Blog Post

The iPhones have it

Say what you will about the iPhone, and no one seems reluctant to do so, the iPhone is the most significant consumer electronic device to come along since, well, the iPod.  Dwight Silverman has an iPhone and he’s bumping into the "he’s got an iPhone!" syndrome wherever he goes.  Even though it’s low on smartphone features compared to current competition even power users I’ve spoken with who have bought and subsequently returned the iPhone express "returner’s remorse" after doing so.  The draw of the device is its greatest strength, and that is attracting millions of users to the iPhone.

Apple has not only done a remarkable job marketing the iPhone (business schools should study what they’ve done) but also in producing another device that is not only cool but simple to use.   Case in point- yesterday I had the good fortune to perform my civic duty and report for jury duty.  A gentlemen I peg to be in his 60s was sitting in front of me playing with his iPhone for hours.  I could see he was surfing the web and working with his email.  I struck up a conversation with him and it was quickly apparent that this guy is a complete neophyte when it comes to smartphones.  One statement he made is proof what Apple is accomplishing with the iPhone- "I didn’t even know you could surf the web and do email on a phone".

That statement is proof positive that Apple is achieving a great thing with the iPhone.  They are bringing millions of newbies, and not kicking and screaming, into the smartphone age.  It was totally cool watching this guy being productive in a setting he never would have been otherwise.  This is huge in terms of bringing technology to the uninitiated, and Apple is to be congratulated for this.  Yes, the iPhones have it.

17 Responses to “The iPhones have it”

  1. I agree with Mike Cane… I’m a tech person, and I prefer the features and flexibility of my Nokia N95, but I much prefer the usability of my iPhone – it’s blowing me away!

    I can also tell you that most of my friends (who are not tech people) are not only interested in playing with my iPhone, but are able to use it quickly with little assistance (to surf the web, etc).

    I’ve demo-ed many devices to then over the years, but none have made such an impact – that’s just amazing :)

  2. None of you who cite the alleged deficiencies of the iPhone understand the underlying point it makes: the complexity (you’d call it “choice”) of your current hardware exceeds the threshold of interest for most of the world’s population.

    Ooh, it can’t do SMS. Grandpa won’t be able to type on that screen.

    Hello! It’s a PHONE! Grandpa and non-typists will CALL!

    Really, some of you must also think that the Catch-22ness of this world is the way It’s Supposed To Be. Baloney.

  3. Louis Wheeler

    Apple is not competing with the Smart Phones; just as the iPod was not competing with the other MP3 players. The same complaints about the early iPods are being recycled for the iPhone: it cost too much, it isn’t like the competition, it doesn’t have as many features, etc. Yet, the iPod did quite well in satisfying the consumer’s needs mostly because of iTunes. Apple made the iPod very easy to use and flexible; iTunes made it very easy to get your music into your iPod.

    What Apple did with the iPod and is was doing now the iPhone is to grow the market. The iPod brought into the market million of people who never had, or thought they wanted to have an MP3 player.

    The iPhone will convert millions of people who currently have Feature Phones into Smart Phone users. Because the iPhone has most of the Features that a Feature Phone user thinks that a Smart Phone should have, then that is enough. The iPhone has the real web on it, so it doesn’t need most of the workarounds, or third party applications, that the Smart Phones have. Who cares about Flash: H.264 is much better.

    Also, the iPhone is at Version 1.0, so the hardware and software can be expected to get better and cheaper. All the so-called deficiencies will be cleared up in Apple’s periodic software upgrades. Just sync the iPhone to iTunes and new software will be downloaded.

    Given the initial consumer response, this will be big. The Smart Phone manufacturers should be scared. I’m expecting six to seven million to be sold by the end of the year. The iPhone seems like a perfect Christmas gift. Elegant and classy, if a little pricey, with a phone service cost below what the Smart Phones charge ($60 a month for the iPhone vs $80 for most Smart Phones,)

  4. John in Norway

    Just because it’s popular in one small country doesn’t make it the most significant consumer device. :)

    In the meantime, with my present device, I’ll keep:
    Listening to music and podcasts from my phone on my stereo bluetooth headphones
    Sending and receiving MMS
    Recording snippets of video and sending them to others
    Editing Word documents
    Replacing my battery when it runs out
    Doing file transfers without having to be locked into itunes
    Watching small divx movies

    Which would I rather have?

  5. “I still maintain that with proper advertising the Pocket PC and PPC Phone Edition devices would have had a huge impact with regular consumers. “

    I don’t think so. I’ve got a $1000 HTC-made O2 XDA IIs Windows Mobile PDA phone and there is no way this OS and phone could survive as a general consumer item. Considering the low market share (7% of smartphones) MS has managed, it appears even enterprise users aren’t happy for it to erase all of their data, preferences and any applications they have installed if the battery goes flat or it hard resets – I guarantee consumers wouldn’t put up with such garbage either.

    What with daily freezes and slow downs, a terrible user interface with tiny buttons and convoluted steps needed to connect to a protected WiFi network or choose someone from contacts, I have grown to loathe it as I’ve written elsewhere. It took me several days just to work out how to send SMS messages for goodness sake. Everyone criticises the iPhone for not having any physical buttons – while neglecting the severe problems such physical buttons cause. Half of the chromed plastic buttons on my O2 don’t work anymore just from normal usage. The slide-out thumb keyboard is so rickety and difficult to use that I just use the horrible on-screen keyboard (which is far smaller again than the iPhone) in preference.

    As I’ve also said elsewhere, the bulk of support calls on our campus of 6,000 staff are Windows Mobile issues. Synching problems are near the top and most of our middle and upper management users have given up on trying to connect to the campus wifi net because Win mobile is so unreliable and either doesn’t connect or drops out half the time.

    There is no upgradability with Windows Mobile either – want the minimal new features of the new Win Mobile 6, buy a new phone. At least the iPhone with a desktop class unix OS of 500MBs in size is easily upgradeable compared to the 40MBs or less of Windows Mobile and Symbian. The iTunes model for software and even firmware updates is a breath of fresh air compared to the problems I’ve had just updating the firmware on my $800 Sony Ericson P900 Symbian-based PDA phone.


  6. Don't Panic!

    Apple always does everything Microsoft should have done when they release new products. I still maintain that with proper advertising the Pocket PC and PPC Phone Edition devices would have had a huge impact with regular consumers. Microsoft always targets the Enterprise Market downplaying the really fun things that their devices can do. Apple takes the opposite tact and suddenly BOOM! huge sales.

  7. Constable Odo

    Glad to hear this information. I keep being told that the only people who are interested in iPhones are Apple fanbois. Once those million or two Apple lovers all buy iPhones, sales will fall flat. I’m curious on how well that senior citizen was able to use the multi-touch keyboard. Tactile keyboard users claim the MT is next to useless for typing. Youtube videos show otherwise. At this point in time the iPhone cannot compete with a BlackBerry due to lack of push-mail. Understandable. The iPhone doesn’t do user customizable ringtones and IM. Understandable. But the infrastructure is there in OSX. The memory is there without having to purchase SD cards. Aside from long term contract costs and ATT EDGE problems, the iPhone is destined to succeed if people that have very little smartphone savvy can work with a potentially very powerful communication device such as the iPhone. I’m really anxious to see if they can sell as many iPhones as they predict. I’m sure people all over the world are lined up to purchase them, so I think there’s a good chance to reach those sales goals.

  8. Very intelligent post- it’s hitting the nail on the head. I remember when the iPod was first announced. I used to see this little hard drive based MP3 player at CES and other tradeshows. It was every bit as capable as the iPod, yet when SJ announced the iPod, I thought so what- that’s already out there. Of course the key was that no one else knew about it. It seems Apple is great at making the world think they are the first and only ones with this feature, which must make the rest of the companies furious as they watch. Yet no one ever sues for false advertising (case in point, where are the class action lawsuits against Apple for saying the full internet when it’s missing half the sites that use Flash, every other internet protocol besides POP3, IMAP, SMTP and HTTP, etc. Whereas poor companies like Palm got sued for telling people their Palm VII has internet Access on it but didn’t specify in the ad that it required service. How is it that every other company in the world has a million little disclaimers on their ads, yet Apple’s are all black and just a single word or two of hyperolized text along with an image? Has Apple just been lucky to avoid the legal pitfalls of such advertising, or have every other company just been gunshy to take the chance?

    Nonetheless, Apple has once again delivered the world something that they believe didn’t exist before and the world shlops it all up without question. It’s more than just a business class exercise, it simply boggles the mind of anyone who has even a passing interest in technology.

    As you said, the advantage we can all see in this, is that the world is now using the technologies that seemed so useful and revolutionary to us geeks/pioneers and hopefully this awareness helps the industry improve and grow from their silly selling of ringtones and text messages into more sophisticated service offerings at mass market prices!

  9. In reality most of the ease of use and capability that the iPhone offered has been available in non-smartphones (like my Sony-Ericsson S710a) for at least a couple of years, with Opera Mini’s release being a huge jump as of last year. The problem isn’t that smartphones are too complex, it’s that other carriers and manufacturers were too busy advertising text messaging and ringtones (chasing after the money) and how the phones looked instead of showing the newbies how easy it was to do things. The Nintendo Wii and iPhone have shared a strong marketing view on the market: instead of telling the power user what they can do (which they already know from reading every preview/review), show the mainstream consumer what they can do easily.

    It doesn’t hurt that the iPhone has a gorgeous screen, of course.

  10. spinedoc

    I must commend Apple for their utter genius in design and marketing. Although clearly the iphone is inferior to a true smartphone in most if not all categories, thru marketing and design they have ensured that it will be a huge hit.

    Microsoft really really needs to get off their butt and wake up. Years of having lame companies like Palm as competitors have really made them lazy. You can see some motivation in push email after RIM hit it big, but still needs more work. MS’ laziness and lack of motivation/vision shows for example in WM6, for a couple of years wait we get almost no improvements in the entire OS. I just have no idea what these WM developers do during that time between OS, it certainly cannot be coding and R and D.

    Although I prefer a WM device, I still would love some kind of fusion with the iphones presentation and WM’s functionality. Neither is good enough alone. Although an iphone won’t fulfill my needs I am extremely excited about it pushing MS and other companies to finally put some pride into their design philosophies.

  11. If there’s one thing I think the iPhone will do, despite its ‘failings’ in the first rev, it’s get internet access in the hands of more phone users. Since you pretty much have to get a data plan with your iphone….

    Mobile internet is really, really useful. I find myself using it a lot on my WM device, mostly in places where I’m suddenly going, “hmm, what do I want for lunch.. does place X have gluten free food? Let’s pull up their website and look!”, or “I’m in line, blah, let’s go on Google Reader!”

    I think that if the iphone forces more people to have mobile internet, there will be a trickle-down effect where more websites are designed to be usable on all sorts of platforms without weird concessions.

    However, that last part is wishful thinking…

  12. Demetri

    I bought my wife an iphone for her birthday and I believe that she is one of those ‘profiles’ that fits this first generation of iphone users. She has been a cell phone user for a while and has used palm pilots/ treos without data plans in the recent past. She would use my smartphone while we were not at home to check email or surf the web. She did not own an ipod, but would borrow mine when it was available. She was on the fence about the iphone unitl she has one and now she loves it. It was easy for her to set up. (I helped a little bit)

    If I had given her a full fledged, power user smartphone, she would probably would not get the full use out of it or be turn off by its complexity. The iphone is a great bridge in the mobile divide that will bring many new users to the game and hopefully hasten the powerfull devices and networks that our European and Asian mobile brethren are useing today.

    Long live the iphone!

  13. Scotty

    The difference in focus between WM and iPhone is remarkable. The iPhone was built to enable people to use it and improve their lives. The WM Phones are from the company that wants to “knife the baby”, “cut off the air supply” and otherwise finish off Palm.

    Given the buying choice: I’ll take the product that wants to be easy to use and improve my life please?

  14. You hit it right on the nose… I was thinking the other day that all the writing about the iphone having impact on smartphone design and function was missing the biggest impact of all… it has single handedly, and already, made smartphones ubiquitous. The penetration of the technology into society just took a huge leap forward. Now that… is an accomplishment.

  15. You hit it right on the nose… I was thinking the other day that all the writing about the iphone having impact on smartphone design and function was missing the biggest impact of all… it has single handedly, and already, made smartphones ubiquitous. The penetration of the technology into society just took a huge leap forward. Now that… is an accomplishment.