“The iPhone shown in the first half of the commercial wasn’t being used as an escape device to kill boredom — it’s advertised as a creation device used to create memories, edit videos, and share a touching moment with family members that you don’t see much often anymore. From the iPhone’s camera point of view, now mirrored via AirPlay onto the big screen for others to see, everything makes more sense: seeing relatives and watching them talk, play, and share personal moments. The iPhone was used to record life rather than escape from it. The home video ends, notably, with a selfie; people are happy, the kid is happy. Cut to family house seen from outside. Happy holidays from Apple.”

And then at the end of his article, Federico writes:

“As Christmas approaches, Apple is once again advertising the iPhone as an experience more than a gadget. It’s not about the camera sensor, the faster processor, the apps, or wireless streaming taken individually — it’s about how all these elements, together, make technology (in this case, Apple’s technology) fit into our lives, empowering us.”

Although I saw more and more articles and tweets talking about Apple’s latest ad Misunderstood while scrolling through my Twitter timeline a few hours ago, I did not even plan to watch it. It was just another ad, after all, and certainly not something special. Having come to the end of my RSS feeds and with nothing to show for my efforts though, I opened Federico Viticci’s article from which the two quotes above came from.

His first paragraph, I felt, described every important detail that made this commercial great: a distant and preoccupied teen that we could all get behind and collectively boo turns into the tale’s hero by its end, leaving us with a warm and fuzzy feeling as we watched the fruits of his labors in a cute family Christmas video. Aww. It was the second of the two, however, that interested me the most as I finished Federico’s article wishing he had expounded upon that final point.

In his penultimate paragraph Federico succinctly distilled the message Apple both now and has always wished to impart upon consumers: that its products do not come down to a feature checklist, but something much less tangible and infinitely more valuable. Pursuant of this goal Apple’s ads, if they even deserve such a loaded, stigmatized designation, have become famous for highlighting real life interactions and special moments made possible thanks to their fantastical devices. Take the Life on iPad video from October, for instance, which starts with two engineers atop a wind turbine and ends by showing a climber resting hundreds of feet above the ground hanging from a cliff face. Apple refuses to beat anyone over the head with specs, fantasized use cases, or subtly sexual advertising; their ads are classy in the truest sense of the word, like the secret Santa who despite his best efforts gets found out only to modestly accept the heartfelt gratitude of his friends. Like the bystander who might mistake this aversion to praise for aloofness, perhaps this refinement is the reason so many misunderstand Apple.