I was expecting that the early reviews of the iPhone would blow away any doubts that I had about needing a $500 ($600 for the 8GB model, $500 only buys you 4GB of storage). While Apple's marketing had failed to convince me of how much my life would be better if I had an iPhone, I was expecting that Walt Mossberg/Katherine Boehret, David Pogue, Steven Levy and Edward C. Baig would show me the error of my ways. I was wrong. The iPhone has become the iYawn.
It's not a tool, it's a shiny baubleHaving read the Mossberg/Boehret and Pogue reviews, I'm realizing that Apple had given already us enough information about the iPhone already to see the strengths and weaknesses of the iPhone. It didn't take a genius to guess that a virtual keyboard wouldn't be as effective as a real keyboard (Pogue: "Then there’s the small matter of typing. Tapping the skinny little virtual keys on the screen is frustrating, especially at first.") and that web surfing over EDGE is going to suck no matter what kind of marketing spin Apple puts on it (Pogue: "The New York Times’s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo. two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem." Mossberg/Boehret: "In addition, even when you have great AT&T coverage, the iPhone can't run on AT&T's fastest cellular data network. Instead, it uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks."). The battery is not user replaceable so once that starts to feel a bit old the whole phone has to go back to the Apple mothership for repair. There's no memory card slot, no chat app, no voice dialing, no GPS, no third-party apps, no Java or Flash support, no MMS support.
Sure, these plenty to like about the iPhone. The sleek design, the OS, the full web browser, the large screen, the fact that it's an iPod, the Word/Excel/PDF read-only support. Sure, all that sounds nice, but it's not $500 plus a minimum of $60 per month for two years nice. Stand-alone, the iPhone might be worth $500, but as a two year, $2,000 package, it's way overpriced, especially when you can pick up a network subsidized phone that does more than the iPhone (and does it better) for under $300. Choose the $100 per month plan and ownership costs for the first two years goes up to a staggering $2,900.
Technically, the iPhone is a marvelous achievement, but as with the PS3, it's not just what's crammed into the gadget that matters, it's how it's implemented. The other day I mentioned how I thought that the iPhone was a convergence device, well, these initial review back this up. Worse still, it's a device that's works hard to convince you that the things that it can do well are actually what's important to you in a cellphone. Of course you don't want 3G, a GPS, MMS messaging and a removable battery, what you actually want is a touch-screen iPod hybrid that allows you to view YouTube videos and surf Google Maps and be stuck with AT&T as a provider. What makes this situation worse is that the block on running third-party apps means that you're stuck with Apple's view of what a cellphone should be and have little hope of seeing choice. For years Apple has accused Microsoft of being inflexible and dictating to customers what they need, well, with the iPhone Apple's doing exactly the same thing.
Overall, I'm disappointed. When I look at the iPod of the MacBook, I see real cutting-edge innovation. Sure, you can buy cheaper but it's hard to buy better. The iPhone lacks this cutting-edge feel and is missing key cellphone features present if phones which cost less than half the price Apple expects you to pay for the iPhone. It's not a tool, it's a shiny bauble.