Analyst Charlie Wolf on iPhone 4: Everybody else, back to the drawing board

Following Steve Jobs' keynote address to the Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, I talked briefly with longtime Apple analyst Charles Wolf, now at Needham & Company. After taking a look at the capabilities of the iPhone 4, Wolf said that Apple's mobile competition "need to get back to the drawing board."

Following Steve Jobs' keynote address to the Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, I talked briefly with longtime PC analyst Charles Wolf, now at Needham & Company. After taking a look at the capabilities of the iPhone 4, Wolf said that Apple's mobile competition "need to get back to the drawing board."

An overview of the specs of the new iPhone are here.

Wolf pointed out that Apple's smart phone competitors have spent years trying to catch up with the Cupertino company, from the release of the first iPhone. They still haven't, he said.

"The iPhone 4 is arguably the most disruptive product Apple has had in three years, or two years certainly. They're redefined what a smart phone is. Apple has always had a lead in software, but now with the A4 chip, they have one with hardware, as well."

"It's not just the attention to the detail [in the iPhone], but it's the unrelenting focus on the user that really distinguishes this company from the competition. Everybody is playing catch up [with Apple,]" he said.

Wolf called Apple's FaceTime implementation of video telephony a "killer app."

"FaceTime is going to be an app that makes this phone unique for quite a while. The overall impression of the competitors, Microsoft or [Google] Android, is that they are a generation or an upgrade cycle behind the iPhone. And they always will be."

Will the iPhone 4 prove to be such a disruptive product in the market? Certainly, Apple's iPad is proving to be such a product: In two months Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have pulled products out of the cycle. But is it likely that smart phones in the pipeline based on Android and Windows Mobile will be pulled. That would be amazing.

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Here's a thought about FaceTime that came to me during Jobs' keynote: I note that with its thicker edge, the iPhone 4 can be stood up on a table or on any flat surface, unlike previous curvier models. This would let people place it on a surface and use FaceTime without holding the phone.

Who would want to do this? How about the millions of deaf individuals who communicate with sign language. The easy, built-in video conferencing along with the high-resolution display of the iPhone could support this form of communication.