Pouring cold water in the Apple iPhone

Pouring cold water in the Apple iPhone

Summary: Apple's new iPhone is undoubtedly an amazing piece of technology - cramming Mac OS X into a device measuring 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches is pretty neat - but I believe I can see a potentially serious flaw with the design.

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TOPICS: iPhone
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[Updated: Jan 10, 2007 @ 4.00 pm Breaking News - Cisco sues Apple over iPhone trademark]  

[Updated: Jan 10, 2007 @ 12.10 pm Here are some links to others who have started to see some of the flaws and omissions of the iPhone - I'll pick up on some of these points later

Apple's new iPhone is undoubtedly an amazing piece of technology - cramming Mac OS X into a device measuring 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches is pretty neat - but I believe I can see a potentially serious flaw with the design.

The more I look at the iPhone, the more I think that there's serious flaw, or at least a major weakness with the design.  Let me remind you what the iPhone looks like.  Maybe you'll spot what I'm getting at:

Apple iPhone

If you're going to grab an iPhone, make sure it's covered by a comprehensive insurance policy that will cover accidental damageOK, now imagine that you own an iPhone.  Imagine using it regularly.  How the heck are you going to protect that touch screen?  That's a big area to protect.  At best, screens like this are vulnerable to being cracked by bending or flexing, and being a touch screen it has an added dislike of being poked or scraped by sharps (the surface of the touch screen is glass).  Apple is a company that's led by design, and history shows us that this hasn't always meant creating a product robust enough to put up with regular usage (think back to the early 1st gen iPod nanos and the problems users had with those).  I don't know about you but pretty much every cell phone I've seen that's been in use for a few months has some battle scars.  Despite living in a leather Vega Holster belt pouch, my RAZR is far from pristine.  I'd be interested to see what kind of real-world testing Apple's done on early iPhones.  If the 1st gen nanos are anything to go by, it won't see much rough treatment until users get their hands on it.  People might take care of their iPods but phones generally get a harder life.  I hope that Apple's factored this into the iPhone equation.

The 2-year contract that Cingular will bind early adopters to is going to be a problem.  It's likely that Apple will release an updated 2nd gen iPhone 12 months or so down the line that will address any issues with the 1st gen model - but if you're one of those lucky early adopters you'll be stuck for another 12 months with your flawed 1st gen iPhone.

The problem isn't so much the phone - everything has bugs, new gadgets doubly so - it's the overly long contract that Cingular will impose on users.  I'm gonna say something that I don't normally say - If you're going to grab an iPhone, make sure it's covered by a comprehensive insurance policy that will cover accidental damage.  I think you might be needing it before your 24 months are up.

There are some other issues that I can foresee.  Small things like the fact that typing on a flat glass surface isn't easy since there's no kinesthetic feedback.  Heavy users, such as those addicted to their Blackberry devices, might want to stick with a "real" keyboard, no matter how small it is.

Still, the iPhone is a long way off ... plenty of time for things to improve.

Topic: iPhone

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77 comments
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  • After 10+ years, Apple should know

    10+ years ago, Apple was selling Newtons - and THEY were glass touchscreen technology. This is when handheld "prophylactics" like WriteRight came out to address the scratching issue. I'm not sure if this same technique would work today, as Newtons used a hard stylus.
    Roger Ramjet
    • maintenance

      Tha main problem with iPhone would be its handling and maintenance. With such a sleek design and a complete glass screen on one side of the device its bound to get damaged. Accidentally dropping an iPod may not cause much damage to it as most of the bod is rigid metal casing, but iPhone has glass touch screen on one face of it. People who use their mobile phones every where, like cars, trains etc etc would have to be more careful in handling this device, one accident and your $500 are vaporized.
      5ri
  • upgrading no prob

    I don't see an issue with upgrading to the new version when it comes out. Any carrier will allow you to upgrade, usually free, to a new phone, even one you buy elsewhere, as long as you stay with the current contract. Of course, if the new version is unlocked, and you want to migrate elsewhere, you'll pay the exorbitant early cancellation fee. But they all do that, not just Cingular.

    I don't see your problem here.
    rwahrens1952
    • Problem...yes, I see one.

      You're assuming that you can even [i]buy[/i] an unlocked iPhone.
      flatliner
      • no

        I made no such assumption. My point is that, as opposed to what the article noted, there would be no problem with upgrading to a newer version of the iPhone when such is released. No carrier charges you money to upgrade to a newer version of your current phone.

        Yes, IF Apple unlocks the iPhone, you'd have to pay to do so early, if you are locked into a 2 yr contract. That wasn't my point. My point was that the author's concerns about upgrading to a newer version OF THE SAME PHONE would be an issue. I don't understand why.
        rwahrens1952
        • Generally,

          even though you will not be 'dinged' for early contract termination, you have to pay full price of the replacement phone (i.e. now 2-year contract discounts). However, many carriers do offer a phone upgrade 'free' if you up your contract back from the remaining 1 year to the original 2 years.

          Me, I think many folks will just 'lose' the phone and get the insurance to pay for everything except the 50 dollar deductable.
          nomorems
  • And the batery?

    Do this peace of technological art has an interchangeble batery? Or I have to send it to apple to get it changed to?
    brushmaster
    • Depends on your needs....

      I figure it has a similar setup to the iPhone where poping in and out batteries if
      your need then the iPhone won't be a good match.

      Me I'm not too concerned it looks like a product I may purchase and use for a few
      years but not for a lifetime and after what 3 maybe 4 years when I might be
      concerned about the battery in my humble opinion it wold be time to upgrade
      anyway. After all the NEW features of the then iPhone 5 or 5 would be what?
      Can't say but I'm betting pretty cool and after that many years I figure I got my
      money's worth.

      Again depends on your needs and expectations.....

      Pagan jim
      Laff
  • Hot device...too hot to touch

    As a Mac convert, and addict of everything Apple, I have to say this device is great,
    but I'll pass on it. I agree with this article. My first thought when I saw iPhone was
    "what if that screen cracks??" I dunno....seems like the iPhone is just begging for
    bruises in real-world use, and I don't think it can stand up to the beating. Also,
    I'm not so sure this is the most necessary device. We have phones that can play
    music already. And we have devices that browse the web well enough for what a
    person browses the web on a handheld device for...getting basic information. No
    one will do any serious browsing on a handheld device, even if it's an iPhone.
    I think iPhone is the coolest device we've seen in a very long time. But cool isn't
    worth 600 bucks to me. It's got to be useful. It's got to serve a purpose not
    already being served. It's got to fill a gap.
    theMacDaddy
    • Exactly!

      I'm in total agreement: a) the necessity isn't there for me; b) the price is way out there. Fuggedaboutit, Apple.
      Techboy_z
      • Way out there...compaied too what?

        Are not other so called smart phones from the likes of say MS roughly in this price
        range? What about the Razor's when they first came out? I don't know I'm not much
        a cell phone or PDA guy myself but I'm thinking in the features vs price department
        Apple's product while not inexpensive is not out of the ball park either.

        Pagan jim
        Laff
  • Screen is your only valid point.

    Agree the screen may be fragile but iPhone is truly where the proverbial smart phone puck is going. It is likely some clever person will come with a good iPhone protector.

    I'm sure Motorola and Nokia will come out with some cheesy knockoff but large screens, no keys is where things are going. There really is no other way to see internet content on small, 2" screens and people still want small devices to put in your pocket.

    What must go is the keyboard, what must come is the large screen.
    Prognosticator
    • Death to the thumbboard? Me no think so.

      I'll withhold ultimate judgment on the virtual keyboard concept [i]after[/i] I have a chance to play with this iPhone. But I like the feel of a mechanical thumbboard, like the one my BlackBerry has. Touchscreen action has never satisfied me, so it's hard for me to swallow that I'll like yet another variation of the theme, even if it plays all my AAC files and has Mac OS X at the ready.

      But for me, this phone's biggest flaw isn't with the phone itself (though the reported lack of a user-interchangeable battery is one NASTY oops to a power-user and surface and flex protection is indeed a legit concern in my view. And never mind the lack of 3G technology capability...). MY biggest concern is having to return to [b]Cingular[/b]. Been there, done that, I won't go there EVER do that again.

      Deal broken, Apple.
      flatliner
      • Seriously...

        I thought he said that it WAS 3g capable? But I wasn't paying full attention to that
        part of the keynote so I may be wrong. Anyone looking into iPhone should definitely
        look for 3G compatibility. If it doesn't have it, pass on the phone. EDGE is not
        anyhere near fast enough for all the data-coolness the iPhone offers. Which is why
        I'm surprised Apple didn't put iPhone on an EVDO-Ready network such as Verizon or
        Sprint. Really shocking!
        And you read my mind regarding Cingluar. There's no device out there yet, nor one
        conceived in the mind of man that can pull me from Verizon to Cingular. Just
        thinking about it makes me hurl
        theMacDaddy
        • No 3G

          Nope ...
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Did you miss the part

          where the iPhone will switch to any open wi-fi it finds? 3G may be faster than EDGE,
          but the hot spot at Starbucks blows them both out of the water.
          frgough
  • Hrm... I like the idea, BUT...

    Sure...the screen 'could' be a problem, but I've got a Qtek9000 that's 90% touch screen and don't have any problems with it. They can probably find a way to make it largely scratch resistent given the experience they've already had with ipods. Drop resistent? Well...that's another story.

    The bigger issue with this phone? How about lack of a QWERTY keyboard and Exchange email support.

    Oooh...they've partnered with yahoo for mail support - that .06% of the business world is no doubt thrilled.

    (and I agree that battery life is going to be a huge factor - iPods are great, but they're not trying to connect to GSM/EDGE/GPRS/WiFi/Bluetooth networks 24/7)
    theArk0s
    • you didn't pay attention

      It DOES have a qwerty keyboard, it just doesn't show it until you need it. The screen shows the controls that are applicable to the app you are accessing at any particular time.

      Don't know if they are going to try to be compatible with Exchange - their focus is on high end consumers, not business at this time.

      Yeah, battery is gonna be a big stumbling block. If I had one, it wouldn't last an 8 hour day.
      rwahrens1952
      • Battery life

        "If I had one, it wouldn't last an 8 hour day."

        That's a serious drawback for a cellphone.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • yep

          I agree.

          I think the iPhone looks great. The technology driving the UI is fantastic, and the convergence of the different functions is definately the way the tech is going.

          Yes, it also has drawbacks. But I've never seen Apple release a 1st gen product that didn't. They tend to start small, shooting towards the high end market, where their most likely customers will be. Don't forget, Steve noted that they're only shooting for 1% of the market - and that has to be the top end, as far as spenders are concerned!

          In an interview on CNBC later in the day, he noted that economies of scale will eventually bring the price down, and that tracks with Apple's record.

          Batteries are a technology that everybody is struggling with. I am sure that eventually, that hurdle will be passed as well.

          I am currently happy with Verizon. The network works in the locations where I need it to, and while (Steve is right) the phone sucks, it does still do what I need it to - make and receive calls. Not elegantly, but adequately. I will not switch to Cingular and spend $500 or $600 for a new phone - but I don't need the mobile functionality that that phone will provide, either.

          Some people do, and will buy that phone. All he needs is 10 million to say he was a success, and that means world-wide, not just US. Out of a billion people, that won't be too hard.
          rwahrens1952