Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Previewing the iPhone Revolution - Who exactly is Apple targeting?

Previewing the iPhone Revolution

It seems as though I’m going to be a couple months behind, but I have to talk about the Apple iPhone. Everyone on the net is talking about it, so why shouldn’t I?

First off, I want to say that the iPhone is pretty cool, but I personally am not interested. Yah, I’ve said it, I’m not interested in it. Maybe if I owned my own iPod, then I might toot a different story, but I don’t think that would even change my opinion. When the iPhone was announced and every major news source covered the story, I was amazed at the types of things the iPhone could do in the demonstrations. Then I thought about it and realized… “Wait, what CAN it do? Everything they showed are aesthetics.” You know, stuff like non-touch key pad, the look, the cool icons, etc. Well, I’ve looked into it and here’s the breakdown.

Wi-Fi VoIP capabilities: The iPhone will have VoIP capabilities, along with a partnership with Jajah to go with it. Apple also has their iChat, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to call other iChat members for free. The Wi-Fi capabilities may allow VoIP calls done over the Internet through Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution aka EDGE (which probably should be mentioned under the negative section since it’s infamously slow) wireless technology, also allowing cheaper or free calls. I just wonder what Cingular, who is the exclusive cellular provider for the iPhone, thinks of all this.
OS X: The Apple OS is going to be running on the Apple iPhone, which is already a point to check the phone out. Chances are, this will be a limited, if not watered-down, version of the OS X. Mac users can breath easier now because the iPhone will have full compatibility with their computers, as opposed to the Windows Mobile phones dominating the market.
Look and Design: You can’t deny the fact that it looks really cool.
Built-in Advanced Sensors: The accelerometer allows you to rotate the device from portrait to landscape and the phone will change the display automatically. The ambient light sensor will adjust the screen’s brightness depending on the ambient light surrounding the phone.
Screen: The iPhone has a fairly large screen (3.5-inch), and is a widescreen when rotated, with a fairly high-rez so that you can watch videos.

Touchpad: Depending on who you are, you’ll have different opinions on this feature. It looked really cool in the demonstration, but I really wonder about its practicality. Many users want the numeric keypad. Emailing will be considerably slower, and so will texts. The touchpad is part of Apple’s design philosophy of “less is better”, but for an all-in-one phone, less is NOT better.
EDGE: I said it should be here in the negative section, and here it is. With EDGE in place, Cingular can’t provide a true 3G iPhone. The EDGE network can support email and widgets and surfing, but also forces iPhone users to get most of their higher-resolution video through iTunes.
Closed System: Apple won’t allow third-party developers to build software for it. Yes, if you own a PDA, then you’ll understand more than anyone this problem. I think one of the great things about high-end phones is that you can add third-party programs, customize your phone, and have a lot of neat tools added on. Closing the system will make this phone a literal “get what you paid for” item.
Cingular: Don’t get me wrong, I personally like Cingular, but having the iPhone exclusive to only Cingular customers is an issue. Many people with tech gadgets like to have their options, which tie in with the issue of being a closed system, as well. Perhaps there will be an unlocked iPhone down the line for those who want different cellular companies, but as for now, its only Cingular. There are also those who don’t have Cingular contracts that will have to either break their contracts (which costs money in most cases), or figure out a way to switch out of their service.
Limited Storage: iPod users are used to 30GB and 60GB storage space. Will the measly 8GB be enough? Maybe Apple anticipated the new D.A.V.E. by Seagate.
The Price: Now I don’t know about everyone else, but c’mon. $499+ is a bit steep. There are other high-end telephones that are around that price range, more expensive even, but they offer a lot of features iPhone does not. Apple probably kept this in mind since they only planned on a 10-million unit release.

Questions To Be Answered (since it’s a high-end phone I’ll ask “smart phone” questions):
What kind of Microsoft support will be available? (i.e. Outlook, Word, Exel, etc.)
It will have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but can it be used as a laptop modem?
Video recording?
Voice features like voice dialing and voice memos?
Battery life? This is the question that’s on everyone’s mind, and one problem that’s plagued iPod users ever since the first iPod came out. An mp3 player with a dead battery was a bummer, but how bout an mp3 player/cell phone with a dead battery?
I don’t think I ever saw anyone mention features like USB ports, SD and MicroSD slots, etc. Will the iPhone have these features?

The target audience of the Apple iPhone is identical to the iPod’s existing market. I personally don’t see a new version of the iPod coming out, as I believe the iPhone is the newer version, albeit there’s less storage capacity, but tons more features. The only problem is whether the loyal Apple iPod fans will all transition over to the iPhone, not unlike they way they bought every new version of the iPod as they were cranked out. Plus, Cingular’s exclusivity with the iPhone brings up the question of whether or not everyone with different cell companies will switch over with a new two-year plan, and whether Cingular’s current users will all switch to the new $499+ phone.

I don’t mean to bash iPhone, because I know this article sounds like I’m very anti-iPhone, but I do suggest everyone that’s looking to buy a new cell phone to do their research. The iPhone is mainly targeting Apple’s iPod fan base, and may sway more casual cell phone users into the high-end spectrum. This is a cool looking phone that will probably work well. Just don’t expect it to be a business/work extension like a PDA can be. The iPhone’s features maybe enough, or too much for you, but just make sure it’s the right buy for you to shell out half a grand. Maybe save that for the Apple TV coming out.