Given its out-of-the-box ability to work with Exchange servers as well as coping with IMAP and POP home email, the iPhone has become popular amongst some of my colleagues. They have expressed surprise, especially given my tech-forward leanings and devotion to Apple Inc.’s products that I haven’t dashed out there and purchased one already.
Its not because the iPhone is a bad device, on the contrary it is a well-designed device that has managed to change the way people think about the mobile web. I expect that its effect on the the mobile device industry will move beyond the lipstick-on-a-pig touchscreen treatments currently offered by Apple’s rivals and will continue to be far reaching in the future, in the same way that Apple’s Macintosh platform continues to redefine the desktop computing paradigm for both Windows and Linux systems.
I have already talked here how iPhone compatability has positively affected the design of web services.
From a software standpoint there is a lot to be said for building a phone OS on a mature stable secure workstation operating system like BSD. Like with the range of Macintosh devices, this has allowed Apple to focus on the layers of the architecture that really affect customers, also it means that most of the low-level kinks have been already ironed out (or one would hope so). So why no iPhone?
- The omission of Flash – whilst Flash may be sub-optimal it is a defacto standard on the web and it will be that way for a number years to come. If you are promising people the mobile web you need to be able to deal with Flash, Nokia already does
- The speed of data input – if you are going to get rid of a keyboard you need to provide an alternative input technique that makes sense with the device. I am not impressed with the virtual keyboard. When I had a similar device, the Palm Vx, Palm’s original graffiti was much faster, admittedly Palm took a dive with Graffiti II which was designed to get around a court case that Palm eventually won anyway. However the obvious parallels to the Newton maybe too much for Apple
- Improvements needed in web experiences – this isn’t only aimed at Apple, but mobile web experiences haven’t kept up with developments on the desktop. For example there is no effective way of adding bookmarks to my delicious account, yet this is a facility I use on my Mac all the time
- Build quality and materials choice – I am not impressed by the piano lacquer type finish that Apple has on the plastic backs of the device, it feels nasty in comparison to the back of a Blackberry Bold or a Nokia E61/71/90. Also more thought needs to be put into the screen as finger prints, facial grease and make-up really ruin the look, thats one advantage that the stylus had. These are also faults of similar LG and Samsung devices. The tactile experience has been ignored in favour of great product photography. A class-action suit about cracked casings and a healthy after market in iPhone covers (despite the stunning industrial design) shows how badly Apple has got this wrong. Last time I had a phone cover was back in 1997/8 when I had a Motorola Graphite on a One2One prepaid contract which allowed me 30 minutes a month and free off-peak local calls. Now a mobile phone cover is the equivalent of those dolls with crocheted skirts used by some pensioners to cover the spare toilet roll
- Carrier linkage – key selling point to me of the iPhone is the concept of visual voice mail, however this is tethered to carrier-side innovation and consequently if you want an iPhone you don’t have a choice of mobile carrier. Because of my travels: Three makes a lot more sense for me given my travels and Vodafone has a far superior network to 02
- Battery life – Apple is still struggling with the battery life on these devices, neither of my Nokia phones are great: but its better than the iPhones that I have come across
- The false wisdom of the universal device – the old saying of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none is the reason why device convergence is generally unsuccessful. Indeed Steve Jobs often discouraged public enquiries and requests for increased feature convergence on the iPod line in the past. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. I still prefer to have a separate music device to my phone
- The distorted market for iPhone applications – when I had a Palm Treo, the device had an adequate email application, but I was able to use Snapperfish which better suited my needs. This allowed innovation to happen across a range of areas. However with the iPhone application marketplace with its onerous terms and conditions is restricting development and innovation of the iPhone eco-system in key areas where Apple had already developed applications: for instance the Opera mobile browser