Blog Post

5 ways iPhone will change the wireless biz

Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote, demo of upcoming Leopard and Safari for Windows may have generated a lot of oohs and ahhs, but it was towards the end that His Jobness revealed the game plan to irreversibly change the world of wireless.

No one knows for sure how many million units of the iPhone Apple will sell – 5 or 10 million in the first year, an insignificant number when compared to over 950 million phones shipped worldwide every year. It is still not clear if and when Apple will be able to sell this device in Europe, Asia and rest of the world.

And still, it will challenge some of the conventional notions of the wireless business, take the hidebound industry by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. Nokia will join Microsoft and Dell in experiencing Apple envy.

“I am certain that the mobile telecoms world will count its time in two Eras. The Era BI: time Before the iPhone, and the ERA AI: time After the iPhone,” writes Tomi T Ahonen, co-author of book, Communities Dominate Brands, who believes that even media business should be very very worried about iPhone.

A true web applications platform for the mobile

“We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of the iPhone so developers can write great apps for it, but keep the iPhone secure,” he said. “… And we’ve come up with a very innovative new way to create applications for mobile devices… it’s all based on the fact that we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone. And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services.” (Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC via Engadget.)

Charles Ying thinks that Apple just reinvented the mobile applications platform. “This isn’t mobile Flash, mobile Java, or even the mobile Web. It’s the real Web, the real deal,” he writes. (True web should also mean 3G and not pokey EDGE connections that the device currently offers, one major Achilles heel of this device.) The ease, with which developers can develop and deploy apps on both web and the phones, will put pressure on other companies (and OS vendors) to play catch-up or lose developer attention.

Break the Wireless Walled Gardens
iPhone is fully functional iPod, with full tracks of music. Do you need to download ring tones for $2.99 a pop, when you get a full song for a third of that price? Ditto for Wallpapers, and themes, and everything else that is being sold on the carrier deck.

Shift of control to the customers

If the embedded (Safari) browser if it performs the way as hyped by Jobs & Co., will give us the choice-control we have on the web. Search engines to web sites – nothing will be determined by the wireless carriers who have thus far done nothing but create barriers between what we want, and giving us what they want to sell.

Slow demise of subsidized, boring phones filled with bloat ware

The introduction of the unlocked iPhone will do two things – it would basically get US buyers savvy to the idea of buying full priced unlocked phones. Secondly, it is going to cause a behavior change – of buying phones instead of freebies. (Will iPhone save the handset business?)

Keep it simple or else

One of the lasting (at least for me) changes that iPhone will bring to the mobile market is simplification. Their new user interface is going to make complex mobile services relatively simple, and can have the same impact as Blackberry had on the corporate market.


Photo courtesy of Engadget

56 Responses to “5 ways iPhone will change the wireless biz”

  1. Time is still ticking away, and the iPhone has hardly lived up to the huge buzz that was created (not so much by Apple, but certainly by their fans!) I’m not really that impressed with it, to be honest. And the ‘unlocked iPhone’ is a pipe dream : that hasn’t happened. And, that’s one of the reasons why I think it hasn’t been the success it could have (that, and the ridiculous price tag!)
    I think this was a test case. The next generation will probably be better – but this is a very competitive market Apple are entering, and they shouldn’t be surprised that others will come up with much better designs.

  2. Despite the buzz, I have a hard time seeing how this product strengthens Apple, which enjoys a reputation of . . . well, how to put this? Of not selling broken products. Apple prod is supposed to work out of the box, and work intuitively. Apple’s rep is that they work the bugs out of a product before they sell something. And while you learn to use Windows, Apple is intuitive.
    With iPhone, that all changes, doesn’t it? AT&T had activation problems, there’s already reports about bugs . . . and there even seems to be some security gaps, a new problem for Apple. It’s a neat phone, don’t get me wrong, but one that may provide little incentive for consumers to rush out and buy the next Apple intro.
    I’ve written more about Apple’s iPhone and brand at

  3. Wait until tell comes out with its iPhone killer. And don’t be surprised if Samsung has one in the works, too.

    The iPhone has way too many shortcomings and I doubt that they’ll effectively adapt to market forces. Apple might know music; it does not know mobile telephony — and there’s no reason to assume that they do simply because they have a cute GUI.

    Time will tell, but I’d still bet on the Microsoft platform for mobile devices, for ubiqcomp in general.

  4. It’s refreshing to see Apple break the mold of the cell phone as we’ve known it, opening windows for more market-defying, style-defining phones that draw attention to the full potential of a mobile device. Yet, to truly experience the content, entertainment and communications of the Mobile Web, consumers might find themselves hamstrung by the same limitations of the iPhone’s predecessors. The availability of a sophisticated, innovative interface – voice, text, touch – holds the key to truly making the concept of ‘elegant simplicity’ a reality, something consumers have come to expect and gravitate toward when experiencing their mobile devices.

    • Nuance (
  5. It is refreshing to see Apple break the mold of the cell phone as we’ve known it, opening windows for more market-defying, style-defining phones that draw attention to the full potential of a mobile device. Yet, to truly experience the content, entertainment and communications of the Mobile Web, consumers might find themselves hamstrung by the same limitations of the iPhone’s predecessors. The availability of a sophisticated, innovative interface – voice, text, touch – holds the key to truly making the concept of ‘elegant simplicity’ a reality, something consumers have come to expect and gravitate toward when experiencing their mobile devices.

    • Nuance (
  6. Jim Dittmer

    I’m always intrigued by the geek squeek about Apple’s new products:

    The reason Jobs doesn’t want to allow 3rd party access to the operating system, why he wants other companies apps to be “sandboxed” is obvious: he doesn’t want the iPhone to be the target of the first major cell phone virus! Apple may be a small target in the computer world, but it is rapidly building a HUGE bullseye on it’s corporate chest in the mobile phone world. Nothing would hurt them more now than a catastrophic worm or virus. I’m not a programmer, but it seems Jobs has left an avenue for the serious developer to create interesting, useful apps within the Safari environment. And don’t forget, his security paranoia has worked pretty well for the average Mac user.

    According to Scott Bourne the unlocked iPhone will be just under $1000.

    As for having too many features… Ricky Boy and Floyd, are you guys sales reps for Scott Evest? ( From a technological pragmatist’s viewpoint, the fewer unique devices I have to pack around, the better! If those wonderful Apple industrial engineers added a key holder and a bottle opener it would be approaching perfection.

    All in all, I’m reminded of the Arsinio Hall line, back when Dan Quayle was ragging on Rap music. “Dan, it’s not FOR you!” Well, we’re getting to a place in technological history, where the new, latest greatest, technological gizmo isn’t aimed at the technophile, the übergeek if you will. It’s designed for 57 year old businessmen like me, for young girls more interested in Barbie than bandwidth, for the proverbial soccer mom who uses the internet to check out the price of a new pair of Reeboks for little Jimmie. And you know what, this is exactly who the product should be designed for and appeal to. This is an evolutionary event! Maybe it’s not what the advanced computer community dreamed of. That group represents, maybe, 1/100th of 1% of the potential market, and frankly, the things that most appeal to those folks, scare off most of the rest of us. We want our stuff to work. All the time! We neither want nor need a choice of 15 different timers, or the ability to run Linux on our phone because, “wouldn’t it be cool to run GIMP on a phone?” I expect my phone to make and receive calls. If it can play movies, and double as a hard drive for data, and has a bunch of music I like, plus a gaggle of other stuff that I can learn to use easily, that’s terrific!

    This is what sets Steve Jobs and Apple apart from the vast majority of technology producers. He and they get it. They see how the world has shifted. We are seeing the first signs of the computer industry maturing into a mainstream organism. For good or ill, the influence of the geek is waning.

  7. I’m with Floyd
    If I want to take a picture i’ll bring a camera
    Listen to music I’ll bring my mp3 player, or God forbid my TAPE player, :)
    Floyd whats up about the ring tones, you can’t understand whats playing anyway.

    Give me omproved quality and I’ll be happy!

  8. meganislost

    well the iphone looks cool and all but my sidekick can do all of that plus it looks SO much more fashionable and cooler. You see blackberries, razrs and sidekicks in all the movies and tv shows, not sure that the iphone will be everywhere so quick


    On your walled-garden comment — I am not sure if I want to cede control to Apple any more than I do to Carriers…. They are hardly the posterchild for open platforms.

  10. I still don’t buy any of the hype. No SDK kinda sucks, because what really makes the device “a killer” is to have a lot of third party apps. My Windows mobile phone probably has a dozen apps that I refer to often. I don’t want to have constant web access to do stuff. I want to be able to read news feeds while I’m on an airplane.

    You’ll see a lot of sales of it, but it’ll be dull. It doesn’t do anything that my phone does now and has done for quite some time. And if you’re seduced by the voicemail component, then you’re a rube.

  11. Plenty of devices could offer a few extra features if they were twice to three times the price of competitor products. It doesn’t mean that they’ll sell well, or be influential except in the minds of a few Apple fanboys.

  12. The following was also posted to Dvorak’s Weblog:

    Problems with the iPhone:

    1. The “buttons” are a flat surface. No tactile feedback, unlike “real” cell phones.

    2. Only works with Cingular/AT&T (Aside: why did AT&T resurrect the widely mocked Death Star logo?)

    3. I want fewer “features” on my phone, not more. If I want a portable Web device, I’ll bring along a readable laptop. I’m still trying to figure out how to remove text messaging/SMS/browsing/whatever from my Samsung cell phone, without success.

    4. Safari is a lousy browser (on my wife’s Mac anyway) compared to Firefox, Seamonkey, and even IE 7, and the iPhone “screen” is too small to let us older guys read Web pages on it.

    5. I have an iPod with lots of room for music and file storage; I don’t need music on a cell phone except for a ringtone.

  13. Adam Hodgkin

    Interesting conjectures. I agree that the prospect of real Web applications is really attractive. We have a digital magazine platform which is pure web (pages=urls, with the JPEG image of a page and server-side database, cf Google Book Search). Since we also convert international phone numbers to live numbers on the page, I am keen to try ringing from a magazine on an iPhone using the click through phone Number of the advertiser. This should all work out of the box, but we wont be seeing iPhones in the UK for a few months. Will there be an emulator on the Apple web site? First authenticated instance gets subscription to magazine of their choice from our selection. See blog about this

  14. M. Bahar

    Hey come on!

    No open APIs for developing native iPhone apps, no big deal.

    I think apple is trying to make some time before fixing issues for API stability.

  15. Jonathan Frate

    Why do people think that cingular is going to roll over and slice it’s own throat with this iPhone?

    Cingular is the king of marquee announcements.

    They’re looking at the iphone as the next moto razr. they’ll use it to attract sales, but they’re not going to let apple create it’s own mini mvno on the backs of cingular over night!

  16. Om:

    I am intrigued by the fact that popular blog sites such as this and Techcrunch consistently attract sizeable number comments, whereas the volume of comments on a no less popular site such as Danny Sullivan’s SearchEngineLand fails make the Gieger counter move on most days. Is this due to the fact that the latter requires one to register before s/he can enter a comment, whereas TC and Gigaom have no such restrictions? Or does it have to do with style – TC, Gigaom’s provocative, almost forcing people to take positions vis-a-vis the author tone versus more informative, descriptive style found on SEL?

    I am mindful of the fact that from a pure metrics point of view i.e. visitors/visits/uniques/page views etc, SEL may not be laggards by any stretch of imagination, but perhaps on a measure of user’s ‘engageability’ or ‘interaction’ as demonstrated by the numbers of comments per article or number of comments per unique visitor, it appears to lag in a big way.

    I don’t know if this makes sense… but maybe there is some information to be discerned by evaluating comment/feedback volume.

    Your thoughs?



    p.s. I wanted to enter this comment at SEL but was deterred by the implied ‘cost’ of registration. What prevented me from incrementing the comments counter at SEL is that solely what’s keeping their feedback volume low?

  17. “Why on planet Earth would SMS be cannibalized? SMS is a totally different protocol. Do you really know how SMS works at the nuts and bolts level? I have my doubts.”

    I know far more about SMS than I care to. If I need to start spouting off hex codes for binary SMS, let me know. The protocol is pointless anyway, it’s the way SMS is used that is important. (Simple phone messaging)

    As Erik pointed out, it’s a business issue. SMS is so popular because it is simple and quick. It’s also extremely profitable for the carriers because they can charge for it, and the margains are gigantic.

    How big are the per-message margins on AJAX based IM clients, or a webapp that polls a website for your latest message every 5 minutes? (You’ll note that SMS messaging charges apply for most mobile IM clients today.. that goes out the window with an open environment as well)

    As for the rebranding comment…. I understand that AT&T is using the iPhone to create brand awarness. That doesn’t mean they want to give up control. BTW, by “control freaks”, I meant it in a business sense. They believe that opening up doesn’t help them financially.

    Who sells the most content in the US?

    Verizon, the definition of closed garden.

    Will the world become more open? Sure. I don’t see any walls crashing down around us though.

    I guess we’ll see shortly though won’t we! :)


  18. No bars = no Apps.

    I read almost all of my news offline on my Blackberrey 8800 using a fat client. Offline capabilities are critical for any serious application platform. Calling Safari an iPhone API is the goofiest thing I have ever heard of.

    That said, if pressed to make sense of this post and specifically the first point, one could argue that the iPhone may hasten the 90’s vision of a web app world (AJAX is that old afterall) if only because people will be starved for software for their sexy new device. Alas, up to 50% of the time such software will be useless until the cloud is universally accessible or the iPhone plays nicely offline.

  19. ATT let Apple get away with some things, but Apple had to give something back — no VOIP or Skype.

    At least they could add Google Gears to Safari or something. I am surprised there was no announcement..

  20. “Why on planet Earth would SMS be cannibalized? SMS is a totally different protocol. Do you really know how SMS works at the nuts and bolts level? I have my doubts.”

    SMS is the most profitable business the carriers have. If there is an app that would supplant the use of SMS AT&T will not let it on the network.

    It’s not a protocol/nuts and bolts issue, it’s a business issue. It’s about use cases, not technology.