It's obvious that Apple's particular brand of marketing and innovation has made the tech giant both the subject of resistance and scrutinization, it has also made it stand out as the iconic 'comparable' place for innovation and marketing. While they are criticized for price points, integration in their systems, and consistent 'orphaning' of old hardware, they remain the brand that everybody is always asking 'well, what did Apple do?' at the end of the day.
The company kickstarted the smartphone revolution, begot the tablet market, and remains unparalleled in elegance. Competitors can't touch Apple because of three simple things:
1) Innovation. When Apple announced the iPhone in 2006 and the iPad in 2010, they weren't trying to compete with any other company...because there wasn't one. Every 'non-Apple' hardware distributor has since followed suit, trying to beat out Apple at its own game. So far, they have only made a small dent, which hasn't phased the Cupertino-based company. It has always been 'those guys' & Apple. While Apple is far from controlling the tablet/smartphone industry, it is hard to deny that they are the mold that every other device is modeled after.
2) Style. Every product bearing the Apple logo is crafted with a higher quality of style and precision than any other company has attempted, and they keep pushing the boundary without incentive. The simple, user friendly design of the package might not be for everyone, but the common user and professional artist alike desire that simplicity. For the professional, it's like having a high-quality canvas to tote about and work on without distraction, while having the opportunity showing off the pretty hardware a little bit. Attractive design is key.
3) Customer Service. Now this one might seem a little odd—but the fact that walking into an Apple retail store is more like entering a classroom/playroom is a huge advantage. One can walk into a store without intention of buying a single thing and always walk out with more knowledge and a great experience (provided they didn't spend three hours at the genius bar), and more often than not, an unexpected piece of merchandise to start playing with. This is actually what brings a great deal of loyalty! Customer service has become a sort of hidden human need, and Apple has got it down pat.
Now of course competition is good, and bias aside, there are other great products out there for every personal need. But Apple's success is undeniable and its unique strengths have made it so.