The Last Jedi and the iPhone X have the Same Problem

Post by
Scott Francis

I sense a disturbance in the Force...

I pre-ordered an Apple iPhone X.? I also prepaid for tickets to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi with my family.? Full disclosure: I'm a fan of the iPhone and Star Wars.? Further: I'm a fan of both the iPhone X (I still say "X" even though I know it is "Ten"), and the Last Jedi.

But they both have the same problem:

How do you make something new, if you don't break with the past?? How can you break with the past without abandoning what makes something great?

Breaking with the past comes with a price: the iPhone X was subject to many criticisms:

  • The "Notch"
  • No home button!
  • No Touch ID!
  • Face ID will never work! Twins!
  • the Price!
  • the Notch!
  • the swipe gestures on the lock screen are all wrong!

The iPhone X discarded many things we are familiar with as users, all in one shot.? But let's turn to Star Wars for a moment.

The Last Jedi was released as the 8th installment of 9 in the Star Wars saga.? The Force Awakens was largely criticized only for repeating too many of the old story lines: super weapons, an empire, a rebellion.? It honored what came before - but perhaps too much, the argument goes.? And it left some tantalizing dangling story lines.? Who is Rey? Will Luke re-engage with the fight? etc.

But with the Last Jedi, the critique is different:

  • How could Luke be a bitter and disillusioned old man?
  • How can Rey learn so quickly?
  • Who is Rey?
  • How could Snoke die so early and meaninglessly?

Clearly, The Last Jedi dispenses with taking our obsessions with Star Wars canon seriously.? Luke casually flipping his lightsaber aside is a good indicator of what the movie thinks of tradition.

And yet.? Who didn't get a thrill when the Millennium Falcon flies to the rescue at the end?? Who didn't feel a thrill seeing Luke face down his apprentice, Kylo Ren.

And this is where I think they borrow from the same playbook:

1. Engage your historic base of support

First, both of these dynastic brands engaged their loyal base of support.

First up, Star Wars: the Last Jedi:

  1. Luke is back!
  2. Training sequences
  3. The casino - an homage to the Mos Eisley scenes in the original
  4. The Millennium Falcon and Chewie's famous roar
  5. Glorious scenes, heavy with shadow and light

Basically, there's enough meat on the bone for Star Wars traditionalists to emotionally bond with. In particular scenes with Luke, Leia, and Chewie.? But also in the set piece scenes that hearken to previous films.

Now, for the iPhone:

  1. the iPhone X retains many expected features (lock screen, home screen, apps all work, etc. )
  2. Apple released two more phones that look just like last year's phones - the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.? If you really dislike the iPhone X design language, you can buy the old design.? If you really don't like Face ID - you can get Touch ID still.
  3. Your old phone still works great (at least, it does with an occasional battery replacement! )
  4. Did I mention the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus?

Apple did what they had to do for loyalists who might not take the plunge with Jony Ive's team - they offered them something like last year's model, but better - with all the internal magic and gimmicks of the iPhone X - but none of the external design changes.

2. Visually, symbolically, break with the past

The Last Jedi wastes no time.? In the very first scene, Luke nonchalantly tosses a light saber over his shoulder.? If that doesn't signal a different tone- and a different Luke - what will?? We have a reverence for these characters and their symbols - we expect Luke to value that symbol of the Jedi the way Rey does when she finds it - or the way other characters did in the first movie.? But he doesn't.? He's dismissive.

For Apple, no Home Button.? A big, visual change. Discarding something that has been an identifying feature of *every* iPhone since the first.? Perhaps the most sacred visual indicator of a product being Apple's iPhone...

The Home Button change almost forces "the Notch" because of symmetry issues.? That notch isn't pretty, per se. But Apple owns it.? It is obvious and in your face. And they didn't try to obscure it.? In fact, it is now the new brand indicator.? You know it is an Apple iPhone X from the Notch.

3. Shed the baggage

Baggage like the home button.? Like the audio jack.

Baggage like the idea that the Jedi are the good guys who have it all figured out - wiser than the rest of us.

4. Chart a new course - where new things are possible

Well this is the fun part.? Now that Apple has cast off the home button, and embraced the Notch - not to mention the unsightly camera lens bump on the back - what is next?? Are there new places their tech will take them now that there are fewer physical constraints on the device? Or will the new design language become a new prison for design innovation? At the very least, it may be possible for Apple to surprise us again, or to push into further innovative and differentiated designs.

Now that the Last Jedi has scattered our expectations - the next film, Episode IX - has room to breathe - it has room to surprise us again.? What a great gift to give back to Star Wars fans.

We all have this problem...

It turns out that we all have this problem.

When we want to release a new version of a product, how much do we focus on bringing it forward versus bringing in something new? How do we shed the now-unneeded weight of little-used features, or how do we evolve our most-used features into something better?

When we want to offer a new service, how do you offer the new while honoring and building on the past? How do you address the new service from an authentic place, deeper than just skin deep?

When you pivot your business, how do you preserve your existing business while building a new business? How do you make room for new ideas, habits, and culture?

It's hard to believe, but the iPhone X and Star Wars have given us a few ideas.

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