The Apple iPhone debate

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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."

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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?

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