Apple's iPhone: That isn't a phone, it's a PDA done right

Quick look at the specs of the Apple iPhone: High-resolution multi-touch touchscreen, Mac OS X built in, no dialing buttons, camera and music player built in, email, browser, Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular.

Quick reaction: This isn't a phone, it's what mobile computing was supposed to grow into. The phone is just a part of it, and in my opinion not the dominant part.

I don't think this kills RIM; a hard keyboard is better for dedicated e-mail hounds. But for entertainment-centric users, this looks like the device they've been wanting without even really knowing it.

I wonder how long the battery will last with Mac OS X in it.

More thoughts later. (Update: Now posted here.)

17 comments:

Alexander Marktl said...

Impressive device, no question. But can it really change the mobile game? Do people really want a device that's so expensive and surely easily damageable.

I don't think that buttons are stupid. My iPod works very well with buttons and so does my Nokia 6131.

What do you think about it's impact on mobile internet?

Anonymous said...

I was impressed by the presentation too (and Apple's new iPhone pages). There is a LOT of missing information. The battery life is fairly low and I'm sure the published numbers are optimistic. I'm not convinced that I'm ready to give up a hard keyboard either.

It is impressive that OS/X runs on it. I wonder how fast.

All in all I think that the most impressive thing is that Apple has changed their company name from Apple Computer to Apple, Inc. That sort of shows how important they think all of this is to them.

Alex said...

The quoted battery life of 5 hours is talk time, not standby time. For me, talking is becoming less and less important. Online time is more relevant to me.

Stuart said...

Is there any word yet on whether there will be third-party development tools for this? They talk about running "desktop-class applications", but they don't say whether you'll have to get these from Apple or whether anybody can play.

Presumably this is powered by an ARM processor, so the Xcode tools would need to be updated to provide the necessary cross-compiler and SDK. No sign of that yet on the Apple Developer Connection site.

I must say that at first glance, I want one and would love to port our software to it. They certainly have set the bar high for Access/PalmSource, Microsoft, Symbian et. al. Even though I doubt that many other manufacturers would dare to price a handset that high, everyone else's products are going to be compared to this (and probably found wanting) for the next year or two.

Michael Mace said...

Good comments, folks. I'm going to try to post a follow-up analysis tonight, so keep the questions coming.

Alexander wrote:

>>But can it really change the mobile game?

I think so, yes. It appears to raise the bar in several areas. Won't be sure until we can all use one.


>>Do people really want a device that's so expensive and surely easily damageable.

Some people will want it and some won't. It's not for everyone.


>>What do you think about it's impact on mobile internet?

At last, a real 100% compatible browser in a mobile device. No more compromises, no more incompatibilities.

Slow data speed, though. This thing will really shine with 3G and/or WiMax.


Stuart wrote:

>>Is there any word yet on whether there will be third-party development tools for this?

I haven't heard anything, and it's a key question. I don't know if they'll even allow native apps. They did mention widgets...

Jared Benson said...

I'm intrigued by the fact that Apple did choose to call it the iPhone, when in fact it does appear to have much greater potential.

However I'm also hesitant to fully call it a PDA, when it remains unclear at this time what 3rd party application support will be available to extend the devices' use.

Apple's biggest success today comes from the fact that, by controlling the hardware and the software, it's able to craft a mobile user experience that truly integrates with the tools that OS X users already use on a daily basis. This is not something that other smartphone or PDA manufacturers have been able to do as well, for lack of proper alliances.

Gazpacho said...

>> Apple's biggest success today comes from the fact that, by controlling the hardware and the software, it's able to craft a mobile user experience that truly integrates with the tools that OS X users already use on a daily basis. This is not something that other smartphone or PDA manufacturers have been able to do as well, for lack of proper alliances.

I'm sure Palm would agree with this. ;)

But let's face it, this device is impressive from the spec sheet and projected usability. It puts the traditional handset/PDA makers to shame.

However, let's wait for actual usability reports. Who knows this thing needs to recharge every 5 minutes. Maybe the on-screen keyboard works just as crap as Fatfinger once did for PalmOS. Maybe it will get more scratches than iPod Nano on the surface. :)

Michael Mace said...

Very good points, Gaz, and you're absolutely right that we won't really know what this thing means until it ships. Thanks.

In the meantime, though, I hope you won't mind if we all speculate about what might happen -- companies need to plan ahead, and if nothing else I think Apple has changed the agenda in mobile a bit today.

To mangle a famous quote, "some people see things that are and say, 'why?' On this blog we see things that aren't and say, 'holy toledo, what if that sucker actually worked?'"

Gazpacho said...

Oh absolutely. I love speculation. Keep up the good work, Michael!

Anonymous said...

Michael, you've discussed many times how a device fails in the market because it "tries to be everything to everybody". Don't you think the iPhone will be guilty of this as well? If not, why? And I'll be hard-pressed to buy the argument of "because Apple does it better than everyone else.."

Anonymous said...

It looks amazing at first blush and then reality sets in.

1) Durability? Thoughts of how Nanos fare when placed in pockets comes to mind. Crackity crack crack. I'd be scared to toss this in a pocket or purse. A cell phone needs to be a workhorse, is the iPhone up to the task?

2) Poor shape for the hand, slippery metal and plastic case design = dropping very expensive gadget. No thought given to grips, rubberized areas, curves or anything that will improve a human grip on this phone. It's pure aesthetic beauty and no substance when it comes to ergonomics.

3) Huge screen + no cover + using hands for stylus = scratched grimy fingerprint covered screen. Just what I want to look at my photos through...

4) No actual keyboard... we are told this is a plus and I see the reasoning but... when you want to really type, having a tactile set of buttons you can press is important. I don't even have to look at my sidekick keyboard to type. Not sure if this one will be as efficient. Plus... touch screens can be finicky. I'll reserve judgment but... I'm leaning towards calling hype on this.

5) Battery Life. Do we really want our ipod and phone mixed? The demographic that can afford this phone probably works for a living, and uses their phones a lot. Do they really want to get off the plane after listening to 5 hours of music just to find they can't call a business associate? Not really. Phone battery life is very important. Especially in a device aimed at the rich.

6) To few buttons. No question the minimalism is beautiful, but is it usable? Quick easy volume while on a call? Nope. There is one button on this phone and that's it. Nifty but maybe a little overzealous.

7) Price. This is a major factor to adoption. Yes, the are giving you a good value for what you get with the iPhone in my opinion. But the PS3 also gives you a good value for what you get... and it's sitting on shelves right now. Just giving people a ton of fancy tech at a "good price" doesn't mean they have the money to buy it.

Overall it's great that Apple has joined the foray. I see a lot of awesome innovation with their product and really exciting new ideas. I wouldn't be so quick to buy into Steve Jobs' "The smartphone is dead" mindset just yet tough. He'd like you to think so, but... in the end he is an idealist and it's showing with how the iPhone was made. Kudos for the attempt, but I'll wait to see if the hype holds up during day to day use.

Jouni said...


At last, a real 100% compatible browser in a mobile device. No more compromises, no more incompatibilities.


Not true, Nokia has been using same safari browser code base since 2005 - in released phones! Actually they are both developing it together as open source.

http://opensource.nokia.com/projects/S60browser/

But I have to say Apple demo was looking better =-)

--jouni

Stuart said...

>> Michael, you've discussed many times how a device fails in the market because it "tries to be everything to everybody". Don't you think the iPhone will be guilty of this as well? If not, why? And I'll be hard-pressed to buy the argument of "because Apple does it better than everyone else.."

I'm not Michael, but I'll take a shot at this... :)

I think the iPhone is targeted pretty clearly at the "entertainment" segment of the market. When you see what Apple's done with the media player in this device (cover flow, animated rotations), it seems pretty clear that they spent a lot of time to make sure that this device is, first and foremost, the most beautiful iPod they've ever made.

Secondarily, they've targeted the "communications" segment with the phone, email, and web browser features. But I think you can see by their partnerships with Cingular, Google and Yahoo that these were slightly less important, because they were willing to delegate these services to other companies. Apple has it's own .Mac service with email and web servers, and they could have bought bulk airtime and become a virtual carrier.

The "brain extension" segment of the market gets very little attention here. There's an address book, calendar, and note pad, but the last two were hardly demoed at all, and are only mentioned on a third-level page of the iPhone web site. Apple hasn't even said if the iPhone will support third-party software or not.

I think we all see the amazing potential of the iPhone, and want to jump in and customize it to be what we want it to be. But what Apple is marketing is clearly an entertainment/communications device.

>> 4) No actual keyboard... we are told this is a plus and I see the reasoning but... when you want to really type, having a tactile set of buttons you can press is important. I don't even have to look at my sidekick keyboard to type. Not sure if this one will be as efficient. Plus... touch screens can be finicky. I'll reserve judgment but... I'm leaning towards calling hype on this.

It's a compromise, but I think it's probably a good one for the people the iPhone is targeting. You and I may be email mavens, but most people communicate by phone. Apple seems to have done a beautiful job integrating the address book into the phone, so I imagine that even the virtual phone keypad will see very little use.

On the up side, the device has Bluetooth so it will probably be possible to use an external keyboard with it.

Douglass Turner said...

What I find most striking is not the handset's (can we call it that?) functionality but rather the underlying business model "switcheroo" Steve pulls off. The operator is completely marginalized with this "sync for all non-voice stuff" model. Only Steve Jobs could send such a resounding f*ck you to the mobile industry. Stunning.

Cingular is left with voice chump change. I love it.

mr. marketing said...

"6) To few buttons. No question the minimalism is beautiful, but is it usable? Quick easy volume while on a call? Nope. There is one button on this phone and that's it. Nifty but maybe a little overzealous."

I loveeeeeeee apple, it was my first real computer after commondore 64 etc. and has been since 95, BUT just the past year I have been very involved with UMPS stuff and must say my usage in apple has gone down. I'm SO happy that I now know where thay have been speding their time on...

So to the iPhone. The quote I coped about some hardwarware keys is RIGHT ON THE MONEY, I think that there is littele (to none) apple lovers that can really say that one button in the mouse is enouhgh, right? - so no matter how genious (and really my only ideol in my life) Steve Jobs is, two buttons and scroller wheel in the mouse are better than just one button - the broblem Steve has is not to copy good ideas (that are many times extended from his orginal ideas) are not copied.

Also in my "home entartainment system" I actually have iMac and 42" plasma with eye tv, that i chose befere media center, so what wrong with that? - I dont like Apple remote, regadless that front row has cool looks and graphics, it's too small (I often lost it) and has not enough buttons. I would like to sometimes go from a to d without going via b and c (you know what i mean). So to my final point maybe, JUST maybe there could be some few more bacic buttons like volume adjustment.....

Keep up the great work with the site ;)

mr. marketing said...

ps. Sorry - I'm a bit drunk - as I can see reading, my own text again, there is more than few miss spellings there - but HEY you kno what I mean...

Dave said...

I'm a long time Apple user (and Mac Consultant) so naturally I am very partial towards laying my hard earned cash on the table whenever iPhone (or MacPhone as it might very well end up) shows in the UK.

I'm a participant on another list (a water cooler environment for web/IT freelancer types in the UK) and there's been some lively debate on this subject. In fact, I ended up here thanks to a list member posting a link to this blog.

Points raised include the unimpressive spec of the camera, the battery life and the speed of the internet connection. We only have one carrier/operator offering EDGE and 3g is becoming more and more common. GPRS is just not going to fly in the UK - it has to be able to handle 3g. I have a 3g modem for my PowerBook - so I suppose I could share out my 3g connection through the Airport card and surf the web on my iPhone that way ;-)

As pointed out on another page on this blog, there are substantial differences between Europe and the USA as regards phone culture, so the 'bling' aspect could have strong appeal over here.

Dave