Steve Jobs’ announcement at yesterday’s Macworld conference about the iPhone is big. I have been reading a variety of opinions about how this impacts the world of cell phones, including Nokia, RIM and the like. I think as this news is digested, there is still more upside from this announcement if you’re an investor or a potential investor in apple, as I believe people will realize the following:
So called “smartphones” today are generally awful. Usability is poor, too many compromises (some have touch screens, some don’t; some have good keyboards, some are lousy; some are actually decent phones and are mediocre at their other functions, most are not so good; some function as music players, others can but not well, or have incompatible headphone jacks, on and on…), just too much to not like in any example. I have looked at the Samsung Blackjack, Cingular 8525, the Motorola Q, various Blackberries and Treos. They all have some compelling features (keyboard, push mail, WiFi on the 8525) and some infuriating omissions (no touch screen on the Blackjack, the Windows OS is problematic, the Palm OS is showing its age, the Blackberry is great for mail but mediocre for everything else). The iPhone has it all, and the non-phone features are finally all there and appear to be done right.
Standard form factor. Look around, these things are anywhere from really thin, too thick, too heavy, unable to fit into a jeans pocket – there is no standard. Apple is going to become the de facto form factor and design standard. Its simple design looks to make “gadget use tension” evaporate. I am not going to have to concentrate so hard and make five clicks with a crappy scroll wheel/button to record a voice memo to myself, for example.
We are sick of carrying around all these specialized gadgets. A smartphone with tons of unused memory sits in my bag next to my iRiver 40gb mp3 player, my Garmin GPS, and my laptop which is with me even on occasions where I just may use it but only need to read email and surf. I don’t have a PDA, but many people throw that into the mix, too. Here is where Apple is really separating itself from the lackluster crowd. This device looks to make the need for separate devices to handle these features largely obsolete right when it is launched in June, and eventually, completely obsolete.
Connectivity. Every smartphone these days should have Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi b and g, as well as its carrier’s 3G access built in. They usually have one and a half or two out of three. WiFi is the iPhone’s coup de grace. The Blackjack should have this. The Nokia E62 should have this. Most smartphones have gorgeous screens and close to enough real estate to let you surf using whatever connection your home, office or coffee shop infrastructure offers. Most carriers cripple the WiFi so that you are forced to use their expensive 3G plans for Internet access. Unless you travel a lot or are otherwise forced, you simply pull out another device to surf and check email. A device with a beautiful screen like the iPhone, and usable in landscape mode makes a great hand-held browser.
In short, this is the Holy Grail. One device that does phone, email, messaging, web browsing, and photo and video viewing.
- Will the on-screen keyboard be usable?
- Is the case going to be durable (see how an old iPod wears, not too well)
- Will 3G access be available soon? (It won’t be for the June release)
- Is it as easy to use as all those iPhone videos on the web make it seem?
- Is the call quality great?
- Does it “boot up” or just turn on?
- I’m still lukewarm about iTunes, will that improve? It seems integral to this device.
- Does it come with a charger, a decent case, and hopefully a car charger?
- Does Bluetooth work as well as it should?
- Will a competitor emerge that gets the design just as right?
- Is the memory expandable?
- Battery à la the iPod, or can we replace it when it’s old and tired?
- Support for Office docs?
- Support for Exchange Server?
- Can we expand it by installing our own software (like Palm, Symbian, and Microsoft phones all allow)?