Why do we care so much about Apple? Is it the neat little technological advances that sometimes take us by surprise? The i-devices sleek design? The "cool" factor generated by product placements in Hollywood films, or perhaps the firm's rebel geek image fostered by its late founder Steve Jobs?
All of above, plus a lot of good public relations.
That's according to experts and former Apple employees who are watching today as Apple unveils its latest new consumer products: the low-cost iPhone 5C, made primarily with colorful plastic parts and a higher-end iPhone 5S with fingerprint security technology, a faster processor and other improvements.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm hopes the two devices will reverse a slide in 2013 that saw its stock price fall nearly 30 percent in the past year, as well as criticism for not being able to rebound after Jobs' death in October 2011. In fact, the firm hasn’t introduced a new product since the iPad in 2010.
Even though today's announcement involved incremental improvements on existing devices, consumers still are curious about what's cooking at Apple, according to P.K. Kannan, chair of the department of marketing at the University of Maryland.
"They are the cutting edge of innovation and so there are always some expectations," Kannan told DNews.
In fact, Apple's less-than-spectacular iPhone 5 launch last year may have been a corporate 'time-out' to help them lower expectations for a while.
"They had a very forgettable year," Kannan said. "So the expectations are now tempered and they can beat expectations."
Since it launched the iPod music player in 2001, Apple has managed to develop a loyal following of technophiles and bloggers who chronicle the firm's every move. Apple's deliberate policy of corporate secrecy, punctuated by big media events (such as today's) and the accompanying online rumor mill in between launches has also boosted interest in every product since then.
Former Apple executive Steve Chazin says the company has also raised the bar when it comes to technological innovation that has an impact on everyday human behavior.
"Apple is your quintessential American success story," said Chazin, who was Jobs' senior director of marketing from 1997 to 2000. "There's a lot about the company and co-founder and the company can't get enough of. The company transformed the way we communicate, we play, we work -- more than any company in last 50 years."
Chazin says Apple has a hard road to keep up with its past. It reinvented music, PCs and the cell phone, but hasn’t had the same success with television.
"There's a lot more room for Apple to go, but once they show the way, it's easier for others," said Chazin, now marketing director at Salesforce.com. "It was the first to have an all-glass touch screen, but made it easy for competitors to copy. Now, it's about how big can the glass be."
Apple's products have also been beautiful to hold and look at, and these designs have kept it on the cutting edge, despite recent hiccups, according to Maryland's Kannan.
"All these things make them truly distinctive," he said. "They might have taken a beating of late from Samsung, but no other consumer company has been able to match Apple's aesthetic designs."