The Apple iPhone debate

The Apple iPhone debate

Summary: The blogosphere's went wild with opinion, comments and fears about Apple's iPhone, but a lot of it was ill thought-out. In this post I aim to take a more objective look at the iPhone.

SHARE:
TOPICS: iPhone
79

Well, big news.  Cisco Systems have decided to sue Apple over the iPhone trademark.  I'm not sure where that leaves Apple now.  The iPhone name is worth a lot of money in terms of buzz and Internet exposure and I think that Cisco know this and they are unwilling to give it up too easily.  And why should they?  Months of rumors and speculation have made it a high-profile brand.  Apple's got a lot of cash but Cisco has more so things could become entrenched.  Apple has three choices:

  • Roll over and give up on the iPhone name - unlikely
  • Settle the dispute with Cisco - Most likely
  • Go head-to-head with Cisco in the courts - Would be interesting to watch but could backfire

Apple has come out with fightin' words over this legal spat:

"We think Cisco's trademark suit is silly…We believe (their) trademark registration is tenuous at best," said Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman.

"There are already several companies using the iPhone name for VoIP products," Kerris said. "We're the first company ever to use iPhone for a cell phone. If Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we're confident we'll prevail."

[poll id=65]

The iPhone is a closed system. What do you expect from Apple? It's as closed and self-contained as a brick. Only one person has control over it - Steve Jobs.For now I'm going to continue calling it the iPhone (or maybe I should call it iPhone instead) until a clearer picture develops of what's happening between Apple and Cisco.  Might this delay the release?  Maybe.

The blogosphere's went wild with opinion, comments and fears about Apple's iPhone, but a lot of it was ill thought-out.  In this post I aim to take a more objective look at the iPhone.

First off, there's a lot of speculation about why Steve Jobs decided to pre-announce the iPhone.  After all, it's 6 months away.  The answer seems simple to me - there was already an iPhone on the market.  If Apple wanted the brand they had to move quickly or change the name.  What better way to stake claim on the name (and the buzz) than to announce it at Macworld?  I think that Cisco filing suit against Apple is Cisco showing them who currently owns the trademark and who holds the power right now.  Also, Apple has to file for permits from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and these filings are public.

However, it'll be interesting to see if Apple does indeed shift to making more pre-launch announcements.  If this starts to become a regular feature it might be a sign that Apple is losing momentum.  Remember that by the time you have a chance to buy an iPhone, it'll have been in development for three years.  That's a long time.

Why touch screen?  Simple … simplicity!  Clumsy buttons (even if they can be useful) aren't commonly seen on gadgets bearing the Apple logo.  The touch screen probably adds substantially to the cost, but from a design perspective, it's worth it.  Whether it's a good idea from the perspective of usability, well we'll have to wait and see.  The iPhone certainly looks sexy, but sexy soon gives way to usability and it'll be interesting to see if touch screens and cellphones go together.  The iPhone is likely to have one of the best touch screens around, but I do wonder if it's good (and robust) enough.

Price.  Yep, it's high, bit to be honest Apple could add a couple of hundred bucks to the price and the ever-faithful iCustomers would have still been throwing their cash at Apple.  I think that it's a sobering thought that the iPhone costs as much as a 60GB PS3.

Why doesn't the iPhone have .... a GPS, a better camera, video iChat, a tricorder (add your most desired feature)?  One word - battery.  The iPhone wouldn't look all that sexy f you had to lug a car battery to power it.  It's amazing that they've crammed enough power to run Mac OS X (if it really is OS X and not something that looks like OS X - Jobs has dodged a number of questions regarding installing apps on the iPhone) into such a small box but the battery life does sound like a possible Achilles heel.  The non-replaceable battery is going to keep users tied to a power supply. (I hope Apple give all the early adopters three chargers - one for home, one for the office and one for the car - they're gonna need them!)  If the iPhone is going to need charging almost every day, that doesn't bode well for the battery - at that rate I'd be willing to bet the battery's going to be in poor shape 10 to 15-months down the line.  After that it's a case of upgrading the handset or sending it back to Apple so a new battery can be fitted. A fixed battery is going to be a deal-breaker for some users out there.

I bet that battery life is also behind the fact that you can't sync the phone over a WiFi or Bluetooth connection - the battery dying mid-transfer could spell trouble.  Apple doesn't do replaceable batteries but if they want to succeed in the cellphone market I think that this is something that will have to change.  A sexy phone with a dead battery is just a pretty paperweight.

The iPhone is a closed system.  What do you expect from Apple?  It's as closed and self-contained as a brick.  Only one person has control over it - Steve Jobs.  You, as the user, get to use it, but that's it.  You're not even allowed to change the battery.

No 3G.  Nope, that's right, this baby's 2.5G.  At least in the US.  It seems that Apple thought that 3G coverage was too patchy in the US.  If the rumors are right, European and Asian customers are apparently set to get a 3G equipped iPhone.

Is 4/8GB storage enough?  Probably.  Maybe.  Depends.  It's not going to replace your 80GB iPod but it can replace a nano.  8GB goes far when dealing with audio, but video is a different matter.

Keyboard.  I don't believe Jobs when he says that a flat keyboard with no tactile feedback is going to be easy to use.  I've yet to see one.  Could this be a Jobs white lie?

10 million users by 2008?  I think that Cingular has about 60 million subscribers, so the idea of 10 million iPhone subscribers sounds ridiculous.  But there is a massive GSM market in Europe which Apple could be looking to tap into.  I'm not sure how the iPhone will be greeted in Asian markets - the phone's data transfer rates are pretty slow and could put users off.

Things will change a lot between now and when the iPhone hits the stores.  We're talking about a gadget where only three currently exist.  Maybe by having this and other discussions in the blogosphere we're shaping the specification of the final product.

I'm certainly looking forward to having a play with an iPhone, but I get the feeling I won't consider buying one until I see what gen 2 has to offer.  Now that could be a killer cellphone!

Worried that the lawsuit will delay the iPhone?  Wanna get your hands on one today?  You could always download and construct this papercraft model created by Ben Pieratt.

Free iPhone!

Thoughts?  What do you feel about the specification of the iPhone?  Is the battery going to be the weak link?  What about the lawsuit?  Is this likely to delay things or cause Apple to change the name of their cellphone?

Topic: iPhone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

79 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Use iPhone with one hand??

    Most of the people use cell phones with one hand, when travelling, etc etc. But I dont think ppl can do that so easily on iPhone. Just to scroll the contacts you will need to hands. Have to wait till the iPhone is out, though i was WOWed initially. Now doubt its usability and DURABILITY.
    5ri
    • one hand with ease

      given that the iphone is about the size of an ipod, it should be easy to handle one handed... I mean think about it, how long have we been iPoding with one hand? all it is a touch wheel on top of a big a$$ screen... can't possibly be that hard.
      TacoSauce
      • I'm confused as well

        I keep reading this over and over again, that you can't use Apple's Jesus Phone with one hand. Why not? Can someone explain specifically why two hands are required?
        tic swayback
    • One hand with a touch screen= not easy

      I had a cingular 8125 (HTC wizard) and one thing I did not like was needing 2 hands to send a text, or dial a number. yes, i could use my finger, but that was not very accurate.
      blane64
    • friends

      lecheh. yabang mo . ulol.

      in english.........
      oh really.. congrats....
      cute ako
  • iPhone

    Aplle will settle with Cisco, I'm sure they knew Cisco held the copyrights when they used the name. This could be just a backdoor agreement between the two to draw even more attention to the iPhone release.

    The battery life is certainly a consideration/problem. My present phone (Nokia) needs to be recharged every 24 hours, even when not being used - very irritating. An 18 hour cycle would drive me nuts. And the need to return it for battery replacement ? How long could/would anyone go without their cellphone ? There needs to be an instant turn around method (like take it to the local store for a immediate replacement). Hopefully replacement cost stays within a reasonable realm.
    rszanti@...
    • Battery

      "Hopefully replacement cost stays within a reasonable realm.
      "

      Good luck with that...
      bradt
  • Apple (i)Phone

    Anyone noticed it does not say iPhone on the phone ? Apple already had talks that failed with CISCO and Cisco only launched a iPhone recently when the rumour of an Apple iPhone was well known, despite trademarking it in 2000, I doubt a law suite would hold, it could hit Cisco with hijacking the name - did the iPod not come out 6-7 years ago now, hijacking web domains is not taken lightly by courts I doubt CISCO could realey hold a case with iPhone. Second an ip phone and a cellphone are two non confused items and thus can share a name, CISCO could do well from the marketing of apple too.
    kfasheldon
    • Apple will bend

      CISCO is hijacking the name iPhone. are you crazy??. Apple has been in touch with CISCO about the iPhone name from 2001 even before iPod is released. Its just Apples arrogance to go with the name, b4 it could get into an agreement with Cisco. If they are so particular with the name iPhone, they should have come to an agreement with Cisco b4 anouncing.

      ".. Second an ip phone and a cellphone are two non confused items and thus can share a name.."

      both the product NAMES are iPhone and not cellphone or ip phone. and the right full owner of the name is CISCO. Even if there are thousands of blogs where people use the term iPhone to refer to Apple's product. It is apples responsibility to get the legal right to that name and then announce a product with that name.
      5ri
  • iphone doesnt need to exist vs ezx

    I have been using a motorola e680i for almost two years now, I originally purchesed it in taiwan. I use it with cingular GSM in the US but its tri-band. It runs the full linux 2.4 kernel, has bluetooth+a2dp stereo audio, real player, touch screen, syncs with outlook via usb or bluetooth, SD media reader up to 2gb, standard mini usb connecion and charging, flash drive plug and go on windows 2000, xp ..., camera, vcr, fm radio, 3gp video, I have hundreds of mp3's on it and music videos, and the battery is replaceable. Its only missing the wifi and a better camera.

    The point? Eventhough its been doing what steve says the iphone eventually will, doing it with more flexibility for 1/2 the price, and it has the advantage of actually existing, flexible devices like this will never catch on in the US because they get overpowered by buzz from big companies that naturally want to push their proprietary devices and services to keep you locked in. This is true of palm with their os, MS with their OS (perhaps a little less so), Apple with their proprietary hardware/OS/DRM and cel companies with their (locked devices). Truely innovative devices that only benefit the end user just are not profitable enough to survive in the market unless enough end uses demand them. Humm looks like im rambling, sorry.
    novell@...
    • Right on!

      You said it far better then I did!
      gaelicfog@...
  • The Apple iphone doesn't add up

    First of all, I hope Cisco teaches Apple a lesson once and for all. Steve Jobs is the twin brother of Bill Gates and both need to to be knocked down a few pegs in the worse way.

    As for this Apple iphone, it sounds like more hype than practical reality. All of this goes back to when Apple came into being, had they sold their OS to any and all computer manufacturers like Microsoft did, I have no doubt they would be bigger than Microsoft today. In 1989 when I bought my first computer, I paid $2600 for a Northgate 386 SX16 with one mg of ram and 65 mg hard drive. IBM wanted $5000 for basically the same computer and Apple wanted $7500 for their equivalent.
    It's always has been cost why I won't have anything to do with Apple, their computers have always sold at a premium and if Apple wanted to be the computer of the masses they could have been in an instant. Now to keep their costs down they are using an INTEL processor.
    As for an iPhone with the lack of an immediate replaceable battery, that is why I stay far away from Apple products. Who needs a cell phone packed with so many gadgets and an OS that uses so much electricity that it operates on it's own for such little time separate from an adapter and then you have to send it back to them for a new battery, no way, not in my life time!
    Only the fool who wants to have the latest gadget on the market will plunk down the cost of this sham. I'm willing to wait a year or so for something better.
    gaelicfog@...
    • iPhone does add up

      Haven't you noticed that high end cell phones are all coming out with a Lite OS, mp3 capabilities, large display, full keyboard, etc. If you're going to put out a mp3 phone to compete even against something like the Chocolate you don't just put out another basic phone with iTunes loaded onto it. In six months that will do about as well in the market as an old motorola brick. They're putting out a phone so that people won't buy another brand's mp3 phone rather than an iPod. And they had to do something that at least looks better than their current competition in that market. They aren't trying to sell to people who are happy with a basic phone, thy're going after the people who are looking to buy a high-end one with high enough mp3 capacity to be a substitute for an iPod. Since that's the market they're after, their product definitely adds up.

      If they think that the people they're marketing to won't buy one without a replacable battery they will make it replacable. You don't dominate the mobile player market without knowing a little bit about what people are willing to put up with. People are willing to buy a new iPod every couple years when the battery craps out. Most people (at least the ones looking for a high-end phone) replace their phone after every contract (likely 2 years) so they'd probably be fine with the battery crapping out after 25 months. If you can get away with selling one mobile device without a removable battery, you can probably get away with doing the same thing on another. Add an optional 24 month warrenty, which they'll be able to sell as the salespeople will point out that the battery isn't removable and most current batteries don't last two years, and they'll make an extra bit of cash from each unit sold.
      um.crouc0
      • The catch is ...

        "Most people (at least the ones looking for a high-end phone) replace their phone after every contract (likely 2 years) so they'd probably be fine with the battery crapping out after 25 months."

        If you use it heavily (of the battery wears out sooner than expected), it's not gonna last 25 months.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • AppleCare

          Taking out AppleCare on the phone would allow you to get the battery swapped if it became poor - but that's a hassle that involves sending the phone back. It works with iPods and such, but a phone is different.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • quit complaining

            i see all of you complaining because you have to send it back... BFD!!! you probably wont have to send it back anyway, it's tied to cingular, so you can just take the damn phone back to the store. they will replace it, service it, or give you a temp phone while they order you a new one...
            TacoSauce
  • Apple Phone's limited appeal

    Cisco owns iPhone. Let's start calling it "the Apple phone"
    Who is the Apple phone for?

    Except for the Mac fanatics who buy anything from Steve Jobs, what is the main target audience for this device?

    [b]Can't be the corporate crowd[/b] because the Apple phone does not work with Exchange, no Office documents, no VPN, no Outlook, no corporate email, no 3rd party applications, etc.

    [b]There cannot be 10 million kids out there that can afford $600 for the phone alone plus[/b] a hefty monthly bill between $60 to $100+ for 24 months! ...assuming they like the phone enough and see past its lame limitations.

    There will be some adults with disposable income who will buy it in spite of all of the Apple phone limitations: no 3G equals very slow Internet access, Cingular-only carrier, no keyboard, an untested multi-touch screen (guaranteed to be scratched easily), no 3rd party apps, an awful Safari browser, poor (dissmal) battery life, clunky-looking, no user battery replacement (you need to send your cell phone to Apple and pay them $70 to change the battery, plus live without a cell phone for days), 8GB storage limitation, no expandable memory, etc. etc. etc.

    And then, there is the [b]iTunes Store jail[/]:
    The Apple phone does not have PlaysForSure support, that is, you cannot get music from subscription services like AOL, Amazon, Rhapsody, MusicMatch, Yahoo, etc. College students with cDigix or Ruckus won't be able to play all those millions of legal free songs on the Apple phone.

    [b]What is worse[/b], music and anything you buy from the iTunes Store will not work on other cell phones and multimedia players that you will purchase in the future. Sure, there are difficult-to-use programs out there that you might be able to use to convert [b]some[/b] of the iTunes Store music and content to work on non-Apple devices, but that requires a lot of work and expertise and most people give up and don't do it, throwing away all the stuff they bought at the iTunes Store.

    So, where are the 10 million iPhone buyers going to come from?

    [b]THE APPLE PHONE WILL FAIL BADLY[/b]
    unless its price is reduced substantially, in the neighborhood of $200 or less, unless one can pick from multiple carriers, unless fast 3G Internet access is supported and unless Apple addresses the long laundry list of limitations and idiosyncrasies of the iPhone.

    Your ZDnet article also raised a very good point about the Apple phone being, surprise surprise... a closed system that only Steve jobs and Apple can change. Imagine the nice and market-proven Treo and Windows Mobile smartphones if only Palm and Microsoft would be allowed to control what can run on them and what you can do with them? -- that did not work for PDAs either, and it will certainly not work for a high-priced Apple phone with so many other issues, limitations and idiosyncrasies.
    sinpolines
    • Just for comparison

      When it came out the RAZR was priced at $800, $500 with a 2 year contract. How'd that one work out?
      tic swayback
      • Agreed

        I have to agree with Tic on this one. There are just too many stupid people out there waiting to throw away their money. Do I like the RAZR? Sure. Would I pay $500 for one? Not a chance. But just because I didn't doesn't mean it failed. It's now one of the most popular phones around. And a lot cheaper these days to boot. Same thing with the iPod. Is it expensive? Yes. Are there cheaper alternatives out there to iPod/iTunes? Yes. Are people still throwing money at it by the handful? You betcha.

        The iPhone/iMobile/Apple Phone/whatever could be in the same boat. Which is just fine. Just because the masses are buying it doesn't mean I have to.
        TechnoCritter
      • Exactly ...

        ... Apple could charge $800 or even $1000 and it would still sell, initially at least, and once the costs came down the market would expand.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes