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On the Apple iPhone…

By Brian | July 1, 2007 | Share on Facebook

Well, I couldn’t very well have a blog and not comment on the iPhone this weekend, could I?

I didn’t buy one, nor do I know anyone who did, so I’ll reserve my comments on the device itself to the reviews I’ve read/watched. On the upside: the user interface looks amazing, the screen itself doesn’t seem to be a problem (I had privately predicted that there would be big complaints about scratching, smudging, etc. that would make the screen hard to read and/or sluggish in its tactile response), the web browser seems to be the best on any handheld device, and some of the new paradigms they’ve introduced are sure to revolutionize human-computer interaction (e.g., the two-fingered “pinching” and “spreading” motions, and the asynchronous voicemail access). On the downside: the phone-related features seem to be fair at best (call quality, speed of the data network), and there seem to be a few complaints about the physical form factor that will probably be addressed in the next version. This CNET Review points out that the virtual keyboard for e-mail/text messages only displays in portrait mode, making it a bit crowded to type with two hands. Also, the headphone jack is recessed into the device, so while the standard earbuds fit nicely, other headphones with the same size plug might not fit snugly into an iPhone – sure to be a huge disappointment to current iPod owners who have upgraded their headphones already.

My initial impression: the smart money is probably on waiting for the second version of this device. User feedback will do a lot to improve some of the flaws, there will probably be new features introduced, and market pressures will probably force either AT&T to step up their speed/quality, or Apple to do a deal with another network provider.

One other comment I want to make, though: I’m very impressed with how Research in Motion, makers of the ubiquitous BlackBerry device, have handled the iPhone launch. They’re obviously the big fish in the pond Apple’s just jumped into, and they made some rather impressive marketing moves on Friday to steal away some of Apple’s buzz.

First of all, they’ve strategically placed ads in cool and creative places (like the CNET video iPhone review I linked to above). Also, they released their first quarter earnings results after the market closed on Thursday, so the Friday morning stories would be about them, not Apple. Their results “blew the doors off” analyst expectations, sending the stock up 20% in a single day. But the real genius was in the “fun facts” they subtly dropped into the earnings report. For instance, RIM sells phones in 100 countries with 300 carriers. iPhone is launching in the US only, and on only one carrier. Also, RIM expects to sell their 20 millionth BlackBerry this summer, adding 1.2 million subscribers in the last three months (an 18% gain). When people start quoting unit sales of the iPhone, the numbers will pale in comparison. Finally, the CEO thanked Apple for the iPhone hype in his accompanying conference call: “I think (Apple) did us a great favor, because they drove attention to the converged appliance base.”

RIM’s stock could have plunged next week, as analysts feared the sudden increase in competition. Instead, RIM has positioned themselves as a market leader that dwarfs the iPhone, and a beneficiary of the huge press their market is receiving. This is the power of the incumbent at work, folks, and they’ve done a masterful job.

Topics: Tech Talk | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “On the Apple iPhone…”

  1. Jeff Porten says at July 1st, 2007 at 3:21 pm :
    I agree with your conclusions, mostly, just clarifying a few points:

    1) the screen itself is more than “not a problem” — there’s a PC World video of them trying to scratch it with a key and not succeeding. That’s mindblowing.

    2) the screen does smudge, but apparently the backlight is so damn bright that the smudges are invisible. Plus it wipes clean easily.

    3) an audio firm claims that the hardware is the best audio quality of any phone they’ve ever tested (can’t remember what link I read that on), so poor quality is probably due to AT&T.

    4) CNET is wrong; the keyboard is available in landscape mode, but right now only in Safari.

    5) there’s already a $10 adapter to use any headphones with the iPhone. Word is that the jack is recessed to ensure that cable tugs put stress on the case, not the electronics.

    I would have been in line on Friday to buy the phone if it worked with T-Mobile, but as it stands I’m waiting for the 2.0 version as well. My guess is that in three years, the iPhone will be as much of a category killer as the iPod — my guess is that you feel the same way, as you Freudian slippingly used “iPod” for “iPhone” in your post.

  2. Brian says at July 2nd, 2007 at 12:56 pm :
    1) Just heard about that today as well. Interesting note: Apple announced about a week ago that they had changed the composition of the screen to be glass instead of plastic. I wonder when that decision was made vs. announced. Also, now that they’ve figured it out, I wonder when we’ll see the first glass iPods (or if that’s part of the iPhone pricetag that they’d rather not introduce on the iPods).

    2) Yup.

    3) Doesn’t matter in the slightest – if I can’t hear someone when I call them on my iPhone, my iPhone isn’t a very good phone. Hardware/network distinctions matter little to 99% of the users…

    4) Actually, I’ve read this several places; I may have mischaracterized CNET’s quote. They said that text messaging is a little tough with both hands cramped around a portrait-oriented device. I assume you can’t (wouldn’t?) do text messaging from Safari, right?

    5) The $10 adapter seems like a hack to tie people over until they fix it in R2.

    Also: no Freudian slip in the post – I meant what I said. People who have iPods now with fancy headphones are probably dissapointed that they can’t use them on their new iPhones. The adapter helps, but it becomes “one more thing to buy.” I had the same problem with the FM Tuner that works on my old iPod, but not my video iPod…

  3. Jeff Porten says at July 2nd, 2007 at 9:29 pm :
    if I can’t hear someone when I call them on my iPhone, my iPhone isn’t a very good phone.

    Agreed, but there’s a huge difference between “move three feet to your left”, and “sorry, you’re just screwed.” Still, this is one more reason why I’m generally baffled why Apple is AT&T-only.

    They said that text messaging is a little tough with both hands cramped around a portrait-oriented device. I assume you can’t (wouldn’t?) do text messaging from Safari, right?

    I got my hands on one yesterday, and I agree — but I also think it’s because I got a total of five minutes’ experience with the keyboard. I was actually very impressed with the Safari landscape option — typing in a URL is one of the few places where the word-correction won’t work, so keyboard accuracy is a higher priority there than in other places. Using a portrait keyboard in SMS and email, I was generally impressed with the speed I achieved in the first few minutes.

    The $10 adapter seems like a hack to tie people over until they fix it in R2

    Doubt it. My Palm TX is similarly incompatible with some of my headphones. I believe them when they say it’s to protect the electronics (especially as my Palm jack is broken and not nearly as far recessed as the iPhone’s).

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