Why does the iPhone get so much hype when more capable devices are already available?

Why does the iPhone get so much hype when more capable devices are already available?

Summary: The iPhone seems to be getting all the attention this past week, but there are other more capable and functional devices already out on the market or coming soon. A few specifications and thoughts are shared about the Apple iPhone in comparison to the Nokia N95 and Cingular 8525. There are many more devices available too so don't sell yourself short and wait 6 months just for the iPhone if you are looking for a device that meets your business and personal needs.

TOPICS: iPhone

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

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.

Topic: iPhone

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  • Open Device

    It's funny that Matthew Miller say he won't use the IPhone because it is locked to Cingular and many open devives are avalaible on the market, but the guy use the single most most locked device ever made-> A Apple Computer. Have a choice of phone that runs MS OS is good and having a Phone that is locked up is bad... so why have a computer that is locked up (A Ibook for exemple) is good? (but maybe that is because he as live in a bubble a part from the world since 1989)
    • I use a Tablet PC, a Windows PC, and a MacBook

      I do have a MacBook that I use quite a bit, but I also have a Tablet PC and a couple of Windows XP desktops that I use as well. I like the handwriting functionality on the Tablet PC, but I also really like the hardware on the MacBook. I also run Windows on my MacBook using Parallels Desktop since there are some applications that I still need a Windows computer to run. While I do like the hardware and some of the software on my MacBook, I have actually been thinking about selling it to get a more functional Tablet PC, like the Fujitsu P1610.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • ModBook

        Check out the ModBook:


        Have it all! :-)
    • Your strawman is burning

      An Apple computer is locked because you can't run OS X on a Dell. I see.
    • Not at all

      First off :
      [but the guy use the single most most locked device ever made-> A Apple Computer]

      Not true.
      As far as Software. Don't like the Apple OS, there are alternatives.

      As far as hardware, it's no more limiting than a laptop. (try swaping out the MB for a brand of your choice some time)

      Secondly [Miller say he won't use the IPhone because it is locked to Cingular]

      I happen to agree with that. I'm not about to spend 600+ on a phone that is only good w/ one carrier. While I've been with Cingular for a few years now, they're my 4th carrier since my first cell phone I may want (or need) to switch again.

      As far as it being open to install other apps, I couldn't care less.

  • Usability

    My concern with iPhone has been about its usability. can the iPhone be used with single hand?? Even to make calls??..Even to scroll through the contact list.. i don't think it can be done with single hand. As many of us use single hand to do man things with our phones. that would be a serious issue when using iPhone. Have to wait and see it will just be a piece in the museum or be used by general consumer.
  • Usability

    You might consider that the Mac itself is also geared primarily towards the home consumer and not the business user. But that hasn't seemed to discourage large numbers of people from switching in the past year or so -- people who are tired of complexity, tired of having to be an IT expert to protect their Windows PCs from viruses, spyware, trojans and adware, people who just want to get things done and not spend more time figuring out how it works and maintaining the damned thing than using it for productive work.

    If you weren't a biased observer, you might draw the conclusion that the iPhone is going to build on the Mac's easy-to-use legacy. It certainly looks simple to operate in all the demos I've seen. Elegant, you might even say. And that's its appeal.

    I have a friend who came to visit me yesterday with a brand new cellphone supplied to him by his company. It's a Treo 650, itself a $400-500 phone running Windows Mobile.

    This is a brand-new phone, but he hates it, says it's unnecessarily complicated. The Treo has more buttons, keys and switches than the Apollo lunar module had. It crashed while he was switching from one function to another -- locked up tight while he was trying to call his wide. We had to pull the battery to rescusitate it.

    Steve Jobs said it his keynote (paraphrased) that the iPhone would be a closed platform because this is a device that you need to have work, all the time, you don't want to crap it up with sloppy software that causes it to malfunction when you need it most. My friend's experience is a perfect example.

    Sure, there are other phones out there that already do everything the iPhone does. It's not a question of the phone's *capabilities*. It's a question of *usability*, user-friendliness, the ability to *facilitate* productivity, not impede it. This is Apple's forte, their strong suit. It's also something that Microsoft, for all its money, can't seem to figure out -- even if you whack Steve Ballmer's sweaty dome with a step-by-step usability tutorial.

    Later this year, when the iPhone ships and everyone starts raving about how great it is, you'll see that Apple has again hit the bulls-eye. It's simple, elegant and imminently usable. It's a perfect combination of features, usability and that undefinable "cool" factor. It's what people want. That's why it gets so much more hype than anything else on the market.
    • Simplicity???

      [b]If you weren't a biased observer, you might draw the conclusion that the iPhone is going to build on the Mac's easy-to-use legacy. It certainly looks simple to operate in all the demos I've seen. Elegant, you might even say. And that's its appeal.[/b]

      Uh... And other phones require a degree in rocket science to operate? PULEEEZE.. Give us a bit more credit. While your buddy's Treo might seem complicated, MOST of the keys on the Treo 650 are part of a standard QWERTY keyboard layout. If a standard keyboard is THAT complicated, then surely, any computer - including your beloved Mac - is just as tough to use if not tougher.

      The point of the article isn't about how "easy" it is (or isn't) to use. It's about FEATURES. Things that the Apple phone is LACKING that other phones have - like 3G network, a memory card slot, removeable battery, and the other features found on other phones ALREADY available today.
    • A Feature phone - Not a Smartphone

      I'm sure that people will rave about how good the iPhone is when it's released and I'm sure that it will be very good at what it does as Apple products usually seem to be.

      But it won't be easily extensible as it's a closed system. The basic definition of a smartphone is that the user is able to add new applications as and when they require. It seems that the iPhone won't have this ability so when you are comparing the usability of the iPhone you should be comparing it to a Sony-Ericsson music phone, a Samsung, or a Motorola, not to a Treo, a Windows phone or a Nokia smartphone.

      If you make that comparison the iPhone comes out looking aesthetically attractive but extremely expensive. If you compare the iPhone to a smartphone it looks attractive but under powered in some respects.
  • What makes you think it can't sync with Outlook?

    It does have an OS X in it - Outlook will not be a problem- nor will any resonably sized desktop applications...
    • Desktop applications?

      It runs a form of OS X on an ARM processor - Some people seem to be under the illusion that that means they can dump programs on it like on a computer and run them. This is certainly not the case, and definitely not for "desktop applications". Any applications are going to need to be limited and reduced and compiled to run on ARM (afterall, things like Java which get around such a problem are seen as evil according to Jobs. "Java?s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It?s this big heavyweight ball and chain.") and will need to either be done by Apple, or approved by Apple (and likely at a cost, knocking out all the home develoeprs that release things for fun for platforms like Windows Mobile). Afterall, "You don?t want your phone to be an open platform. You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn?t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up." - Windows Mobile seemed to manage fine.

      So despite what some people seem to think, this isn't a mini desktop, you're not going to be seeing your applications running on it, it's a phone, not a tablet or even a pda.

      This is not some sort of mini PC, and Jobs has also made that clear. "We define everything that is on the phone. You don?t want your phone to be like a PC." This isn't going to be some sort of mini desktop, or PDA, they have made that clear and you will like it! (Personally, I prefer to decide for myself, not be controlled and told what I want - I use my phone more for PC functions than phone functions).

      And due to the apparent closed nature of the device, and as reinfoced by the quote above, if Apple doesn't want it, you're not going to see it. Don't get confused between the iPhone approach (control, limitation, locked down) and a computer approach (people can develop, if there's a need it'll be made, you can put it on the computer and use it to get it to do what you want).

      Due to Apple's nature and liking control, I would be surprised if such functionality was included (Imagine Windows Media Player support with the Ipod), and I doubt we'd see it being done third party, at least not beyond hacks (which probably wouldn't go down too well in a business environment, could be dodgy, may not happen at all, and would take a while to develop anyway).

      Seems like a lot to sacrifice when there are much better devices out there that are much more free, and without Apple's need for tight control, and can already do what people want. I guess what's missing is the Apple Logo.
      • Closed platform is more appealing

        What us geeks often forget is that the average user (ie: the vast majority of the
        market) doesn't want a complicated device. My friend just got a new Windows
        Mobile smartphone. He's spent hours trying to get email working. Despite his
        best efforts, he still hasn't managed to get it working 100%. Who needs that sort
        of aggravation? Certainly not a busy executive or technology neophyte.

        I'm glad that Apple has kept the iPhone platform closed. It will guarantee success.
        Apple controls the experience - and the experience is GOOD. Sure, in an ideal
        world, where everyone is tech savvy and software never screws up, an open
        platform is great. That isn't the case in today's world, however. Other devices
        may exist that are equally - even more - capable than the iPhone. But the user
        experience is lousy. Period. End of story.

        Apple's strength is in user interface design. And, like it or not, good user
        interface design and control go hand in hand. Consumer electronics devices
        should be simple and effective. They shouldn't require a manual to set up. They
        shouldn't require endless calls to tech support. They shouldn't crash. Software on
        the device shouldn't conflict. Etc.

        Apple is avoiding all of these pitfalls by limiting access to the iPhone's operating
        system. Apple controls it. Apple writes software for it. And, guess what? While
        many people struggle to configure and troubleshoot their smartphones, iPhone
        users will enjoy a seamless experience. It's a trade-off. An open platform brings
        an increased risk of problems. Limiting access to the device will ensure a great
        user experience at the expense of third party developers being able to write
        software for it. Whose strategy will win out? Given the lackluster sales of
        smartphones to date, I'll put my money on Apple this round.
    • I agree...

      Don't forget, Mail can be configured for MS Outlook as long as IMAP services are initiated on the Exchange server. I also believe Apple will open up software development at some point with a rigorous process in place to certify programs developed by other companies. The first generation iPod looks primitive when compared to the latest version of the video iPod. I sure this will be the case for the iPhone as well. If the iPhone is successful, and I suspect it?s going to be, it will mature, I?m sure, in a wonderful way.
      • iPhone will get better

        It will be better after a few generations? Great, call me when you get there. For now, I'm not ready to drop $600 on a not-quite-ready product. It missed a few too many features that I would think they could add for the price and I also completely agree that this generation won't be nearly as nice as the one a couple of years from now. I'll wait until then.

        The most concerning part to me would be this line from Pogue (again, he is a Mac supporter): "At this early date, I think the phone may be the weakest part of the iPhone."

        Also want to make sure we don't have another Rokr situation where it's gone and forgotten a year later. I assume that won't be the case with this, but you never know.
        • It wont be gone

          Well, it definitely wont be gone and forgotten a year from now. Because a great deal of people WILL purchase the phone, and then they're locked into the contract for 2 years :D .. So maybe 2 years from now?
    • Read the FAQ

      According to David Pogue's FAQ, it will not sync with Outlook nor allow you to add other apps. Being one of the more well-known tech writer and a huge fan of Apple, one would think that he got that info from Apple.
    • sync with Outlook

      I don't know about the i-phone but i-pods (my 4th gen one anyway) can sync with Outlook. I've done it with my Outlook 2003 on a PC.
  • bug in webpage

    Clicked on a positive feedback, however the results show something else.
  • The Open Source iPhone

    Personally I am willing to wait till February to test the Open Source iPhone, Neo1973. See a comparison here: http://www.linuxtogo.org/gowiki/OpenMoko/iPhone
    Ole Tange
  • Because it's an iPhone

    Jobs is good at hype, and everyone knows that Apple often gets it right. For their small marketshare, they have a disproportionate effect on IT devices and personal software.

    The iPhone will probably never rise above 0.5% marketshare, especially since there is only one model and the OS isn't licenced outside of Apple - but it will be widely copied.
    Fred Fredrickson