Wednesday, June 6, 2007

iPhone iSchmone


What is the iPhone?


According to Apple it is:

  • A widescreen iPod.
  • A revolutionary phone.
  • A breakthrough internet device.
  • A high tech gadget.


    Let's break those down one-by-one.


    Widescreen iPod - According to Steve it's the best iPod ever. Certainly it's the coolest and most gee-wizzy iPod. But it's a pretty radical redesign of the iPod system. It took Apple a long time to get all the kinks out of the iPod (four generations by my count), and it was partly Apple's commitment to improving the iPod in its early forms that ensured it's success. Certainly Apple is committed to improving the iPhone. But beta testing gets old. Let someone else be the guinea pig and foot the bill until the third or fourth generation iPhone comes out.


    In terms of being a music and video player iPhone doesn't really give us anything new except a widescreen and a fancier UI. The Sony PSP has had the widescreen for several years now and doesn't seem to have caused a revolution. And as for the UI the iPhone takes something important away: one handed operation. One handed operation is of the real strengths of the iPod design. The other reason why the iPhone isn't the best iPod ever is that it doesn't have high capacity. 8 GB is good enough for a decent music library, but it's not big enough for video which uses a GB for every 2 hours of content. Using video with such a small device requires docking and swapping all the time. The iPhone would not be adequate for a modern, multitasking, video-centric teen to pack for a summer vacation trip. Whereas a standard video iPod does fit the bill. It doesn't use it's wireless for music and video transfers, streaming, sharing, for anything. The iPhone hasn't really raised the bar in terms of functionality.


    The iPhone is a nano that's not nano. It's a video iPod that can't hold an entire season of Battlestar Galactica.


    Revolutionary phone - in case you haven't noticed the cell phone revolution has been here for some time. The iPhone is a phone. Great. They've even managed to improve voice mail. Great. But, again, can you use it with one hand? Maybe. Maybe I'm just not a phone-centric enough person to care that much. I tend to see these people driving around on the phone and talking on the phone as they walk down the street, and I scratch my head, "what are they talking about all the time." As long as I can sync my phone's contact list with my computer I'm good.


    Also if you look at it as just a phone it's bulky compared to modern cell phones.


    Oh yea, and Cingular sucks.


    Breakthrough internet device - again the revolution has already gotten here for those who care. Ever heard of the Crackberry? Ah, but Blackberries and Palm Treos are only for corporate types and drug dealers, the iPhone is for everyone -- everyone with $600 and a $100 per month cell phone plan.


    It's argued that Apple's going to provide a superior experience to the Blackberry, Palm and Windows Mobile because it's OS-X and Safari. They might, but it won't be superior because of the Cingular/AT&T EDGE data network they've chosen to use. The breakthrough mobile internet experience isn't going to happen at dial-up modem speeds. That I guarantee. The iPhone (like many other smartphones can use Wifi too. But you can't use Wifi on public transportation or riding down the freeway (in the passenger seat of course).


    High tech gadget - this is really the bottom line because none of the other features is really compelling. But once everyone has touched it and played with it will they need to have it? That's what Apple is banking on. But at $600 plus $100 per month that's not everyone.


    It's a convergence gadget. Convergence gadgets generally don't work to replace the constituent gadgets. The camera-phones don't replace the camera for anyone at all serious about pictures. It's only when all the important constituent features reach about 80% of the features of dedicated devices that something becomes a successful convergence device. My new Canon all-in-one fax-printer-scanner succeeds as a product… just in time for the golden age of faxs.


    Oh yea, there's one more thing -- the stuff we don't know. Like the problems, bugs, headaches, production flaws, hardware failures etc.


    Sure the iPhone will get cheaper. The iPhone will improve through updates and with future product generations. But all that takes time. In the mean time… iPhone… iSchmone.