What's so smart about the iPhone?

What's so smart about the iPhone?

Summary: I spent an hour at the Windows Mobile pavilion at CES looking at Smartphones. I would choose any of them over the iPhone, as would just about anyone I met with at CES. Here's why the iPhone is not a smart choice.

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TOPICS: iPhone
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I spent last week at CES looking at gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets. Not just on the show floor, but in the hands of people using them to get real work done.

Coincidentally, three days into the week, in another part of the world, Apple announced two new products that managed to pin the hype meter at about 16.7 on a scale of 10.

I'm baffled. Yes, the iPhone and AppleTV are pretty. But are they really what people want?

I'll get to AppleTV later this week, but for now let's talk about phones. I spent an hour at the Windows Mobile pavilion at CES looking at Smartphones. I would choose any of them over the iPhone, as would just about anyone I met with at CES.

The biggest missing piece in the iPhone is its ability to sync calendars and e-mail effortlessly. I could not have survived CES without my trusty Cingular 8125 Smartphone. I was able to keep my Outlook calendar and contacts up to date on a device that fits in my pocket, including detailed directions and backgrounders. I have the Smartphone set to sync e-mail as well.

And I wasn't alone. About two-thirds of the people I met with were also using Smartphones and were regularly checking e-mail and schedules. I saw at least a dozen different Windows Mobile-based devices in use this week and didn't hear a single complaint about their operation.

Are any of us going to switch to an iPhone? I doubt it. I read the specs carefully, and I can't imagine why anyone in business would want this device, which is pretty but ultimately dumb. As far as I can tell, the sync process for PCs is a tortured two-step that requires me to sync my local Outlook calendar with iTunes and then sync iTunes with my device, all over a physical connection. You want your e-mail and calendar pushed from your Exchange Server to your phone? Then you do not want an iPhone.

Apple's biggest hit of all time is the iPod, so it's no wonder they want to graft a phone onto it. Halo effect, and all that. But here are a few of the deficiencies I can see at a quick glance:

The keyboard. It took me a few months to get used to retrieving voicemail using the soft keypad on the 8125, and if you're heavily into e-mail anything short of a real keyboard with tactile buttons is going to be an endless source of frustration for you. At CES, I saw Smartphones with all variations of keypads, including slide-out QWERTY keyboards, Blackberry-style thumb-driven pads, and softpads. Take your pick.

The speed. No Wi-Fi, no 3G?  No 3G? Browsing the web over an Edge connection is insanely not-so-great. But I'm sure that the hourglass will look stunning.

Expandability. I can choose from a large library of Windows Mobile add-ons. If I can't find one I like, I can write my own. With Apple, not so much.

The provider. You can choose any provider you want for the iPhone, as long as it's Cingular. You'll also need to sign up for a two-year contract to get the right to pay the full retail price. By contrast, every provider has Windows Mobile-based Smartphones, and you can buy unlocked phones if you want freedom of choice.

As for music, any Smartphone includes Windows Media Player, and adding music to it is fairly easy with Windows Media Player. The 2GB mini-SD card in my 8125 holds about 500 songs and syncs automatically when I plug it in. It even works with white earbuds, although I prefer a better set of headphones.

And let's not forget that this will be a 1.0 product for Apple when it comes out in six months. For those who have not escaped Steve's reality distortion field, that means it will certainly have issues. Remember OS X 1.0? Remember iTunes 7.0? Remember the first-generation iPods? If you must get an iPhone, get the extended warranty. By contrast, the Smartphone platform has been under continuous development for years. It's reliable and expandable.

Ultimately, the iPhone is stark proof of the fundamental difference between the Mac and Windows worlds. In the Mac world, you get one man's vision, beautifully designed, expensive, and maybe, just maybe in sync with your needs. In the Windows world, you get an enormous ecosystem where you can choose from dozens of different devices using the form factors and feature sets you prefer, at a variety of price points.

I know which world I prefer.

Update 18-Jan 4:15PM PST. In the Talkback section, Scott Mace makes an excellent observation:

Sync-via-dock limitation is the big problem
Few posters here have noted that Apple execs ruled out any sort of iPhone sync other than at a dock. The issue of ease of sync/docking with Mac vs. sync/docking with Windows/Outlook pales in comparison to the lack of sync-over-the-Net. As Ed points out in one of his own comments, sync needs to happen immediately, not when one gets back to the office. Shame on Apple for not allowing sync-over-the-Net; double-shame for not even letting iPhone users install software that could provide that function. To have a calendar in 2007 that requires physical docking for sync is just backward thinking, be it for consumers or for enterprises.

More from Scott here.

Topic: iPhone

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  • Message has been deleted.

    Buying iPhones
  • Message has been deleted.

    Buying iPhones
    • Message has been deleted.

      bportlock
      • You are so free to make your own choice

        Apple-hater writes: "will queue like lemmings to buy this but it will be because of the
        "poser" effect"

        Funnty coming from a person who's choices are most likely made by his boss. I
        choose iPhone for lack of anyone telling I have to use Microsoft products and so I'm a
        lemming. And what do your choices say about you?
        YinToYourYang-22527499
        • I like your style

          <i> I
          choose iPhone for lack of anyone telling I have to use Microsoft products</i><br><br>
          You are not doing yourself any favors with comments like this. This only reinforces your "lemming" status and sounds like you would buy anything Apple just to spite Microsoft, even if they have a better product. Microsoft has a smart phone with multiple providers, twice the functionality, same form factor and 1/3 the cost, but you buy the iPhone. Ok, hey I think the rest of the apple zealots are heading toward the sea, you better catch up.
          xuniL_z
        • You idiot

          [i]Apple-hater writes: "will queue like lemmings to buy this but it will be because of the 'poser' effect"[/i]

          Saying that the fashion victims will be amongst the early adopters of the iPhone does not make me an Apple-hater. It does however say how YOU intend to slant your reply.

          [i]"Funnty coming from a person who's choices are most likely made by his boss."[/i]

          You wish! I decide all technology matters for this company - that's my job.

          [i]"And what do your choices say about you?"[/i]

          They say that I put the company's continuing profitablity before the need to have staff swanning around with the latest "posey" phone that costs a fortune but does very little and does not integrate into the company's existing technology infrastructure.
          bportlock
          • Why is everyone so focused on the enterprise?

            "They say that I put the company's continuing profitablity before the need to have
            staff swanning around with the latest "posey" phone that costs a fortune but does
            very little and does not integrate into the company's existing technology
            infrastructure."

            Why is everyone so focused on the enterprise? This isn't Apple's target market.
            You're no doubt correct that the iPhone isn't right for your company. But does
            that make it a bad device? Just because it doesn't integrate into your company's
            infrastructure doesn't mean it won't give someone else exactly what he or she is
            looking for.

            If Microsoft actually innovated, perhaps they'd receive this kind of buzz when a
            new product is announced. There's so much jealousy coming from the PC world.
            If the iPhone sucks, don't buy one. Who the heck cares? The consumer is
            perfectly capable of educating himself about features before making a choice.
            Remember, this is about having a CHOICE. Buy a Windows Mobile device if it
            better suits your needs.

            I just don't get the need PC wonks have to rip this thing apart. Yeah, there are
            other devices out there with more features. Do you get this worked up over
            whose microwave is better or whose washing machine does a better job at
            laundry? It's a friggin phone for goodness sakes.
            robbyx
          • You have to ask why?

            I think the main reason people feel this product fell really short is because it's a mobile platform and not just a phone, or music player. It's a mobile digital device. OS X had been making some strides toward acceptance into the workplace. They have put a lot of work into making it an economically good choice for IT in place of running windows clients. So when the iPhone came out and didn't entertain the enterprise at all, I think that was shocking to many who follow the industry. Has Apple raised the white flag to Microsoft by this move? That is in terms of the enterprise? I don't think so, but the iPhone is perplexing. You know the server products Apple has and what they are working on I suspect. They still seem to be solidly looking for a place in a server room, and worker's desk, near you! So why all the lack of features for the workplace?
            Ultimately I think Apple sees digital video arena as it's place in a new IT coming around the bend and maybe they have things in the works with Google under wraps as we speak. But this phone surely didn't seem to even want to catch the business buyer's eye. The slower wi-fi choice, the limited provider choice(one) etc.
            You think they are only a consumer electronics company now?
            xuniL_z
          • Actually, yes.

            <quote>
            You think they are only a consumer electronics company now?
            </quote>

            Apple has positioned itself as a consumer electronics company for quite a while now, since maybe the 80s even. Recently, if you paid attention, you noticed that they even removed "Computer" from the corporate identity.

            Granted, many industries still use the Mac quite a bit - Graphic Design, web design, publishing, video production, music and audio production and post production in several of these categories are some that I have personal experience with.

            But really, the Mac is the computer for the rest of us. Many people will buy this phone for whatever reasons they pick a phone, and some will even use it in their business. Bagging on it because it isn't the product you want is a bit silly, and rather beside the point. It wasn't aimed at that market, and so does not hit the bullet points you think it should in order to appeal to that marklet. duh.

            lol

            Criticizing the iPhone for not being a top corporate product pick is a bit like saying a fish is inferior because you have more leet skills on your skateboard, especially when that fish could surpass your shredding skills by June.
            fuzzy2k
          • Dude

            I totally hear you about the skateboard analogies. That was awesome. I mean, like, when you said it, like it was clear and stuff. Duh. I thought i was pointing out it was somewhat surprising since Apple is still trying to get the Mac into the workplace, working on server technology, business traveler aimed notebooks etc. But, like you just made it all crystal clear man, thanks. I was like so wrong.
            xuniL_z
          • It's simple

            None of the PC geeks can get a girl up to their apartment to see their new Dell, Windows Mobile Smartphone or Zune.
            frgough
          • Really?

            Not all "PC Geeks" are male. I'm a PC geekette (that means "female" for the rest of you). Such ad hominem attacks only mean that you have no argument that you can successfully back up with facts, so you choose to insult to keep your own inadequacies from showing.

            Apple computers have *never* been known to be the optimum machine for business, nor have they ever really tried to make it so. With the exception of audio and visual-based industries, Apple computers have never really been adopted as the machine for business processes. Either the business-oriented software wasn't available, was too expensive, or just wasn't very good for business users to adopt the Apple as a business machine. The same will probably hold true for the iPhone. It will be a big hit with the "hipsters" and teens/tweens (Mummy, Dahddy, I want an iPhone and I want it NOW! per Veruca Salt) but it will NOT be heavily adopted by the business world due to it's lack of business-centric capabilities. So, as Apple so cleverly does, it will be marketed to those who want to be "hip" and "stylish" (see the iPod ads), while a complete market segment will be ignored. It's always been this way with Apple. Should we expect no less?
            honeybl
          • Shows what YOU know

            [i]"I just don't get the need PC wonks have to rip this thing apart."[/i]

            If you think I'm a "PC wonk" or a Windoze fanboy you haven't been reading these fora much.
            bportlock
          • I agree

            I agree totally with robbyx. I just recently switched from Windows to Apple, and
            couldn't be happier. I spend more time doing what I want on my MacBook Pro, and
            less time doing maintenance. Apple just works for me. iPhone seems like it will do
            everything I need a phone to do. Everything else, I can do on my computer.

            Everything I have ever had with MS has crashed, "repeatedly!" Cingular 2125,
            8125, 4 HP Laptops (software reasons), Pocket PCs, even the XBOX and XBOX360.
            The only problem with my Mac?, more time due to not having to do maintenance.
            Apple isn't for everyone, but until you work or play with one for what it is, I guess
            jealousy is the next best thing.

            And as for as business goes, I use my MacBook Pro for everything even though I
            have a company Windows computer next to me. I only use the Windows for emails
            to other employees on the network. I manage information for over 500 personnel.
            I have received multiple awards for the work I've done, even promotion. How's that
            for business? The Mac made that too easy.

            Anyway, the point is, if iPhone can SYNC with MY MacBook Pro like iPod does with
            iTunes (that's called RELIABLE to you windows users), that will make it smarter
            than any phone or mobile device, past or present.

            MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, 2.33 GHz, 15.4", (best laptop in the world baby)
            Super Mac
    • Iphone

      i am user of windows pc and mac osx (both) , i using pc from last 10 years but in fab
      2006 i switched to mac " mac mini core duo 1.66 " and now after almost used 1 year
      i can say mac is thousand times better then win xp.I now using pc win xp only for
      autocad its not yet on mac !!! if they make for mac i will go for 24 " imac so please
      wait for iphone i sure its too sexxxy as all imac , macbook, mac mini, ipods and hope
      its with near 1 ghz cpu cheeer up !!!
      GULAMKHATRI
      • Be careful making such admissions around here

        It could mark you as a lemming or an employee of Apple or a Jobsian kool-aid
        drinker. Obviously someone without the ability to make a rational decision and who
        needs institutional help. Possibly one of Bill Gates' world health charities could help
        your mental condition.
        YinToYourYang-22527499
        • You left one out

          He could be branded a zealot by the true zealots around here
          dave95.
        • Nice gesture, but too late

          That person is obviously inebriated with the Apple kool-aid.
          Why would someone wait for the iPhone when there are phones right now that have twice the functionality? Leave it to an Apple Zealot to allow Jobs to make them fall in love with a logo. He could sell small cases of fecal matter with an Apple logo and the Apple zealots would be clamoring for it.
          xuniL_z
          • Waiting and wishing

            Perhaps someone will wait for the iPhone because he WANTS to??? Because the
            phones out there now have crap interfaces and are too hard to configure and use for
            the average person (not most of the folks lurking here)?

            It must really p*ss off you Microsoft zealots to see Apple's sales up year over year,
            Windows Vista land with a colossal thud, and the Zune, well, talk about a small case
            of fecal matter with a logo on it...
            robbyx
          • I hear you.

            I'm not sure why someone, typically someone that complains about how MS is "after your wallet" , can justify spending 600 smackers on a Not-so-Smart Phone. I dont' care if you buy a case of them just to show MS you have a mind of your own!
            If I had 600.00 to throw away on a phone that won't work where I live on top of a dozen or more other weaknesses, I think I'd consider giving it to charity.
            This is the typical Apple Zealot respone, trying to turn it around and make it about microsoft users. I will probably get Vista at some point, cause I simply don't like OS X and have no desire to buy 2 OS's to get my work done. Their hardware is just not that good anymore. Not that it was ever worth it's price but now their manufacturing is no better than any other OEM. In fact I'd put Toshiba above the Mac hardware in quality.
            I'm not running out to get Vista, but I guess it takes to hear a "THUD" when the OS hasn't even been released to retail yet and the business sales are doing great! Go zealot go!
            xuniL_z