ThoughtPiece: the iPhone – first thoughts

22 Comments

I’ve a feeling today’s going to feel like Groundhog’s Day. Thought’s back yet again this week and touches down on Steve Jobs’ little announcement yesterday. Read over Thought’s views on how the iPhone will compete in the smartphone market, and what this announcement means to RIM. Thanks as always, Thought. Enjoy, readers.

The iPhone: First Thoughts

Anyone with a pulse knows that yesterday Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced his company’s first foray into the mobile phone market: the long rumored iPhone.

The iPhone clearly is an attempt by Apple to redefine the mobile communications device; in fact, it aggressively pursues the goal of putting a computer in one’s pocket more so than any other device to date.

Obviously, at this stage I have not held or seen the device in person, and so my impressions are only based on press reports and images from the presentation. Nevertheless, here’s my first take on the device and its potential impact.

The iPhone exceeds expectations and is so impressive as to generate the type of buzz that Apple needed to launch itself into this market. Apple will sell more than enough units at the relatively high price point as to favorably impact sales and profits. However, the iPhone, like the iPod, will have influence far beyond its mere initial sales numbers.

Apple also is well positioned to drive additional sales in the future with newer models of the device coupled with lower price points. No doubt this initial price is set for early adopters and not the mass market. Just like with the iPod we will see prices come down on later models along with product refinements. One such obvious improvement to look forward to: the addition of 3G. One wonders what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve in the way of the roadmap for this product line. The possibilities truly are amazing.

  • Eshwar S

    iPhone looks very promising however I find it strange that people are raving about its input interface without ever using it. I believe the single most important feature of a phone is its input interface and thats one of the main reasons the likes of Nokia, RIM are so good. I seriously don’t like the idea of using your finger to control navigation. This is not something very new. Anyone who used a stylus most often then not have used their hands when their stylus has gone missing. Its impossibly hard to click the correct button for those with large fingers. Apple has claimed its so smart that it can detect false touches, however that remains to be seen since no one outside Apple has got to use it. If this input interface doesn’t work then I surely think this will severly affect the uptake of the new phone which looks good in rest of the features.

  • Eshwar S

    iPhone looks very promising however I find it strange that people are raving about its input interface without ever using it. I believe the single most important feature of a phone is its input interface and thats one of the main reasons the likes of Nokia, RIM are so good. I seriously don’t like the idea of using your finger to control navigation. This is not something very new. Anyone who used a stylus most often then not have used their hands when their stylus has gone missing. Its impossibly hard to click the correct button for those with large fingers. Apple has claimed its so smart that it can detect false touches, however that remains to be seen since no one outside Apple has got to use it. If this input interface doesn’t work then I surely think this will severly affect the uptake of the new phone which looks good in rest of the features.

  • bsic

    I gotta say, I love my blackberry… it has changed my life and made me more productive. But, I GOTTA have the iPhone.
    The true integration of a media player with large storage is a giant reason.

    The ingenuity of Apple when it comes to user interface, is just icing on the cake. Everything this company does seems to be well thought out, and revolutionary. They truly have the end user in mind, which is not the case for windows mobile for sure. These guys are always thinking outside the box.

    The one hard thing to gauge at this point is support for my Exchange email for work, if i cannot get access to this in some fasion, it would be a deal breaker. Anyone have any ideas or heard anything on support like this? Will it support webDAV?

  • bsic

    I gotta say, I love my blackberry… it has changed my life and made me more productive. But, I GOTTA have the iPhone.
    The true integration of a media player with large storage is a giant reason.

    The ingenuity of Apple when it comes to user interface, is just icing on the cake. Everything this company does seems to be well thought out, and revolutionary. They truly have the end user in mind, which is not the case for windows mobile for sure. These guys are always thinking outside the box.

    The one hard thing to gauge at this point is support for my Exchange email for work, if i cannot get access to this in some fasion, it would be a deal breaker. Anyone have any ideas or heard anything on support like this? Will it support webDAV?

  • Albert

    The iPhone will have its own problems, but any hopes RIM had to make their devices the smartphone of choice for the average consumer just had those plans completely obliterated.

  • Albert

    The iPhone will have its own problems, but any hopes RIM had to make their devices the smartphone of choice for the average consumer just had those plans completely obliterated.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, come on!

    “it aggressively pursues the goal of putting a computer in one’s pocket more so than any other device to date.”

    Are you really going to try and claim that this puts more computing in your pocket than an OQO or Vaio UX?

    Please, I just ask for a little sanity! There are already handheld computers running full-blown OSs. In an interview, Steve Jobs himself admitted that this thing got its start when Apple sat down, ripped apart some TabletPCs, and started figuring out how to copy them. I am sure this will be the phone of choice for every Mac user out there, but let’s not revise the history of the entire computer industry and try to pretend that Apple was the first company to ever try to cram a computer in someone’s pocket.

    Name one thing this can do that a modern Windows Mobile or Treo can’t? Seriously, not a bit of marketing spew, or gushing about how pretty you think the interface is, but just one hard feature that it has over any of the competition. Because all I can come up with is that it works with iTunes. That isn’t to say that you can’t play music and video on other handhelds, because you can. It is just to say that being an Apple product, it locks you in to the Apple music service that every other handheld is locked out of. That isn’t innovation, that is good old traditional vendor lock-in. That said, devices like the OQO and Vaio UX don’t even have that restriction, because they are full PCs, capable of running the Windows version of iTunes.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, come on!

    “it aggressively pursues the goal of putting a computer in one’s pocket more so than any other device to date.”

    Are you really going to try and claim that this puts more computing in your pocket than an OQO or Vaio UX?

    Please, I just ask for a little sanity! There are already handheld computers running full-blown OSs. In an interview, Steve Jobs himself admitted that this thing got its start when Apple sat down, ripped apart some TabletPCs, and started figuring out how to copy them. I am sure this will be the phone of choice for every Mac user out there, but let’s not revise the history of the entire computer industry and try to pretend that Apple was the first company to ever try to cram a computer in someone’s pocket.

    Name one thing this can do that a modern Windows Mobile or Treo can’t? Seriously, not a bit of marketing spew, or gushing about how pretty you think the interface is, but just one hard feature that it has over any of the competition. Because all I can come up with is that it works with iTunes. That isn’t to say that you can’t play music and video on other handhelds, because you can. It is just to say that being an Apple product, it locks you in to the Apple music service that every other handheld is locked out of. That isn’t innovation, that is good old traditional vendor lock-in. That said, devices like the OQO and Vaio UX don’t even have that restriction, because they are full PCs, capable of running the Windows version of iTunes.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: good to have you back! I missed you for a while!

    As for the OQO and the Vaio UX…well, they may be small, but I don’t consider them to be truly pocket sized. To me they still are way too bulky to be compared in convenience of size and weight with any smart phones, much less the sleek iPhone. Plus, there’s the little issue of price…both those devices go for over $2000. I can see plenty of people shelling out $500 for the iPhone, but not the 2 grand for these.

    In short, the OQO and the Vaio UX are both nice, and I do find them to be cool devices, but I consider them to be an entirely different market than the smartphone segment.

    As for things the iPhone can do that the others cannot: you are correct, I haven’t used this device yet, and as I qualified in my article, this means that all of my assumptions are based on Apple really delivering on their promises.

    However, where I see this device breaking through: a much better web browsing experience than on other smartphones…a much better media player…a much better picture album…a much better screen…in many cases greater ease of use…including features like Visual Voicemail.
    I do think many of the finger commands, like pinching and stretching an image, like running your finger to spin the virtual rolodex of the address book…also will have great intuitive appeal to users.

    Now of course I’m comparing to other smartphones, not those micro PCs…because, again, I don’t consider that to be a valid comparison. When OQO or the Sony UX gets down to $600 in price, then we can compare.

    I will also say for the basic tasks of web browsing and email, I would rather carry an iPhone than one of those micro PCs…it’s far smaller and lighter.

    Now, that doesn’t mean the iPhone is perfect…or that I’m going to ditch my BlackBerry. For corporate and any other serious use of email, I still believe the BB rules. But the iPhone is a rule changer for the cell phone / smart phone industry.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: good to have you back! I missed you for a while!

    As for the OQO and the Vaio UX…well, they may be small, but I don’t consider them to be truly pocket sized. To me they still are way too bulky to be compared in convenience of size and weight with any smart phones, much less the sleek iPhone. Plus, there’s the little issue of price…both those devices go for over $2000. I can see plenty of people shelling out $500 for the iPhone, but not the 2 grand for these.

    In short, the OQO and the Vaio UX are both nice, and I do find them to be cool devices, but I consider them to be an entirely different market than the smartphone segment.

    As for things the iPhone can do that the others cannot: you are correct, I haven’t used this device yet, and as I qualified in my article, this means that all of my assumptions are based on Apple really delivering on their promises.

    However, where I see this device breaking through: a much better web browsing experience than on other smartphones…a much better media player…a much better picture album…a much better screen…in many cases greater ease of use…including features like Visual Voicemail.
    I do think many of the finger commands, like pinching and stretching an image, like running your finger to spin the virtual rolodex of the address book…also will have great intuitive appeal to users.

    Now of course I’m comparing to other smartphones, not those micro PCs…because, again, I don’t consider that to be a valid comparison. When OQO or the Sony UX gets down to $600 in price, then we can compare.

    I will also say for the basic tasks of web browsing and email, I would rather carry an iPhone than one of those micro PCs…it’s far smaller and lighter.

    Now, that doesn’t mean the iPhone is perfect…or that I’m going to ditch my BlackBerry. For corporate and any other serious use of email, I still believe the BB rules. But the iPhone is a rule changer for the cell phone / smart phone industry.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, a few things:

    First off, been busy and haven’t had time for browsing the web, however I couldn’t resist taking time off for CES.

    Anyway,the cheapest OQO 01 starts at $1100, which is a far cry from “over $2000,” and the top-of-the-line OQO 02 is only $1849, which is still below $2000. The Vaio, on the other hand is ungodly expensive. Of course, what would you estimate the cost of an unsubsidized iPhone would be? I’m guessing it isn’t far off from the price of a base OQO 01.

    I really have to take issue with your characterization of the devices though. I will point out that to someone who has been carrying a RAZR and a Nano around, the iPhone is a gigantic monstrosity! The fact is that as I have said before, both the iPhone and the OQO are too big to slip in your jeans, and small enough to slip in a jacket pocket. I think that puts them firmly in the same size category. Sure, the OQO is a lot bulkier than the iPhone, but then it is about the same measurments as the original iPod, and plenty of people managed to lug that around.

    You then go on to list a bunch of things you think it can do better than other ‘smartphones.’ It seems to me you have artificially created a category that (or at least the definition of the category) to exclude anything but the iPhone that might be capable of said tasks. For example, does a PocketPC qualify for your ‘smartphone’ category, or does it have to be running Windows Mobile Smartphone edition?

    You say it is “better” at web browsing, picture albums and media playing, largely because it has a better (bigger) screen. Yet, you then disqualify any device that has a bigger screen than the iPhone as being too big. Well, big surprise, if you only allow competition with smaller screens into the category, then I guess it is a foregone conclusion that it is going to have the biggest screen! I can think of plenty of VGA PPCs I’d happily put up against the iPhone on web browsing, picture viewing, and media playing (provided we are talking about non-iTunes media). Hell, on the media features I would say they have the advantage, because they can use removable media. Of course, and of the Smartphone Edition handhelds are out, because they decided that a tactile keyboard was more important than a big screen.

    I would also take issue with your opinion on usability. You might like all the pinching and stretching, but personally, I would rather have the stylus gestures and handwriting and voice recognition of the TabletPC OS. No matter how many times I can touch the screen at once, dictating or jotting down a note is always going to be easier than fiddling with an on-screen keyboard.

    Also, if you mean to say “Of the smartphones available for under $600, I think it has the best features” then say that, because that is a world of difference from “putting a computer in one’s pocket more so than any other device to date.”

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, a few things:

    First off, been busy and haven’t had time for browsing the web, however I couldn’t resist taking time off for CES.

    Anyway,the cheapest OQO 01 starts at $1100, which is a far cry from “over $2000,” and the top-of-the-line OQO 02 is only $1849, which is still below $2000. The Vaio, on the other hand is ungodly expensive. Of course, what would you estimate the cost of an unsubsidized iPhone would be? I’m guessing it isn’t far off from the price of a base OQO 01.

    I really have to take issue with your characterization of the devices though. I will point out that to someone who has been carrying a RAZR and a Nano around, the iPhone is a gigantic monstrosity! The fact is that as I have said before, both the iPhone and the OQO are too big to slip in your jeans, and small enough to slip in a jacket pocket. I think that puts them firmly in the same size category. Sure, the OQO is a lot bulkier than the iPhone, but then it is about the same measurments as the original iPod, and plenty of people managed to lug that around.

    You then go on to list a bunch of things you think it can do better than other ‘smartphones.’ It seems to me you have artificially created a category that (or at least the definition of the category) to exclude anything but the iPhone that might be capable of said tasks. For example, does a PocketPC qualify for your ‘smartphone’ category, or does it have to be running Windows Mobile Smartphone edition?

    You say it is “better” at web browsing, picture albums and media playing, largely because it has a better (bigger) screen. Yet, you then disqualify any device that has a bigger screen than the iPhone as being too big. Well, big surprise, if you only allow competition with smaller screens into the category, then I guess it is a foregone conclusion that it is going to have the biggest screen! I can think of plenty of VGA PPCs I’d happily put up against the iPhone on web browsing, picture viewing, and media playing (provided we are talking about non-iTunes media). Hell, on the media features I would say they have the advantage, because they can use removable media. Of course, and of the Smartphone Edition handhelds are out, because they decided that a tactile keyboard was more important than a big screen.

    I would also take issue with your opinion on usability. You might like all the pinching and stretching, but personally, I would rather have the stylus gestures and handwriting and voice recognition of the TabletPC OS. No matter how many times I can touch the screen at once, dictating or jotting down a note is always going to be easier than fiddling with an on-screen keyboard.

    Also, if you mean to say “Of the smartphones available for under $600, I think it has the best features” then say that, because that is a world of difference from “putting a computer in one’s pocket more so than any other device to date.”

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Oh, and on the “name a smartphone that can do all this” front. I would have to say the N800 Internet Tablets. Big 4″ 800×480 touchscreen, Linux as the OS, media features, integration with the Rhapsody music service, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Opera, Flash 7, and expandable storage to boot, right around $400. All in all most of the same features of the iPhone with different styling and a different flavor of free UNIX.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Oh, and on the “name a smartphone that can do all this” front. I would have to say the N800 Internet Tablets. Big 4″ 800×480 touchscreen, Linux as the OS, media features, integration with the Rhapsody music service, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Opera, Flash 7, and expandable storage to boot, right around $400. All in all most of the same features of the iPhone with different styling and a different flavor of free UNIX.

  • bsic

    Lloyd,

    I dont think this is about “name one thing this iPhone does that a Treo doesnt”. It isnt about who has more features, clearly. Its about design, UI, and overall user experience. That all boils down to individual preference, and apple is trying to find something most find appealing. Clearly its not appealing to you, and that fine.

    If it all boiled down to features, the Ipod wouldnt have stood a change at inception, or today for that matter. There are loads of other mp3 players with similiar (or more) features, yet apple continues the foot hold on the market. There is a reason for this, people buy based on DESIGN, not features.

    You may not think that “pinching and squeezing” will make a difference, but its EXACTLY this that will make a difference. Just like the clickwheel did for iPod. Multitouch, coverflow, etc, are all little things that contribute to a fantastic UI and user experience. Clearly this isnt your bag, and thats fine. But based on the response and thunderous applause as he demoed these features, most will find these little nuances very sexy.

  • bsic

    Lloyd,

    I dont think this is about “name one thing this iPhone does that a Treo doesnt”. It isnt about who has more features, clearly. Its about design, UI, and overall user experience. That all boils down to individual preference, and apple is trying to find something most find appealing. Clearly its not appealing to you, and that fine.

    If it all boiled down to features, the Ipod wouldnt have stood a change at inception, or today for that matter. There are loads of other mp3 players with similiar (or more) features, yet apple continues the foot hold on the market. There is a reason for this, people buy based on DESIGN, not features.

    You may not think that “pinching and squeezing” will make a difference, but its EXACTLY this that will make a difference. Just like the clickwheel did for iPod. Multitouch, coverflow, etc, are all little things that contribute to a fantastic UI and user experience. Clearly this isnt your bag, and thats fine. But based on the response and thunderous applause as he demoed these features, most will find these little nuances very sexy.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    bsic

    I agree with you 100% that this is about personal preference. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who will like the iPhone, and even be willing to spend $600 on the iPhone. I’m sure it will be quite popular with a certain segment. I have a few friends who can’t wait to get one.

    However, that is not what the argument is about. The argument is about how revolutionary, or different the iPhone is. Making a popular product, and making a product that “changes the entire industry” as so many pundits are claiming this will, are very different things. Just look at the RAZR. It is an insanely popular phone that many people just love, yet it brought almost nothing new to the phone market. It was just a normal old phone, in a really neat package with a spiffy keypad.

    All I’m arguing, is that the iPhone is in many ways, quite a bit like a RAZR, in that it doesn’t really do anything that hasn’t been seen before, it just does it in a really neat package, with a spiffy touchscreen. Now, that might be all it has to do to be a phenomenal success like the RAZR (though I doubt that), but being a liked and popular phone, doesn’t make it a groundbreaking phone.

    Oh, and I notice time and time again people keep saying “but the iPod…” The mobile phone market is not the MP3 player market. When Apple got into the MP3 player market, they were ten times the size of their nearest rival, and could dump more R&D money and marketing into their product that anyone else in that space could ever hope to. By the time big companies started taking an interest in the market, Apple had already gained a reputation as the leader. That isn’t the case in the phone market. Apple is playing with the big boys now, and they aren’t going to be pushed around and squashed like the companies in the MP3 player market.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    bsic

    I agree with you 100% that this is about personal preference. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who will like the iPhone, and even be willing to spend $600 on the iPhone. I’m sure it will be quite popular with a certain segment. I have a few friends who can’t wait to get one.

    However, that is not what the argument is about. The argument is about how revolutionary, or different the iPhone is. Making a popular product, and making a product that “changes the entire industry” as so many pundits are claiming this will, are very different things. Just look at the RAZR. It is an insanely popular phone that many people just love, yet it brought almost nothing new to the phone market. It was just a normal old phone, in a really neat package with a spiffy keypad.

    All I’m arguing, is that the iPhone is in many ways, quite a bit like a RAZR, in that it doesn’t really do anything that hasn’t been seen before, it just does it in a really neat package, with a spiffy touchscreen. Now, that might be all it has to do to be a phenomenal success like the RAZR (though I doubt that), but being a liked and popular phone, doesn’t make it a groundbreaking phone.

    Oh, and I notice time and time again people keep saying “but the iPod…” The mobile phone market is not the MP3 player market. When Apple got into the MP3 player market, they were ten times the size of their nearest rival, and could dump more R&D money and marketing into their product that anyone else in that space could ever hope to. By the time big companies started taking an interest in the market, Apple had already gained a reputation as the leader. That isn’t the case in the phone market. Apple is playing with the big boys now, and they aren’t going to be pushed around and squashed like the companies in the MP3 player market.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: A few points.

    First, the RAZR did change things significantly in the mobile phone market: look at how it has influenced design of other mobile phones. Anytime a product is wildly popular, by definition, that changes the entire industry. Huge popularity means changes in user buying habits, and it also means that other companies try to copy and/or respond in some fashion. That’s changing the entire industry.

    As bsic noted, I think it’s just that Apple products are not for you. However, the market will have its vote, and I would bet that the iPhone will be a huge success, especially as future versions come out that are lower priced and even have improved features.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: A few points.

    First, the RAZR did change things significantly in the mobile phone market: look at how it has influenced design of other mobile phones. Anytime a product is wildly popular, by definition, that changes the entire industry. Huge popularity means changes in user buying habits, and it also means that other companies try to copy and/or respond in some fashion. That’s changing the entire industry.

    As bsic noted, I think it’s just that Apple products are not for you. However, the market will have its vote, and I would bet that the iPhone will be a huge success, especially as future versions come out that are lower priced and even have improved features.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, I would argue that the RAZR didn’t do anything that the StarTac hadn’t done a decade before it, or that the MicroTac hadn’t done before that. Mobile devices get smaller. That isn’t a change in the industry, it is one of the defining features of the industry.

    I think you are confusing the natural shifts in fashion over time, with changes in the industry. If skinny suit ties are big next year, that doesn’t meant the company that put out skinny ties “revolutionized the fashion industry” by putting out skinny ties, it just means that skinny ties are in again.

    Yes, when the RAZR came out, we had been going through a several-year period where Nokia-styled candybar phones had been the “it” thing, and the RAZR caused people to once again decide that clamshell phones were cool. That isn’t a change in the industry, it is just a shift in fashion. Motorola has been doing pretty much the same thing since they first hit on the MicroTac design, and after years of working and reworking the same basic design, they finally had one that was a “hit” again. I don’t see that as any kind of “change in the industry” it is just a shift in fashion. I think there is a real problem in today’s hyperbolic media to want to portray every little fad and trend as “a groundbreaking paradigm shift in the industry as we know it!” It makes for good headlines, and sells ads, but that doesn’t make it true.

    The RAZR is a really good phone, as plain-old-phones go, but the list of actual features on a RAZR that are any different from a MicroTac Elite from the mid-’90s is pretty small, and the difference between the RAZR and any of a hundred other Motorola digital phones put out before or since the RAZR is litterally only skin deep. There wasn’t anything revolutionary or different about the RAZR, it was just a solid phone in a really slick package. That is called marketing, not innovation.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    Thought, I would argue that the RAZR didn’t do anything that the StarTac hadn’t done a decade before it, or that the MicroTac hadn’t done before that. Mobile devices get smaller. That isn’t a change in the industry, it is one of the defining features of the industry.

    I think you are confusing the natural shifts in fashion over time, with changes in the industry. If skinny suit ties are big next year, that doesn’t meant the company that put out skinny ties “revolutionized the fashion industry” by putting out skinny ties, it just means that skinny ties are in again.

    Yes, when the RAZR came out, we had been going through a several-year period where Nokia-styled candybar phones had been the “it” thing, and the RAZR caused people to once again decide that clamshell phones were cool. That isn’t a change in the industry, it is just a shift in fashion. Motorola has been doing pretty much the same thing since they first hit on the MicroTac design, and after years of working and reworking the same basic design, they finally had one that was a “hit” again. I don’t see that as any kind of “change in the industry” it is just a shift in fashion. I think there is a real problem in today’s hyperbolic media to want to portray every little fad and trend as “a groundbreaking paradigm shift in the industry as we know it!” It makes for good headlines, and sells ads, but that doesn’t make it true.

    The RAZR is a really good phone, as plain-old-phones go, but the list of actual features on a RAZR that are any different from a MicroTac Elite from the mid-’90s is pretty small, and the difference between the RAZR and any of a hundred other Motorola digital phones put out before or since the RAZR is litterally only skin deep. There wasn’t anything revolutionary or different about the RAZR, it was just a solid phone in a really slick package. That is called marketing, not innovation.