The hottest topic of last week was obviously the Apple iPhone. At first I was quite excited about the device and, as always, Apple does a good job of hyping up a product. However, after reading more on the iPhone details, including David Pogue's Ultimate iPhone FAQ part 1 and part 2 we can see that the iPhone really is not designed for the business user even though the pricing is up in the enterprise range. It may be designed for the consumer, but even then there are existing devices that consumers should take a look at too before succumbing to the Apple hype. We thought it would be a good idea to post some facts on a few other high end devices priced over US$450 that compete well with the iPhone and actually work much better for the business user. So let's take a quick look at the Apple iPhone, Nokia N95, and Cingular 8525 (HTC Hermes variant).
Apple iPhone: Most of us gadget fans were initially hit by the shock-and-awe of the Jobs keynote announcing the Apple iPhone, but after the dust settled out and we started diving into the specs, price, and functionality we saw that Apple does a good job of putting a new face on existing technology and functionality. Granted, there is some cool new stuff like the multi-touch display panel, but Apple also made some apparent trade-offs that many users may not be willing to compromise on. According to information released by Apple, the iPhone will not sync to Outlook or allow you to sync with other 3rd party PIM applications, will not allow you to view or edit Office documents, may not work as a modem for a MacBook or laptop, only responds to skin touch with no fingernail or stylus response, can only be used with Cingular (maybe for as long as 2 years), has a closed Mac OS X variant operating system, has no removable battery, has no memory expansion slot, has no GPS, and currently has no voice dialing capability. I think the 8GB is a bit too limiting as well since videos you purchase from iTunes can take over 1GB of memory themselves and many people have music collections much larger than this. While the device looks beautiful in photos and images, if they want it to be a phone first it needs to have physical keys. Microsoft has had touch screen phones for several years and while they are powerful and functional for people that want a phone first the touch screen just doesn't cut it. If Apple wants the iPhone to be a multimedia device then it really needs more memory and a removable battery would be nice as well.
Nokia N95: The N95 release is imminent and the device has been shown at various trade shows since October. I have had opportunities to play with the device for a total of about 20 minutes at the Nokia Open Studio event and CES. The Nokia N95 sports 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, dual mode sliding display, bright 2.6 inch QVGA display, WiFi, Bluetooth (including A2DP), HSDPA radio, integrated GPS radio, FM radio, microSD card slot, 150MB internal memory, TV-out functionality, and 3.5mm audio jack. The N95 runs Symbian 9.2 with S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 and there are is a huge collection of 3rd party and integrated applications that allow you to sync with Exchange and a number of other server clients, create, view, and edit Office documents, sync to Calendar, Contacts, and more via USB to a PC or Mac, and much more. The browser in the S60 3rd Edition is actually based on Apple's own Safari open source technology and blows every other mobile web browser out of the water with its visual history, integrated RSS aggregator, and full website support that doesn't strip out or limit your viewable content while making navigation and viewing a pleasure. The dual slider on the N95 reveals either multimedia buttons or a phone keypad so you can quickly transform the device from a phone to a media player. The Nokia N95 is much more powerful than the Apple iPhone and could be made even better with 4GB or 8GB of flash memory like the Nokia N91 devices.
Cingular 8525 (and many other HTC Hermes models):Microsoft has had touch screen Phone Edition devices for a few years and manufacturers like HTC have continued to refine and optimize them with the latest and greatest model being the Cingular 8525. This device is also sold overseas (codenamed HTC Hermes) with a front facing camera used for video calls, but Cingular removed it from their device. The device sports a 2.8 inch color display, 400MHz processor, HSDPA (3G) radio, integrated Wifi and Bluetooth 2.0, 128 MB ROM, 51MB user available RAM, and 2 megapixel camera. The 8525 appears to be almost all display with a few hardware buttons down at the bottom, but it also has the ability to slide open to reveal a very functional QWERTY keyboard for fast and accurate text entry. The user has the option of using the device touchscreen, like the iPhone, or even opening it up to be more productive. External storage capability lets you use the device to listen to music or watch movies too. Like the Nokia N95, there are a large number of 3rd party and integrated applications that let you sync to Exchange servers, create, view and edit Office documents, sync to PCs, watch Slingbox and other video streaming content, and much more. Again, devices like this are more functional and powerful than the Apple iPhone and are available on multiple carriers. Users have even figured out how to customize the Today screen to look and act like the iPhone main display shown in the keynote.
There are also many more Palm, Windows Mobile, and Symbian devices that have more capability than the Apple iPhone. As I stated earlier, Apple does have some new technology in the device, but even as an Apple MacBook Pro user it does get a bit tiresome seeing all the hype for a device that is not as revolutionary as it first appears. The good thing about Apple's announcement six months before we even see the device is that companies like HTC and Nokia have some time to add some of this flair to their existing models and competition is generally always good for improving devices for the end user. I have been using Apple products since 1989 and although the iPhone looks great, I will not be switching to Cingular just to pick one up for myself so you won't find an iPhone in my collection anytime soon when there are so many more open devices out on the market.