We’re just a few days away from many people getting their hands on their very own iPhone X. But there have been a select few whom Apple has given the right to see the device first hand. Traditionally it’s the Apple tech press that gets these first hands-on reviews and first-looks. Tech press icons and outlets like Walt Mossberg, Bloomberg, Forbes, and Daring Fireball. Generally, Apple will “seed” the device to this tech press who will agree to an embargo and publish a review at the embargo time. For the iPhone X, Apple did things a little differently and that didn’t seem to sit well with some.
Apple’s unconventional approach was to allow various YouTuber’s (not always necessarily tech related) and non-tech related sites a first-look at the phone. This resulted in some interesting videos and coverage, which admittedly painted a fairly glowing picture of the device. Apple only allowed most of these outlets less than 24-hours with the phone, which isn’t a whole lot of time. As a result, there was some backlash from the tech press, most notably John Gruber. Gruber made a series of posts on Daring Fireball that seemed fairly bitter about the situation:
Thank god Apple seeded Mike Allen with an iPhone X review unit. Such great insight from his fucking nephew, the emoji expert.
Thank god Apple seeded Fashion with a review unit.
Thank god Apple seeded these insightful critics with a review unit.
Recode’s Dan Frommer also chimed in on Apple’s decision to allow YouTuber’s a first-look before the big tech press:
These videos, published by channels including Booredatwork.com, UrAvgConsumer, Soldier Knows Best, and sneaker/streetwear blog HighSnobiety, are a little braggy, mostly positive (“man, it’s pretty good!”) and don’t feel like gadget reviews at all. For many of us, they won’t replace the utility of more sophisticated reviews, which are supposed to tell us whether the iPhone X is worth our $1,000. They’re not great videos, frankly. ~Recode~
Frommer makes some valid points here but at the same time, you can’t blame Apple for embracing this marketing strategy. YouTube reaches millions of young buyers who care less about proper gadget reviews and more about the opinion of their favorite YouTuber. It’s a brilliant move by Apple.
I also like Apple’s idea of stepping outside of the box and allowing smaller outlets access to what once was only available to bigger outlets. While John Gruber (seems) upset about Apple’s choice here, it wasn’t that long ago that Apple “seeded” him allowing his outlet to expand and grow. It’s no secret that tech outlets want to be the first with the “iPhone X first look” headline and when that’s taken away from them, it’s natural to get miffed.
There have been assertions that perhaps Apple paid for or demanded only positive coverage from these YouTuber’s. Some tech writers have said that Apple’s embargo and review rules are some of the most strict among manufacturers and that these YouTuber’s may not have been under those rules. There has not been any proof of these videos being paid but I guess anything is possible.
But who knows, perhaps more device makers will start to see the value smaller outlets like Techaeris bring to product reviews. While the bigger outlets still draw the most traffic, maybe it’s the smaller outlets whose voices are being trusted.
So while I can see the beef Daring Fireball and Recode have with Apple’s move, I think it could represent a shift to where companies go for product reviews. While I wasn’t impressed with most of the hands-on videos that were posted, it was refreshing to see a different batch of first-looks than normal.
Stay tuned to Techaeris for our full review of the iPhone X in the coming weeks. We were not “seeded” a device and had to purchase our own so we won’t be publishing alongside the rest of the bigger tech sites so be patient.