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So, what's the big deal with the iPhone?

I think that I must possibly be the only person on the planet, or at least the only techno-geek, that is not bowled over by the iPhone. Yes, it’s now got 3G and GPS, but I’ve got an iPod touch that does most of what the iPhone does and which I don’t have to shell out on a monthly basis to own. I think it’s nice and it is certainly better than its rivals in a lot of ways, but it almost feels like Apple has deliberately not made it all it can be.

Let me explain - when Apple made the first Macintosh, it was designed and built to be the best Personal Computer they could possibly make. It literally changed the world and, later on, the Macintosh II turned the global publishing industry on its head. The Newton in-vented the PDA market and its handwriting-based OS is still about the best there ever has been for such a device. The iMac made computers cool and defined the dot-com generation. The original iPod is now so ubiquitous that I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say “I bought an mp3 player”. Like Hoover did to vacuum cleaners and Coke did for sugared water, so iPod defined its market. Then we come to the iPhone.

Yes, it’s nice, but my old Nokia 7100 phone was more comfortable to make calls on. Yes, it’s got a camera, but a million Nokias have better ones. Yes it has 3G, but so do 99% of smart phones and the myriad of Windows Mobile hand-held machines also have native versions of Outlook, Work, Excel and even Powerpoint, so they are better at bridging the gap between phone and laptop. It plays music, but so do most phones and why do I need that anyway - I have an iPod and the last thing I want to do is run down my phone battery listening to music so that I get cut off halfway through a business call.

I think the problem is that the iPhone is just cool for the sake of it. Apple said “we have the ability to shove a phone into an iPod, so let’s do it - it’ll be great!” and, if you look at it like an iPod Touch you can surf the net anywhere on and make the occassional call, it is. The problem comes when you look at what it could have been - the ultimate business PDA and the entry into the corporate market that Apple desperately needs, even if it won’t admit it. Exchange/Outlook rules the enterprise, so PDAs and phones that can sync to an Outlook calendar are a good thing. Ones that can natively read and edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files are even better. Hence the proliferation of Windows Mobile phones in business.

iPhone can now, at least, sync with Exchange/Outlook, but it still lacks the ability to update calendar entries made on your desktop, or to push entries back to your work PC - it picks up the data and you can edit it, but that local copy on your iPhone stays on your iPhone from I can see. Now, I am sure it’s a minor thing for Apple to fix in an update, but why didn’t they do it right first time? The same goes for Copy/Paste - at what point did giving people the ability to edit data and text yet not allow them to copy and paste seem a good idea?

There seems to have been a real effort on Apple’s part to make sure that the iPhone does not become seen as a business level PDA for some reason and it is a little strange to think that this is for no other reason than Steve Jobs not wanting to resurrect the Newton. Surely this is not the case, because the advertising for the new iPhone 3G makes a big song and dance about its ability to link to enterprise level email clients using Exchange. No, I personally think it is more to do with product demarcation and that there is something on the horizon that bridges the gap more effectively - be it a Mac Tablet, an iPhone Pro, or the much-rumoured new Newton. Only time will tell, but if and when such a product becomes available, I will definitely pick one up, as I’d rather have a PDA that surfs the web but doesn’t make calls (I can always use a normal phone), than a phone that has a bit of PDA functionality to it.

We shall have to wait and see if such things become reality, though - in the world of Steve Jobs, the only guaranteed thing is that unpredictability is predicatable.

Views: 25

Comment by Jesse Green on September 3, 2008 at 1:35am
The big thing that's keeping me from getting an iPhone is that the only carrier here in the states is AT&T. Whoever came up with that more bars in more places bit has never been to Iowa, because I know of a lot of places here in Iowa where if you're on AT&T you have no bars. If Apple would've let other carriers like U.S. Cellular sell the iPhone I'd probably get one when it comes time to replace my current phone, which probably won't be until 2010 at the earliest.
Comment by Chance on September 4, 2008 at 4:39am
I can understand that people are annoyed at the fact Apple has tied to one cell provider per market, but this will be more down to the fact that most Mobile networks absolutely ream customers over data usage (i.e web browsing), because it takes up their bandwidth more than SMS messaging. I can only assume that Apple's need to guarantee the consistent usage required by their end-users (i.e you want all the features all the time, not to buy a 3G web phone and find out that your phone can't find a 3G signal, etc. That and the fact that a lot of the phone companies would have been unwilling to give up revenue gained by kicking their users in the nuts for using the web-browsing features of their phones...


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