Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Some thoughts on Apple Inc.'s new toy. Okay, the iPhone is cool. No doubt about it. Let's do a quick run-down of features off the top of my head:

- One big honkin' touch screen
- Touch gesture interface is always nifty
- 2 MP camera
- 4 or 8GB iPod
- WiFi, Bluetooth, EDGE
- 3 sensors (proximity, ambient light, and accelerometer)
- POP3 and IMAP e-mail, AND now Yahoo! push
- OS X
- Full native web browsing
- Visual voicemail
- All them nifty widgets (stock watch, weather, calculator, notepad, calendar, etc.)
- Sleek add-ons
- Seemingly easy to use

And the downsides:

- 5 hours of battery life (16 if only used as an iPod)
- Tied to Cingular (this is apparently not a great thing. I'm in Canada, I don't know)
- GSM only
- Can't be used if NOT on the phone network (ie.- can't buy one and just use it as an iPod/camera/internet device)
- iPod and all the issues that go with it (iTunes DRM, non-functionality with other services, battery removal, etc.)
- Can't download wirelessly, has to be done with iTunes on a computer
- Can't be wirelessly synced with the computer, has to be docked
- Lots of new tech = lots of possibilities for problems
- Is a phone/camera/internet device/iPod - no option to be anything but all of these things
- $600 WITH the 2-year contract for the 8GB model (and really, why would you get the 4GB for $500?)

Frankly, the cons temper my enthusiasm tremendously. Much like Microsoft's Zune, there's a TON of potential that is being ignored, likely due to copyright concerns. But DRM and copyright law and how they're crippling innovation and usability is a rant for some other day.

Battery life - this is fully expected with a device that has as much on it as the iPhone. A video iPod only gets 6.5 hours, so 5 hours isn't terrible, but it's not great.

GSM/Cingular - This means that in Canada only Rogers/Fido (same company) will be able to carry the phone. Bell and Telus are both CDMA, and Virgin rides the Bell network. Assuming Cingular has at least a 1 or 2 year contract to be the exclusive carrier in the US, that means a CDMA version isn't likely.

Unable to use without a cell contract - Some people would likely pay $1000 for this toy without a contract, but that's not going to be possible. This means you're not only paying $600 for the phone, you're paying a monthly fee for 2 years for a voice plan, data plan, and whatever other costs come into play. Let's say you stick to the cheap, not planning to use it as anything other than an iPod... that's still at least $20-30 a month for 2 years, or $480-$720 on top of the cost of the device.

iPod issues - These have been discussed ad naseum out there, but DRM, battery issues, etc, still make the iPod unappetizing to me.

Multi-device lock-in - What if you already have a phone you like? Maybe you don't want to surf the web or check your mail from your iPod. Too bad, you're paying for features you won't use.

Missed opportunity - WiFi, EDGE, Bluetooth... and you CAN'T sync wirelessly with your computer? You're paying $60 a month for an unlimited data plan and you CAN'T download iTunes songs directly to the device?? For that matter, can you transfer the pictures from the camera to your computer without going through the phone network? How about other files? This ties back to the phone company lock-in -- so many features get crippled on phones by the carriers, why would this be different?

Cost - Let's face it. $600 is a lot of money for a phone. The iPhone doesn't quite match the Blackberry for actual business e-mail usage (lack of security, PIN messages, etc.), so the execs won't be switching en masse, and $600 WITH the contract is pricey for Joe average. This thing better be built like a brick for when it gets dropped.

Personally, I'll be waiting for the next generation to come out. I can't imagine Apple won't migrate this tech to an iPod-only platform in a year or two. I also have to believe that the price WILL drop once it gets widespread acceptance and the costs go down. Besides, in a year or so the rest of the MP3 player and cell market will have their own pathetic knock-off attempts coming out, 200 patents be damned.

Jobs is right though - this will revolutionize the industry. It's created a potential paradigm shift in cell phone design. Once it gets FCC approval, Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Kyocera, LG, etc, etc, will be pushing the carriers to allow THEIR design changes. If the things takes off, and doesn't adopt CDMA compatibility, then you'll see some shifts in the carriers as well. GSM over CDMA anyone?

I've never owned anything by Apple. I eyed the Mac mini as an addition to my TV setup, but now the Apple TV is out and looks to fill my needs. As is my wont though, I shall wait for the early adopters to find the bugs first.

Oh, and wait until the exclusive iTunes access to the The Beatles catalogue gets announced.

Regardless, cool device. Too much hype. I watched RIM stock go down 7% yesterday, and Apple Inc. go up just as much. I imagine this will correct itself shortly, once the reality of a June delivery date, single provider, $599 price point, and the large number of people in locked-in contracts sinks in.

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