Time to weigh in on the iPhone


Apple_iphone_lsEverybody has been talking about the iPhone since Steve Jobs made the announcement at MacWorld last week, and there is no shortage of opinions about the innovative new phone from Apple.  If you follow the talk about the iPhone on the web you will find as many articles about the perceived shortcomings of the iPhone as you will about the cool new features of the phone.  Even Kevin Tofel has chimed in about the gaps in the iPhone.  The buzz about the good:

  • cool new UI
  • the multi-touch interface
  • full-screen touchscreen
  • 8 GB storage space for iTunes music and video
  • how cool the iPhone looks. 

On the negative side, people are slamming:

  • potential poor battery life
  • lack of number keys for dialing
  • lack of Exchange Server syncing for business users
  • people will not like using a touchscreen exclusively on a phone
  • no 3G, at least initially
  • it’s a closed device
  • uses the same DRM as the iPod.

We can talk up the iPhone, both good and bad points, all we want but it won’t make one whit of difference.  Why?  Because Apple knows marketing and they’ve done it again, just like they did with the iPod.  They understand that in the consumer electronics market the technical details take second place to the cool factor.  Apple knows they will sell millions of iPhones based on the cool factor, and they will sell them to the same consumers who snap up iPods every time a new one is released.  I’ll bet that just about every consumer who has owned more than one iPod will grab the iPhone as soon as it’s on the market, just because it’s cool and different.  Apple knows you don’t have to be the best technically, as long as consumers want your cool factor, and the iPhone has it in spades.  Apple knows this and they are already defending the cool factor.  A Windows Mobile skin that copies the iPhone interface in looks only has already been pulled off the web as a result of a cease and desist letter from Apple.  A Palm skin just released will see the same fate before the week is out.  Apple knows what they have here and they have already shown they will defend it just as vigorously as they do the iPod.  They understand consumer electronics as well as anyone, and they understand their market.

You can point out the perceived shortcomings of the iPhone all you want, but it won’t make any difference nor will it impact sales numbers.  Apple will sell millions of the iPhones before the year is out, even if the first batch catches fire when you turn it on (is Sony making the batteries?).  Pre-order numbers are about to explode, as soon as they start being published you’ll see. Apple will sell more iPhones in pre-orders in the first month than Microsoft has sold Zunes since its launch.  Remember where you heard that.


Tax Man

I want one. Whether it makes sense or not, I just want one. I’m not alone either!


Who’s slamming the iPhone for not having number keys? I’ve seen the on-screen number pad in at least one demo. Are they referring to hard keys?

A few more things:
Battery: the iPhone already has extended battery solutions and charging options via the iPod accessory market, not to mention that many people are used to charging their phones during the day. Not going to be nearly as fatal a flaw as some think.
Market: The iPhone is an iPod with voice and data; that’s clearly not aimed at enterprise. It is targeting the consumer smartphone market, just as Blackberry and others are doing. Still in its early stages with plenty of room to grow. Clear advantage for Apple given their experience in the consumer market.
Design: Apple has a rep for computers that “just work” because they handle all the design aspects: hardware, software and interoperability of the two. They still have that for the iPhone, and they even made Cingular re-engineer their network for the unique voice mail selection system (BTW, this feature deserves more attention than it’s getting; going to be hot once people start using it). Going to be tough for anyone else to match that.


” They understand that in the consumer electronics market the technical details take second place to the cool factor. ”
Why do they use OS X then?

Graham Chastney

Others have already said it, but I wanted to chime in to.

The Apple Phone is borrowing a load of its cool from the iPod. The iPod cool is a huge asset for Apple and trying to transfer it to the “Whatever Phone” is a very risky strategy. If the real cool of the “whatever phone” proves to be lower than that of the iPod it will tarnish the iPod too.

JK is 100% Right! Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t looking around to see what is happening. Why do you think the RAZR became so popular?

Simply put… This is 2007 and looks & cool > functionality!

Simple example. Two people (both single). One has a PhD, great personality and but looks are ok (7/10). Other person is a supermodel (15/10 on looks) but is stuck-up, has no sense of human decency and has an IQ of 21! Who do you think is going to have more friends and get married first? You’ve guess it, the supermodel because he/she is HOTT and everyone will think you are cool!

People don’t want useful things, we want cool, nice looking things so that we can feel that we are better than the next guy (and yes that includes the enterprise user)!


Relying on the “cool factor” is a dangerous game. Consumers are fickle and often when a company over hypes a new product as being “cool”, the public can reject it. Plus, iTunes is already getting a lot of backlash from the Gen-X and Gen-Y crowd that can’t afford an iPhone anyway. Put it all to together: expensive and perhaps over promised and under delivered phone and anger over DRM and you might see “cool” turn “cold” by the time the iPhone is finally released.

Corrupted Mind

Excellent Comment JK. someone that at last understands that (a) this phone is smack bang in the mainstream and (b) you don’t have to be technically advanced to be the market leader. Much has been written about how the price of this phone means it has to be successful in the enterprise market to be a successful phone. I disagree, if you are in the market for an ipod and a phone, or a pmp and a phone, or even an internet tablet and a phone its pretty easy to make the numbers make sense, buy this and call it a convergence device. If your looking for a device that does three or more of these functions, it becomes a bargain!

John Gibson

The shortcomings will hurt the sales in the long run… With an iPod type device if your battery dies it is not the end of the world. With the iPhone we have a device without a lot of batter life and without a way to swap batteries. Enjoy the multimedia goodness the phone has to offer in the morning and be unable to make a simple phone call in the evening. That will tarnish the user experience regardless of how sensational the UI is.


James, I couldn’t disagree with you more. As I’ve already read somewhere else, comparisons to the iPod are less apt than comparisons to the Mac. I’ve owned four iPods, two currently (one was a giveaway). There’s not a chance in hell I will ever purchase an iPhone. Why? I like Windows Mobile 5 for all its shortcomings. I like and need Exchange syncing. Though I’ve had several Windows Smartphones, I like having a keyboard, so I’ve been happiest with my Q — and I find I prefer to watch video on it than on my video iPod. Why aren’t these just personal assessments? Because the point is that the iPhone is coming into a highly developed market that is already addressing the needs and wants of millions of users. The iPod was creating a market. The iPhone is not. The iPhone’s price and big negatives will hold it back. It will have exactly the same market share as the Mac — negligible. Will it be hot and sexy and have a vogue? Certainly. But unless it is, for all intents and purposes, given away at the price points that the Razr is now by phone companies, which apparently Apple intends to resist, you’ll never see this become a big part of the market. Most people want phones for under $100 — period. Very few people are willing to spend $500 for a phone, even when it’s supposed to be more than that.


Pam, I agree with you that the ease of use is a big thing and part of what I call the cool factor. I’m not saying that the iPhone is not a capable device, I’m saying that the cons that others are saying about the iPhone don’t matter. I have said on more than one occasion that for the Zune player to compete with the iPod it had to be drop dead easy to use like the iPod and I think that will be a big seller for the iPhone, too. Apple knows how to do this and the iPhone will fly off the shelves as a result. AT&T will be a big winner with the iPhone.


Although I understand your perspective, I disagree with how you have reduced the success Apple will have with the iPhone to a “cool factor” alone. Your article seems say “the iPhone has no brians but boy, what a looker, it is so it will be successful.” Notably absent from the list of pros are its various connectivity features– Wifi and Edge– for getting communications on the go, as well as technology that lets one read a webpage without reformatting it or straining one’s eyes!

The iPhone is an achievement; it is a great convergence device intended for consumers. To judge it as if it were intended for business users is to create a weakness where one doesn’t exist.

I own a Treo 650, which can technically do a lot of the things the iPhone can do– play music, play movies, keep my calendar/contacts, and make calls. Of these, I only keep my PIM data and make calls (and other PDA things). Dealing with music and movies on my Treo is a complete drag! That the Treo has the technology to allow me do so those things means little to me if the experience of it sucks. That is where Apple (always) succeeds– making the experience of using a device enjoyable– and it is no small feat.


Marc, you and I are not the target market necessarily. There are millions of consumers who line up to buy every new iPod and these will snap up the iPhones in droves. I predict a windfall for carriers who rack up early termination fees as their customers cancel service to move to Cingular with their new iPhone.

Marc Orchant

C’mon James – don’t be coy. What do you really think?

I agree with your assessment but have to say that based on my long experience with 1.0 devices from Apple, I’ll be waiting a while to see how this puppy actually performs in real life before I get to steamy.

Anyone remember the first couple of iPod generations?

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