iPhone: So Far, It’s All Hype
It’s That Aura That Makes The Little Voice Inside say “I Want!”
Long before the iPhone was presented at Apple Inc’s. Annual "Macworld" show in San Francisco, California, rumours surrounding the new all-round smart phone kept the internet world in suspense on multiple levels. From Apple forums to finance investor sites, from design predictions to sale price speculations, anticipation was driving fans and foes mad for the final answer – Was it true? Would Apple introduce an iPhone, combining an iPod, digital camera, internet communicator and phone all in one?
Yes they would, and yes, it does.
And now that millions of people have seen the answer to that one question materialize into what had to be one of the flashiest product presentations ever, a lot of room has opened for all those predictions to be converted into hard realities. All of the sudden a large number of mobile phone/network/GPS/satellite communications experts emerged with exact details on functionality and worldwide compatibility of the new product.
However, so far we have seen nothing but a sales promotion. So after a superficial glimpse of its capabilities – in a very controlled environment - what can we deduce about the iPhone? That Apple Inc. has again designed a surprisingly stylish and versatile product.
To date, no one but Apples’ CEO Steve Jobs has laid hands on an iPhone, yet as we skim through various forums and internet blogs on the new smart-phone, it seems as though everybody’s got one.
We have seen a few functions at work in Jobs’ presentation. Its display for example: The iPhones’ novel and only method of input will be a "multi-touch" touch screen, a 3.5 inch display with a 116 dots per inch resolution which – when flipped horizontally – will play movies crystal clear.
However, Apple also announced that the iPhone will not be able to download extension software from external sources other than Apple, which seems like a wise move considering the amount of bugs other smart phones are suffering from multiple software downloads. The integrated Safari browser, the first fully functional web browser on a hand-held, promises to blow some fresh air in through the cracks of the very un-friendly WAP networks, the cut-down version of the internet for current mobile phones.
Yet speculations are that problems will begin early with the touch screen. The patented "multi-touch" feature, allowing users to stretch or shrink photos using multiple fingers, makes heavy use of the phones display. Even during the Macworld presentation, smudges of Steve Jobs fingerprints covered the display; only compensated by the high brightness of the device, which again questions Apples predictions of a 16 hour battery life.
We would also need to hear a clear guarantee, particularly remembering that only a year ago, Apple had to recall millions of iPods because of scratched or malfunctioning displays. Apple plans to sell the iPhone only in combination with a 2 year binding contract: Does that mean owners of scratched iPhones will have to run around with them until their contracts expire? The multi-touch function has all the potential to backfire on Apple innovators.
As the iPhone will not allow the installation of third-party software, it is likely that users will make more use of the integrated web browser, looking up directions or finding the closest bookstore. The problem is that, especially in Europe, rates for mobile internet usage have been extremely high. A megabyte of (WAP) download can easily cost several dozen Eurocents, a volume instantly reached with a fully functional web browser. Apple has also neglected to include the Europe-wide UMTS feature, a standard for mobile internet technology.
When introduced here the phone will rely on WLAN hotspots for proper functioning; others will have to endure long loading times. The function could be neglected entirely if cell phone providers don’t adjust. We also don’t know whether Adobe Flash or Java Script are supported, two vital tools needed to view many popular websites (such as myspace.com).
So in terms of functionality, we can still expect some surprises. Meanwhile we might also ask ourselves whether the iPhone is even affordable, considering its €499 price. Although Apple has announced the US Dollar price, rumor has it that they’ll flip the Dollar to a Euro sign and leave it at that.
In any case, the device will clearly be the most expensive phone at your local retailer. And considering how we are all being wooed by telephone providers chucking phones at us for a signature on their contract, the iPhone might have trouble competing, particularly during sale season. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung thinks those might be regional difficulties compared to Finland or Italy, where consumers are already paying several hundred Euros for their cell phones. It will definitely pose a problem for the US market, where the cell phone industry as such is not as developed as in Europe or Asia.
However the media is doing what they can to not only promote the new iPhone. Critiques are found exclusively on user generated forums or news blogs, whilst renowned magazines like the German Spiegel run Headlines like: "Revolutionary cell phone: Apple reveals the magic iPhone."
Die Welt wrote that "Apple has again managed to combine complex functionality in a slim design and high usability." Only FAZ reported on both sides.
Yes, it is true that Apple manages to wrap colourful, flashy user interfaces around top technology, making sure no one is scared away. It looks just great when Jobs demonstrates a conference call ended smoothly and merging back into the display, sighs and moans emerge from the crowd. Everyone in the room forgets that conference calls have existed for years, and that it’s just Apple who thought of animating the end of one.
The point is a lot of the magic surrounding the iPhone has to do with its designs rather than its abilities. The real innovations aren’t as major as they are presented to be. The partnership with Google and Yahoo allows new services such as GoogleMaps or IMAP "push," one a versatile GPS system and the other a mobile e-mail organizer.
Yet current smart phones are not far away from reaching those standards too. Apple satisfies the customer’s need to own a product that is both trendy and also at the top end of the technological spectrum, while still easy to use. They strive not only for innovation, but assess how they can best enhance existing features we’ve all known and used, in order to surprise us with a new view on an old thing – that creates the sensation of an all-round innovation.
Apple has been quite keen to keep that aura. And it’s that aura that makes the little voice in our head go "I WANT" when we see a finished Apple product. There is SEEMS TO BE? no way around the strong branding of the iPhone, when making the decision to buy, or not buy. Apple products come with an invisible touch of definition; they come with a certain character and are therefore liked or not liked.
At the moment the iPhone is the cool kid, the one everybody likes and admires. The problem is that we’ve only stared at him from the distance. Yet sooner or later some of us are going to go up and talk to him. What we report back will determine whether he can play with us or whether he will be left to the bullies.