2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

As everyone knows by now, Apple did not launch the iPhone 5 at yesterday's press event. This was bad news for Apple (shares slid after the meet-up), bad news for iOS developers (iOS handsets have recently been losing ground to Android), and bad news for Apple's new CEO Tim Cook (who should've been given a splashier entrance). 

To its credit, though, Apple did its best to get customers excited about the iPhone 4S -- in part by glamorizing the "iPhone lifestyle", which apparently includes the 2012 Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf makes its appearance in a five-minute promo video for the 4S, in which developers and marketing staff try to convince consumers that although the 4S looks nearly identical to the iPhone 4, they shouldn't judge a metaphorical book by its cover. Along the way, 20something models demonstrate the 4S's new features, including Siri, an expanded version of the iPhone's existing voice interface.

In one such scenario, we see a model driving home, using Siri to respond to his text messages. We glimpse bits of the car's clean, contemporary cabin, then get a shot of the vehicle from behind as it pulls into the driveway: it's a Nissan Leaf.

The moment is short, but significant. Obviously, Apple could've chosen to use any vehicle it liked for the 4S promo video, or the company could've opted to avoid using a recognizable car brand at all. And yet, there's the Leaf at the 1:46 mark, plain as day.

So what's Apple's point? Why didn't the company and its ad agency choose a Toyota Prius, which is perhaps more recognizable among the general public and boasts similarly tech-heavy eco-credentials? Or what about a Ford Fiesta, which is also easily identifiable and might appeal to the early adopters who make up Apple's core audience (no pun intended)? Then again, why bother showing a car at all?

Our guess is that the Nissan Leaf has all the high-tech bells and whistles Apple wants, and its been branded in a similar way. In other words, not only is the Nissan Leaf at the forward edge of technology, just as the iPhone 4S claims to be, but all the cool, simple ads for the electric Leaf have matched the same cool, simple tone of most iPhone commercials. By comparison, Prius advertising is practically baroque, with all its gimmicky acrobats.

Does this help the iPhone 4S? Maybe, maybe not. Fanboys (and fangirls) have shown time and again that they're willing to shell out big bucks for new Apple designs, but the cosmetic changes to the iPhone 4S seem minimal at best. 

On the other hand, does this help the Nissan Leaf? If people can endure a five-minute commercial, quite possibly.

If you're the curious type and you've got five minutes to spare, have a look at the iPhone 4S video below: