Where is Apple's Mobile Site?

There’s not a person out there who can deny that we are rapidly progressing into a mobile-dominated internet. In response, sites are being redesigned to include responsive layouts, the respective app stores are exploding with new and innovative products from all corners and our daily analytics are showing more and more visits from mobile devices. It’s a new world out there. Who do we have to thank for this? I would argue that there is one primary catalyst for this: the original iPhone.

It’s a fact that current iPhone users visit the web on their devices significantly more than any other mobile group, including Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Symbian. But we can go even further than that—prior to the first iPhone in 2007, the mobile web was largely a niche market targeted at the dominant smartphone platform of the day: Blackberry. It wasn’t pretty. The iPhone introduced a paradigm shift: mobile was no longer only a supplementary web experience; it brought the full internet to your pocket. It introduced us to our modern definition of the mobile web.

These days, mobile is huge. The revolution introduced by the iPhone has passed, and we’re all well-accustomed to having websites that take our mobile devices well into account. Everyone has at least started considering a mobile version of their website; everyone, that is, except the company that started this all. Yes, that’s right. Apple has no mobile site whatsoever. Not a limited m.apple.com site, not a responsive design—nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

There’s no way that’s true. I need to investigate this. The Voice in My Head

My first thought when I realized this was ‘there’s no way that’s true. I need to investigate this.’ After pretty extensive research, it appears that it is indeed very true. Being as ardent an Apple fan as I am, this made no sense to me at all. It flies in the face of everything that Apple does—I mean, look at the freaking numbers! Apple is a mobile company. Sure, they make dynamite personal computers, but iOS and its devices are Apple’s bread and butter. Why would a company with such an obvious investment in mobile ignore something as simple and straight-forward as having a mobile site?

The more I pondered this, the more I began to realize that it’s not about an oversight on Apple’s part. They would have to be having an unprecedented lapse in common sense to have not considered a mobile website. No - it’s something else; something much more fundamental to Apple’s strategy.

Apple is completely committed to the iOS ecosystem.

If you haven’t noticed, there is an iOS app for almost every functionality on their website. The Apple Store has an app. The App Store has one. The only area not included is the “Support” section. It became clear to me that Apple views the ‘pure internet’ as a way of the past. In their eyes, the ideal experience for locating information is not typing in a domain name, but launching an app.

I like love your products, Apple—but that’s stupid.

Knowing that Apple’s market saturation is about as high as it’s likely to get without having to win over users from other mobile offerings like Android, it is a bit odd to me that Apple would not try to make their first purchasing experience as easy as possible. After all, the only people with access to an app from the App Store already own an iOS device. This is where a mobile site comes in—it provides the same experience to users regardless of their point of origin. They can come on an Android device, a Windows desktop or anything else with a browser.

I can understand wanting to lead by example. I can even get behind the dedication to the ideal that is pretty apparent—but idealism is never as effective as pragmatism. Apple needs to get their web strategy in line with the modern standard, as it's rapidly becoming the expectation of users; having anything less could lose possible users on their first visit to Apple.com.

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  1. Bruce G

    Bruce G

    Mar 18, 2013

    Pretty astute observation. I wonder if Apple will re-address their position with the changing internet environment...

    Reply to Bruce

    1. Jesse


      Mar 18, 2013

      I would be surprised if they did change short term. Apple rarely makes decisions off the cuff; I'm sure they've given this stance a lot of thought.

  2. Kelly


    Mar 23, 2013

    Not sure I agree that they are totally in the wrong - look at how well the App Store does. You don't get that successful without doing something right.

    Reply to Kelly

    1. Jesse


      Mar 27, 2013

      To be clear, I think that Apple will eventually address this. I am commenting more on their apparent priorities than their permanent strategy. They are never the first to do something - but are often the first to do it well. Perhaps this is their approach to a mobile site as well.

  3. Frometa


    Feb 26, 2014

    Apple has no mobile site. Their website design is something of the last decade. The site navigation menu is just ugly as hell with the gray gradient, Solid colors is what every modern designer is using. Microsoft chain of websites beat Apple 100 to 1 in their modern design. Microsoft.com works on any resolution. Apple wants people to think that there's an app for that, but HTML5 will change that sooner than later. Mobile Sites don't use any memory on the devices that we own. 99% of apps are just a native website. Going to the browser and searching for that specific site is much faster than looking for an app. Honestly, I don't care about apps.

    Reply to Frometa

    1. Jesse


      Feb 27, 2014

      I'm definitely not critiquing Apple's site, and there are absolutely parts of their site that are starting to transition to mobile-friendly design (see the product-specific pages like the page for the iPhone 5s).

      Also, with the website's design, I couldn't take a more opposite stance; their site has existed in the basic format that it's in now for more than a decade, and it is part of the Apple brand. Changing it all at once would be shortchanging that brand equity. Apple's method is more iterative. They change individual elements of the site over time, and only to suit specific needs. This fits with their overall design ethos - that everything must not only look attractive, but perform a function as well. To my knowledge, they almost never completely overhaul the visual design of their site all at once.

      I also disagree with your stance on apps; like it or not, the web is a free-for-all, and is limited to some less-than-native programming. There are definitely web apps out there that are quite nice, but native apps have vast advantages over them for anything more complex than the basic to intermediate tasks. They also have the advantage of CURATION which is the core of what Apple does.

      All that being said, I think you missed the point of my article - it's not an invitation for Apple-haters. Just a casual observation of Apple's attitude towards the mobile internet.

  4. Martin


    May 20, 2014

    I have always wondered the same as you. I personally think they are losing a great opportunity or graphic presentation. At least they could develop an "Apple App" or something.

    Reply to Martin

  5. Joel k

    Joel k

    Jul 23, 2014

    Mobile is huge but i do deny "a mobile dominated future" the more mobile advances the more it can automatically adjust to the desktop view. and as a mobile developer i can attest that the impotence of mobile versions of websites are indeed big - but not that big (yet)

    Reply to Joel

    1. Jesse


      Jul 28, 2014

      Joel, I couldn't disagree with you more. While desktop is not going anywhere, mobile is changing the very way that people use the web, period. I don't think that the differentiation between "mobile" developer and "desktop" developer will remain for much longer. Look at Apple's new Swift programming language for a hint of things to come in the next 5 years.

  6. Ricky


    Sep 09, 2014

    Guess what happened?

    Reply to Ricky

    1. Jesse


      Sep 09, 2014

      Saw that - they weren't the first to do it, but their mobile site (like their products) is one of the best I've seen.

    2. Martin


      Sep 09, 2014

      Hahaha they saw our comments.