Apple iPhone: not quite flawless...
Jan 9, 2007
The iPhone is a gorgeous device, unmatched by any other - there's no shred of doubt there. More than the hardware, the beautiful software/UI is what really draws you in. Plus it's got nifty "extras" like an accelerometer that allows the screen to switch between portrait and landscape mode automatically (my Canon camera does this too), and a proximity sensor that turns off the display when you lift the phone to your ear (smart!). Small features, yes, but they definitely contribute positively to the overall user experience. Now throw in the 4 or 8GB of flash, a web browser, mail client, and traditional PDA functionality, and this is starting to look almost perfect!
But then the issues begin to arise...
1) Third-party applications: It's still not clear whether the iPhone allows you to install third-party apps to extend its functionality. It wasn't really addressed during the keynote. Engadget, via Michael Gartenberg, reports that it won't, which is just terrible. That's the killer-feature of smartphones and what got me to switch to them from standard cellphones in the first place. RSS readers, IM clients, games, GPS navigation apps, office productivity apps, eBook readers - there's a whole giant ecosystem of useful third-party software for Windows Mobile and Symbian smartphones out there. I find it very hard to believe Apple would do something like this though. I guess we'll have to wait and find out...
2) On-screen keys: Eugenia is not impressed by the on-screen QWERTY keyboard and the lack of tactile feedback, and I'm in total agreement there. This might not be an issue if you're not planning to do anything text-heavy, but if you start sending text messages and emails often, you're going to get sick of the tiny on-screen keys very, very soon.
3) User-replaceable battery: Well, is it? Pictures of the device on Apple's site show a closed shell similar to the iPod. If your iPod's battery dies, you ship it to Apple for replacement - that's okay. Are you willing to do the same with your cellphone and be without it for how much ever time it takes Apple to ship it back to you (especially if it's your only phone, or if you use it daily for important business calls)?
4) EDGE connectivity: All those fancy internet features, but only EDGE support for a cellphone scheduled to hit the shelves in mid-2007? My T-Mobile MDA uses EDGE too, and even though I like most other aspects of the phone, this sticks out like a sore thumb. My second Windows Mobile device, a Palm Treo 700wx on Sprint, supports EV-DO, which is blisteringly fast in comparison. Cingular has already been rolling out their HSDPA network in major cities across the country; why not include a HSDPA radio in the iPhone and usher it into the current generation, especially when you're asking customers to invest so much money into it? This isn't something that can be fixed with a software update, after all.
5) Carrier-restricted: I was a little baffled that the phone is restricted only to Cingular customers. Jobs described it as a "multi-year" deal with Cingular, so one has to wonder when it'll show up on other networks, if ever. Apart from the visual voicemail feature that needs additional work on the carrier's side, there's nothing that should have prevented Apple from selling an unlocked phone for anyone. It is a quad-band GSM device, after all. Was the visual voicemail feature that important to them that it warranted excluding a whole chunk of potential non-Cingular customers?
Besides all this, the seamless integration between Windows Mobile, Exchange Server and Outlook on the desktop is a killer feature for me, personally. Pair them up once, and it just keeps working without interruption. Sure, Apple has the whole push IMAP deal going with Yahoo, but who wants to bother changing email addresses (try suggesting that to business users!) or mail forwarding? Besides, that just covers email. What about over-the-air synchronization of contacts, calendar events, tasks, etc? Plugging in your device to a computer every night is so archaic.
Of course, that's not to say that the iPhone is without its merits. Microsoft and its hardware partners, like HTC, could surely learn a thing or two from Apple as well, especially with regards to design and aesthetics. It never hurts to have another good competitor in the marketplace to spark off some great ideas from everyone in the game. The iPhone is also Apple's first foray into the mobile devices space, so there's plenty of room for improvement in the future. I think it'll be interesting to see what direction they take it in.
So, what are your thoughts, now that you've had the time to let the news sink in?