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Innovation

Mobile phone architect lists 10 iPhone problems

On the authoritative 4G Mobile website, 15-year mobile phone architect Willie Lu posts what he says are 10 documented problems with the iPhone:1. The current wireless system architecture is very closed.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor on

On the authoritative 4G Mobile website, 15-year mobile phone architect Willie Lu posts what he says are 10 documented problems with the iPhone:

1. The current wireless system architecture is very closed. Basically, it is still the old coupling technology to put together multiple radio standards into one handphone which is a big question in terms of transmission performance and system performance. For the next generation iPhone, the wireless architecture must be open, and the key system modules should be extensible and upgradeable based on the open wireless architecture (OWA) platform.

2. The wireless transmission efficiency is very low. While it is limited somehow to the closed system architecture, it is also stucked in the radio resource management (RRM) layer. The swicth with GSM, EDGE and Bluetooth is based on an inefficient algorithm to make RRM even worse if the user wants to have high-speed data while the voice is in short-time inactive mode. Because of the current billing model, the service provider is reluctant to turn off the voice when the data service is being charged.

3. The current iPhone data service is easy to get Virus attack. Wireless data transmisison is different from wireline data transmission because wireless needs more repeated transmission and access control when the radio channel is not stable (called wireless propogation). The traditional anti-virus solution is on the high-layers (application and service layer) protection. But wireless hacker is more interested on the lower-layer attckes including link layer and access control layer. Also, wireless data transmission is more based on frame-by-frame (FBF) rather than Bit-by-Bit (BBB), so it is hard to detect such virus if the data package is too long. If one virus comes with a long data package to the iPhone, it can dig down into the link layer and access control layer to de-synchronize the radio channel to force the iPhone to request re-access to the basestation again, or request retransmission of long data traffic. This can consume the radio resource and increase the frame-error-rate (FER) which seriously degrades the wireless performance. The current iPhone does not have any good solution to stop such data service attack which becomes the bottleneck to deliver the iPod services to the iPhone user through over-the-air transmission. The same problem exists for Blackberry data services as well.

4. iPhone should not work with AT&T. iPhone needs a service-oriented mobility infrastructure to deliver the iPod and phone services over the air, and therefore it should work with a converged wireless and mobile services provider. AT&T is a very limited service provider of GSM and EDGE only, and especially EDGE is still a questionable technology. Furthermore, AT&T's infrastructure is very out-of-date and of old technology, and is hard to provide a future-proven solution for the iPhone long-term roadmap. I would suggest T-Mobile or Verizon, etc which more fits iPhone's strategy.

5. iPhone will face many legal challenges. iPhone is basically a Phone, a wireless phone, not just a iPod. In the wireless domain, Apple is nothing compared with leading wireless vendors. The iPhone business is based on a converged open wireless air interfaces where lots of patents have been in the markets as the prior arts to stop iPhone to move forward. I spent almost 3 years to list around 100 key patents which may block iPhone to sell in the US market as well as the EU market. The cost to deal with these legal lawsuits will be very expensive, and surprisingly high.

6. iPhone should not lock its phone by AT&T. Users like iPhone because of its simplicity and personality as an open phone. Therefore it should not be locked to AT&T only, otherwise it will kill itself. In fact, iPhone may attract more pre-paid mobile users, especially in Europe and Asia. iPhone should allow users to change simcard freely when users are moving everywhere across the board to stay in cost-effective services, especially for international travellers.

7. iPhone will face serious competitors worldwide. iPhone is too expensive because of three: expensive phone, costly service contract and deadly locked phone. Many vendors are now copying iPhone model with very low costs. For example, there is one Taiwanese company delivers a new phone including all features of iPhone, but the cost is only $150, with prepaid simcard, no contract, no phone lock. Another phone from Shenzhen of China is only less than $100, but works well like an iPhone.

8. iPhone knows little about mobile game rule. Mobile industry is different from other industries because of its mobility and roaming features. Hence, all mobile players, either vendors, providers or regulators, must be familar with the game rules and follow the set guidelines. If iPhone does not work with the mobile mainstreams (both traditional telecom industries and emerging computer/network mobility industries), it will become isolated and hard to contribute to the game rule. It is a stupid strategy to copy the iPod model to the iPhone model, trust me !

9. Watching the iPhone engineering team! Once an iPhone becomes a name of the industry, many companies are eying for the iPhone team. One iPhone competitor offered doubled pay to a lead engineer at the iPhone team, and more interviews are on the way. Like Motorola lost many CDMA engineers to Qualcomm in early 90s, Apple will lose talents to its competitors, though maybe partners before.

10. Research papers on iPhone is too rare. iPhone is a fashion phone, but more a hypo. If you search for research papers on iPhone in IEEE, EI (engineering information) and Google, there are very few papers (less than 10) studying iPhone. This becomes an issue if Apple really wants to move this business forward, otherwise more users will shift their focuses to other offerings by Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HP and RiM, where a long-term R&D strategy is pretty clear for the future mobile phone development.

Which of these problems do you agree or disagree with? Any of them overstated or understated? Keep those Comments coming.

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