Strong opinions, weakly held

Why I’m excited about the iPhone

I’m not normally a gadget person, and I am almost always a late adopter. I didn’t try out an iPod until the third generation was released. It took me forever to get a mobile phone and a digital camera. I’m always in that group of people who would prefer to feel the smug satisfaction of getting a good deal on something that has been out for awhile rather than being the first person on my block to pay too much for the hot new thing.

So I am surprised to find that I really, really want an iPhone, and that the $599 price seems reasonable.

Part of it is my grave disappointment with mobile phones as they exist today. I have the unlocked Motorola PEBL that I bought on eBay, and I like it. The form factor is great. That said, I hate the user interface. The menus are clunky, the buttons can be hard to deal with, and the built in Web browser is a total loss. I hate the idea of getting killed for data usage whenever I want to look up the weather or a sports score.

I want a phone that’s as easy to use as my iPod, or my Tivo. That’s what the iPhone promises to be. To me, the killer thing about the phone is the user interface. Comparing it feature for feature with other smart phones is all well and good, but leaves out the fact that this phone should actually be enjoyable. (If it’s not, I’m not dropping 600 bucks on it.) This is the first phone I’ve seen (or seen demoed, anyway), that looks like it would be pleasant enough to use that I could see myself sitting in a coffee shop checking my email or catching up on some feeds without opening up a laptop. That, to me, is a compelling feature. The fact that I can join the local wifi network and surf the web without paying data charges is even better. And check out the screen resolution on this thing. The other phones hardly compare.

The voice mail application alone shows that the iPhone is to be taken seriously. Voice mail has been broken forever. It sucks on land lines, it sucks on mobile phones, it sucks everywhere. Nobody likes getting voice mail. The iPhone addresses that, and it makes you wonder why none of the other mobile phone providers have before.

Of course the phone also has a camera, and a bunch of storage space for songs and video, and a ton of other cool bells and whistles, but that’s just icing on the cake. I want to be able to do the stuff the phone I have now can do without aggravation.

There are some complaints about the iPhone, the primary being that it’s a Cingular-only product. If I were a customer of some other provider, that would bug me too, but I’m already using Cingular, so OK. There’s the related complaint that EvDO is faster than EDGE, but Cingular is a GSM carrier, so EDGE is what you get. I’m sure Apple would love to offer EvDO speed, but for whatever reason, they wound up building a GSM phone, so customers are out of luck. (For now, I wonder whether they’ll offer HSDPA by the time the phone is released?)

There are some complaints about the cost, and yeah, the phone is expensive. But are you getting value for your money? It sure looks like it from the demo. I can remember people paying $800 bucks for Motorola Startac phones ten years ago. You’ve always had to pay to be on the cutting edge, especially when it comes to mobile technology. In a couple of years, there will probably be cheap iPhones that do what the iPhone they’re releasing in June does, and expensive iPhones that blow our minds.

Bottom line: I will be at the Apple Store checking these out in person as soon as possible.


  1. Yeah, I am similarly intrigued. I have and hate my Verizon v710, and we moved my wife to Cingular with the plan to get rid of Verizon when my contract expires in March. I’ll look at the iPhone then. I’m also interested in finding out how much of a barrier to entry there is on applications, both widget-style and full.

    When I was in high-school I worked at Radio Shack, and I sold the first handheld portable phone that our story carried. It cost someone $1799. Prices started falling almost immediately when the carriers worked out the subsidy/buy-in contract scheme.

  2. I have a dozen serious complaints, all of which would keep me from buying this thing, but the most important (and least discussed), its a closed platform. No SDK, all 3rd party apps contracted directly through Apple. No happy hacky toss together a new phone app in DashCode.

  3. I’m sorta bummed that their web site crashes any browser I try to open it in. sigh… %^)

  4. Hi Rafe,

    You’re comparing apples to turds – Motorola is reknowned for having a horrible phone UI. I know lots of people with the sexy slim Motos, and every one I ask strongly recommends against buying them. One friend uses his Razr to make calls (and be seen with), but keeps his numbers in a Nokia.

    I find Nokia and Sony-Ericcson to be decent phones. I’m sure the iPhone will have a slicker, simpler UI, and the Jobs reality distortion field will persuade people that whatever corners they cut to get it so simple are really wonderful features. “Wow, an MP3 player that won’t let you choose what song you want to play! I must have one!”

    I’ll stick with Nokia and Sony-E, the same way I stick with my battered Rio MP3 player. It may not be the height of fashion, but it does more, costs less, and the UI is still easy enough for me. It would take a hell of a lot of booze to kill enough brain cells to force me to switch to an iPod for the simpler UI. And even more before the fashion statement becomes important enough to force the switch.

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