What would an ISIB 'iPhone' look like?

We do this every year. But it’s always special. In a tradition already lasting 8 years, Apple releases a new iPhone model in the first half of September 2018.

And that coincides perfectly with the start of our new semester at ISIB. For branding students, few annual fixtures are as important as this – the main public event for the world’s first $1 trillion dollar company.

This year, it was the turn of those students who enrolled in 2017 to become Tim Cook, Jonny Ive, et al. Their task – using cardboard, transparent plastic and their imaginations – was to design and present the next iPhone. It all happened in the De Tao Building one day (and half a night) before the California version.

With gasps, whoops and applause, the audience observed iPhones with inbuilt projectors, solar charging, periscopic cameras and bounce-proofing. One group presented their iPhone as the hub for a suite of wearable-tech including a flexible Apple smart-visor.

Part of the purpose of this task was to exercise students’ confident, fluent presentation skills. Each member of the group was expected to make a unique contribution to the launch of their “iPhone” product.

Students observed international press-cuttings, using the new vocabulary items in their own written reports.

That is because another part of the purpose for this task was to expand the students’ vocabularies. Vocabulary is an integral component in achieving optimized second language learning outcomes.

Vocabulary isn’t a simple matter when students are handling difficult-to-translate terms like “mega-pixels” and even some big-number prices. These remind us of the differing numerical conventions in Chinese and English. In Chinese, big numbers are described according to groups of four zeroes (like 1万 – 1,0000), while in English, groups of three zeroes (like One Thousand – 1,000) prevail.

And this year, students made an attempt at establishing a naming strategy for the next few years.

We heard plans for an iPhone 2019, an Apple aPhone, a WePhone, a New iPhone and several sequences of symbols, numbers and Greek letters.

Some of these naming schemes were notably better than the real ones. For example, 2017 intake student Schuyler suggested the most vainglorious new phone name: the iPhone Schuyler!

Actually, his point - that the iPhone is overdue a celebrity tie-in or a strategic cross-branding partnership – may prove very prescient.

The purpose for this task was to enhance the students’ awareness of branding. Apple are the masters of "working an audience". Students know that implicitly, having seen many of these annual Apple televised events. The students’ presentations successfully imitated Apple's use of cliffhangers, Q&A responses and subtle pace changes.

How long can we keep doing this activity? Well, it’s difficult to think of another brand that arouses such immediate interest among everyone - even Apple-haters. And one of the triumphs of Apple has been to make tech just as relevant to girls as boys. But, in future years, it’s possible that we will be following a Huawei or a Xiaomi launch instead.