re used to on your Windows desktop PC into your pocket.
“One of the things that we learned on Surface Mini that was actually really valuable for us is when you’re designing these super thin structures you want to come up with a mechanical architecture,” says Pavan Davuluri, a distinguished Microsoft Surface engineer. “You’re coalescing and condensing a lot of the mechanical components — structural, thermal, and RF pieces — into a single internal frame.”
This internal frame has allowed Microsoft to spread the Surface Duo components across both sides, while keeping the device just 4.8mm thin. “Most phones are buckets essentially, it’s a bucket that you fill with parts and put glass on the backside,” explains Davuluri. “That’s not how Surface Duo was built. Duo was built with an internal frame that really is the development scheme for integrating all these dual-system components.”
Microsoft experimented with a few different internal architectures. One didn’t even have dual screens, and another was just a phone powering a second screen on the opposite side. “We had another variant where we were using wireless connectivity vs. wired,” says Davuluri, so the second display wasn’t physically connected.
These prototypes would have meant the Duo would end up being thicker or one side would be heavier. “It was definitely easier to make one side thick and put everything on one side, and then make the other side super thin,” admits Bathiche. “We chose the hard way from an engineering standpoint, but we’re really proud of the result of the design… the device is symmetrical, which evokes its function as well.”
These hardware choices weren’t always easy, though. LCD displays would have made a lot of sense over OLED, but they would have added to the thickness of the device. There were intense debates inside Microsoft around the hardware that went into Surface Duo. “The whole LCD or OLED debate was a real one,” explains Bathiche. “I was really worried about it, because I knew some of the challenges we’d have to overcome that OLED didn’t really solve.”
Microsoft created a prototype Surface Duo with OLED displays, and the first hardware sample shocked Surface engineers. “When we got our first prototypes back… we opened it up and looked at it for the first time and realized ‘Holy cow, there’s a color shift that we didn’t essentially account for that happens when you look at OLED offscreen,’” recounts Bathiche. “Displays are like snowflakes, there’s no two alike.”
OLED color shifts aren’t easily noticeable on a single display, but when you put them side by side, it’s a different story. Microsoft had to work with display manufactures to widen the color viewing angles, and configure them to have the same contrast, color uniformity, and timing.
There were also intense debates over the thinness of the Surface Duo. “People wanted to violate thinness every which way, across the board you can pick any of the tech that went into it,” explains Pete Kyriacou, a senior director of Microsoft’s Surface team. These debates and internal tension ultimately led to Microsoft creating an incredibly thin device.
“This is the most emotional product we’ve ever created,” says Panay. “A lot of that comes from tension. To get that diamond out, there had to be a lot of it. Microns mattered, not millimeters, microns. I remember being in meetings and being like ‘Come on, Pete, we’re talking less than a millimeter tradeoff that’s all we need to solve this product.” Kyriacou didn’t move on the thin focus, and the team had to find other ways to solve problems. “Maybe that’s why it took years to get to this product,” admits Panay. “There were moments like those because we pushed so many boundaries.”
Some of these hardware choices for dual screens and the device thinness have also led to the Duo missing things like 5G connectivity or NFC support. The camera isn’t what you’d expect to find on a flagship Android device in 2020, largely because of how thin the Surface Duo is. “We had to stay maniacally focused on the weight, the symmetry, and the battery life of the system,” reveals Davuluri. “That, in turn, drove the choice of what kind of sensor we picked, and what kind of optics system had to live in that footprint, and how we had to optimize the camera software experience.”
The camera module inside the Surface Duo is one of the smallest on the market to make sure it fits inside the 4.8mm thickness. Microsoft has optimized for both front and rear photography, but it’s obvious the camera will have some serious limitations.
Microsoft also experimented with other enclosure materials during its early Surface Duo mockup phase. Some prototypes included fabric or metal, similar to what we’ve seen on Surface keyboards. “We liked that fabric enclosure material because it gave us some properties in Surface Mini like our speakers were built out of fabric on that product at the time,” says Davuluri. “There were things we really liked about fabric… but it didn’t meet all of our requirements for our current generation and future generation products.”
Beyond the hardware experimentation, the software and OS powering the Surface Duo were also incredibly important. Microsoft had been experimenting with a custom variant of Windows for its Andromeda device, but the company switched directions and moved to Android. It wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“Bringing Android into the fold, that wasn’t the most simple of conversations all of the time,” admits Panay. “You have to explain that and you want your team on board and people believing it.” Apps were a limiting factor for a Windows- or Windows Phone-powered device, and Panay has previously admitted it’s the key reason the Surface Duo runs Android. Apps and even the Android software running on Surface Duo won’t be perfect just yet, as Google hasn’t fully optimized the OS for this type of hardware, but Microsoft is working with Google to improve Android.
“As we got into working with Android, it wasn’t about just doing things specifically for Duo,” explains Kyriacou. Microsoft has created a dual-screen architecture, drag-and-drop APIs, screen-aware APIs, and even hinge APIs that all make apps light up across both screens. “We wanted to make sure we were working with Google to get that back into the ecosystem, so it’s not a forked version of Android. This is about working with them to make sure this all accrues to app developers and Android.”
Microsoft hasn’t heavily modified or skinned Android with the Surface Duo, either. “Our goal from the beginning was to stay as true to Android as possible,” says Kyriacou. “Mainly for familiarity, but also to make sure the changes we would make for windowing or hinge angle / postures would be part of the Android operating system going forward.”
Software updates and OS tweaks are a lot easier to roll out than hardware changes, so expect to see the Duo improve regularly, especially when Android 11 arrives. Microsoft is also promising three years of Android updates for the Surface Duo, so it will benefit from any work Microsoft and Google are doing to improve Android for years to come.
Microsoft has been working on improving gestures and the keyboard experience on Surface Duo in recent months, and more improvements are on the way. “In addition to our normal fixes, we’ll also be updating features that drive a great dual-screen experience,” adds Kyriacou. “We will be on future versions of Android when the time is right.”
Microsoft’s folding and dual-screen ambitions don’t end with just the Surface Duo. The company is still planning to launch a Surface Neo device, powered by Windows 10X. Microsoft unveiled the Surface Neo last year alongside the Duo, complete with two separate nine-inch displays that fold out into a full 13-inch workspace. It was supposed to launch later this year. “Neo is delayed,” says Panay. “I wanted the right time to bring that product with the right experience. We believe in that concept and form factor and size. It will be a beautiful complement to Duo with Windows and I’m excited about it. It’s a product that’s near and dear to my heart.”
Surface Duo and Neo won’t be the only dual-screen devices Microsoft is creating, either. “I believe that different sizes will happen, and I actually believe different companies will make different sizes too, and I think they should,” says Panay. “We want dual-screen architecture to be prevalent, we want every app to work on these screens, and we’re fundamentally committed to that. It includes a roadmap of multiple sizes.”
How Microsoft balances the choice to run Windows or Android on different sizes will be interesting in the years ahead, especially as the company has been pushing Android closer to Windows with its Your Phone app. You can now run your phone’s Android apps beside Windows apps on a desktop PC, and it’s easy to imagine Microsoft may go further with this integration in the future.
“The next natural evolution is different [dual-screen] sizes,” says Panay. “Whether the larger moves into Windows where it’s appropriate to use the Windows codebase and software, and the smaller form factor uses Android, I think you can safely say that’s the right path with what we’re doing right now as a team.”
Panay believes Duo and dual-screen devices are here to stay, and the hardware will clearly evolve in the future. “Two screens matters. I believe when people start using it they’re going to adapt to these products, they’re going to fall in love with them.”
We might have to wait until foldable glass is a little more reliable before we see it on a Surface device, though. “I think it’s an exciting era of research, it’s one of the things we’re really on top of,” explains Bathiche. “We know all the physics problems that need to be addressed to deliver the experience that we really want to go after, but for us, not yet.”
Microsoft truly believes that the Surface Duo, and devices like it, will change the way people use mobile devices. That belief is rooted in the work the company has been doing in Windows for more than 30 years, allowing PC users to window apps, drag and drop content, and support multiple monitors to multitask.
Bringing that to mobile devices won’t be easy, and Microsoft is hoping the third time’s the charm after Windows Mobile and Windows Phone failed to make a dent in the mobile market. Just like Microsoft had to prove Surface tablets made sense in the first place, the company will once again have to demonstrate that there’s even a need for a device like the Surface Duo.
The future of mobile devices could go in a variety of different directions. Not everyone will have a need for a device like the Surface Duo immediately — or maybe ever. But then not everyone needed to check their email on the go or browse the mobile web when the first stylus-driven smartphones appeared. Microsoft is betting that behaviors will change, or as Panay puts it: “it’s a product that I believe is transformative for the future.”
New Apple Leak Reveals iPhone 12 Design Shock
In a shocking new report, Fast Company has revealed that the iPhone 12 Pro will come with lower grade 5G capabilities usually reserved for midrange 5G smartphones, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max will only get premium 5G functionality in a handful of countries. Considering the increased prices already leaked for these models, Apple’s design decision may backfire.
09/05 Update: new iPhone 12 release news has now all but confirmed further delays to the range. Picked up by Reuters, major Apple supplier Broadcom has published its fourth quarter revenue guidance and admitted that its performance will be affected by a later-than-usual ramp up of its smartphone chip components. Apple is by far Broadcom’s biggest customer and iPhones are the only range yet to launch in 2020, which could impact its bottom line significantly. Broadcom had strongly hinted at this possibility back in June, citing potential launch delays from “our large North American mobile phone customer” – which really couldn’t be more clear. This further confirmation only rubber stamps the complex iPhone 12 launch ahead.
09/06 Update: acclaimed Apple insider Jon Prosser has revealed that Apple will hold a press briefing for new products on Tuesday, September 8. Some have speculated that the iPhone 12 lineup could be announced as early as this (though not launched until some time later). Apple also teased an early September event on its YouTube channel last month – though it was hotly disputed whether this was simply an error. Apple’s typical iPhone release schedule is out the window with the company already admitting the new iPhones will be late, though it was unclear whether this refers to their announcement or retail availability. My personal opinion is September 8 will not be iPhone 12 launch day, but all bets are off in this most unprecedented of years.
Breaking this down, Fast Company explains that Apple only intends to offer premium (mmWave) 5G with iPhone 12 Pro Max models sold in Korea, Japan and the US. Everywhere else, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will be sold with the cheaper, slower Sub-6Hz 5G while the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Plus and iPhone 12 Pro will only ship with this standard. As Fast Company notes, “If Sub-6 5G is a Camry, millimeter-wave 5G is a Mercedes S-Class.”
For the entry-level iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Plus, this makes sense. Sub-6GHz 5G is typically about 50% faster than 4G in real world tests, travels a long way and makes up the majority of 5G coverage. It’s a solid speed bump for midrange phones. But mmWave 5G represents the cutting edge. It is short range, ballistically quick (up to 1Gb/1,000Mbit per second) and is primarily rolled out in major cities. If you buy a ‘Pro’ level iPhone, you should expect pro level 5G – every Galaxy S20 model has this option.
So what could’ve prompted this baffling decision? I suspect another poor decision: Apple is downgrading the batteries in all iPhone 12 models. mmWave increases power drain, so it looks set to be just the latest feature culled after equally power hungry 120Hz ProMotion displays were also placed on the chopping block.
But there is one big upside. And that is Fast Company’s source has corroborated earlier leaks that Apple will release a 4G-only iPhone 12 Pro, early next year. Not only will that model now have a smaller cellular speed gap than expected, it will have considerably better battery life on 4G while Apple is understood to be pricing it at up to $200 less than its 5G counterpart.
Throw in the fact that the 4G iPhone 12 Pro will enjoy every other benefit (including the new chassis design, big performance gains and a radical camera upgrade) and it looks like the standout upgrade option. Especially with Apple’s iPhone 12 release date slipping further and further.
What Apple’s Disappointing iOS 14 Feature Delay Means For iPhone Privacy
This week, Apple confirmed a new privacy blow when it delayed a major iOS 14 anti-tracking feature after pushback from Facebook and others. Here’s what that means.
When Apple confirmed this week that a much anticipated iOS 14 privacy feature was to be delayed, I have to say I was disappointed. Make no mistake, I am a big fan of Apple, and the firm’s usually laudable approach to privacy and security on the iPhone.
But the unlikely development has seen commercial interest arguably win over privacy. That’s not what people expect from Apple—although in this case it is in some ways understandable.
Apple’s major privacy push started in September last year, when iOS 13 launched with tough measures to prevent user tracking and data misuse. Companies such as Facebook and Google weren’t happy with the iPhone maker at the time, but Apple pushed on knowing that its own business model won out over those that base their revenue on advertising.
So there was no stopping Apple this year, when it announced that iOS 14 was going to push its privacy crackdown to the limit. As well as further crackdowns and increased transparency, users would now have to opt in to tracking across services—something many people don’t even know is happening in the background as they use their iPhone.
The plan was that in iOS 14, users would be notified via a pop up that they are being tracked, and then would have to actively opt in. The notification would read: “x would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”
Users would choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track.”
Apple’s iOS 14 privacy move impacted Facebook—and others
Of all the complainants to this strict new policy, Facebook’s voice was the loudest. But the move doesn’t just affect Facebook itself, it impacts its advertisers by making it nearly impossible to collect iPhone identifiers for advertisers (IDFA) so users can be targeted with ads.
Facebook had been complaining for months, but fears were growing as the launch of iOS 14—probably this month—drew near. Facebook even said it would no longer collect the IDFA on its own apps on iOS 14 devices.
Perhaps if this iOS feature had only impacted Facebook, Apple still would have pressed ahead. But as those in the advertising industry point out, the tracking change affects multiple app developers, who were having to quickly rethink their entire business models.
It’s an incredible disappointment for user privacy though. People rely on Apple to protect on their data. After all, “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”
If apps are easily able to track you across services in iOS 14, your data isn’t really staying on your iPhone. It’s also a shame for Apple that the news of the iOS 14 anti-tracking feature delay came on the same day it released its new ad. As part of the ad, Apple states: “Some things shouldn’t be shared. iPhone keeps it that way” and “Privacy. That’s iPhone.”
At the same time, privacy regulation such as the EU GDPR states that transparency is key when it comes to things like user tracking. It means an active opt-in should be the norm, not a rarity.
Even so, the good news is, it is possible to turn off tracking on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising and you’ll find the option to Limit Ad Tracking and Reset your Advertising Identifier.
Apple’s famous “walled garden” isn’t infallible
It’s certainly disappointing, but it’s only a delay, not a cancellation. Apple probably tried to launch this iOS 14 privacy feature too quickly, without completely understanding the ramifications. There are still a bunch of exciting privacy features launching in iOS 14; we’ll just have to wait a bit longer for this one.
But it does prove Apple’s famous “walled garden” isn’t infallible. It does to some degree rely on others for revenue, especially through its app store where it takes a cut from in-app purchases.
“This delay implies that although Apple is worth over $2 trillion, it still relies on its counterparts to make its business model work,” says Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET. With so much weight on targeted advertising to fund third party apps, Moore says he’s “not confident privacy will ever win this fight.”
“Weighing up the balance of privacy versus fiscal matters is a tricky deal when investors and shareholders are usually more interested in numbers over ethics.”
It’s certainly a blow to Apple user privacy, but hopefully the feature will launch in an iOS 14 update as early as possible in 2021, when developers have managed to get their heads around it.