Don’t get me wrong. The new Apple iPhone is without a doubt an interesting and snazzy piece of hardware, and the injection of Apple and its design skills into the market is a very good thing. But I have to wonder, is the iPhone really worth all the hype that it’s getting?
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As I write this, it’s so late on the day of the announcement that it’s actually quite early on the day after. And it seems that every time I’ve gone online over the last eight hours or so I’ve tripped over someone gushing about how incredible the iPhone is, how they have to have one, or how all other remotely competing products and operating systems are now completely and without debate dead. And in all that, I have yet to see the answer to one simple question that I have about the iPhone.
What does it actually do?
Plays music? We’ve already got about five thousand phones that do that. Video? Ditto. Not to mention Internet access, personal information management, and web browsing. Okay, it probably integrates really well with Apple’s service ecosystem, although that might be more compelling if it included 3G for over-the-air iTunes downloads.
It’s got great specs in terms of internal flash, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Having some actual buttons would be nice, but okay. Still, as the HTC Universal proved, great specs don’t win you the consumer market. In fact, sometimes they can lose it.
High End. REALLY High End
The thing that endangers the iPhone is the same trouble that grounded the Universal: price. The iPhone is running $500 to $600 with a two-year contract. Compare that to the contract price of the T-Mobile Dash, the Samsung Blackjack, any of Palm’s Treos. You could buy yourself two ordinary smartphones plus 4 GB of memory for the cost of a single iPhone.
Ever since the original iPod came out, I’ve learned not to underestimate what the middle class will pay for their Apple-designed toys. But as Compaq taught me about five years ago, once you have a hit on your hands, it’s easy to try overcharging. Look where it got them.
Maybe it’s just me. I’m not a fad person. I never bought the original iPod, or any of its subsequent spawn. I didn’t see much value in the Motorola RAZR, either. But it seems that there’s much sizzling being done over very little steak yet seen.
There is one thing that the iPhone could do pretty easily, though. And that is take on Palm’s Treos. The superior specs and multitasking capabilities of the iPhone could spell big trouble for the loyalty of the “anything but Microsoft” group who still faithfully buys so many Palm OS devices.