In my previous post, I ran down a list of the reasons why I’m thinking of donating a kidney for the promise of being able to get an iPhone. I’ve gone through the list of pros and cons for months — and the pros come out on top. But there are a significant number of questionmarks that stand out in my mind and keep me from wholeheartedly giving this phone my absolute endorsement. Let’s take a second to explore some of the things that could tarnish this launch a bit. Simply put, these are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider handing your $499/$599 over to the snarky kid in the black shirt with the white logo.
1. Cost – The iPhone comes in two flavors – the $499 model with 4GB and the $599 model with 8GB of storage. And there are other phones (like the Nokia N95) that are at that same price point. But even at the $500 level, this is a sizeable investment. Considering the fact that a full featured smartphone like the Moto Q or Samsung Blackjack can be secured for less than $150 right now, I’m not sure that the experience will be $350-better. (I think it will be, but anyway…..) You have to really consider whether you’re going to make use of the Internet-based features or if you really need the iPod functionality. You can pick up an iPod with Video for $249. Or perhaps the more popular iPod Nano for $149/$199 depending on which configuration you’re looking to get. So the sum of those two items (a phone and an iPod) would still leave you money left over.
And let’s not forget the fact that if you do pick up this phone you almost have to get a data plan. (Or perhaps you can just use the phone on Wi-Fi if you have access?) Cost is definitely a huge factor to consider here.
2. Theft Target – I’m hearing that only 4 million of these will be available at launch and who knows how many throughout the rest of the year. I can just see the news story about people getting robbed when they pull out this attractive toy on the train ride home. And you thought the white earbuds said, “rob me, please”? Wait until people start flipping their fingers across the screen. You may want to consider how safe the environment is before whipping one of these babies out in public. And if it’s that much of a theft target, is it really worth the risk?
3. Synching? iTunes to Manage ALL Content? – I am a big fan of iTunes (although it has gotten a bit bloated over time). Yet and still, I’m not quite sure that this is the right application to manage the kind of data that I want to share with the phone. During the Keynote, Steve said that iTunes will manage the sync. Sure, iTunes is cool to manage the music. But I’m not sure how the rest of the content is going to work. Will it just go to each application to pull down the respective data? (Photos from iPhoto, Music from iPod, Contacts from Address Book)? Probably not, since Windows users will need to synch as well. Personally, I’d like to see a simple synching application released separate from iTunes that can be used to determine what data synchs to the phone. Perhaps this can be covered in a tab or a view on the iTunes menu. I don’t know for sure. But I have my concerns.
4. Will the On-Screen Keyboard Match Up to a Manual One? – I’ve heard a lot of concerns about there being no physical keyboard and personally I think people are acting like dinosaurs. But than again, maybe there’s reason for concern. I saw the keynote and those buttons looked awfully small. And with no tactile feedback to indicate whether you’re pushing the buttons or not, it may be difficult to adjust to. Right now I can type and dial numbers on most phones without looking. That won’t be an option here, since there’s no way or making sure that you’re at the home position on the keyboard.
5. Battery life? – Here’s a biggie. Playing music, movies, talking on the phone and surfing the web has to take it’s toll on the battery life. How long will the real battery life be? And what about replacing the battery? Clearly there are no screws to open this thing. Will changing the battery be the disaster that it is on the iPod? I’m sure there will be a few products that can be plugged into the dock connector on the bottom of the iPhone that will allow for additional power. But at what cost? And who wants the extra bulk on their device.
6. Apple Care Service – Apple Care Service has been a great thing for me. I bought a plan for my iPod and my MacBook Pro and every time I take it to the store (despite the fact that I have to sit in front of a bunch of yahoos bringing in broken iPods who have no concept of tech support and waste time asking a bunch of “how-to” questions) it’s been a good experience. But what happens when you drop this thing? And if they do agree to take it and send it off for repair, what happens in the meantime? Do you take the SIM card and plug it into your Treo/BlackJack again? Apple Care Service is good and if you get the phone, I reccomend it. But there’s a limit on what it will cover.
7. Interaction with Web 2.0? – This keeps me awake at night. Steve says that the phone is running OS X and that Safari is running on the OS. So does that mean that going to Gmail is the same experience as what I’m used to on my MacBook Pro? What about MySpace (for all the MySpace people — of which I’m not one)? And what about the Google Apps? Can I use Google Spreadsheets in a Safari window? Then the more challenging questions…. what about Skype? Will it ever run on the phone? I presume it won’t (unless Apple wants AT&T knocking at their door to reconsider the deal). I’m considering the phone largely because I want a better mobile web experience. It’s the reason why prior to the announcement I was considering the Nokia 770/800 Internet Communications device. If I can’t get to all my favorite Web 2.0 places, this feature could have significantly less value for me.
8. No 3G Functionality – I haven’t personally used EDGE, but I hear it’s like a dial-up connection — which would suck. Right now the one positive thing I can say about Verizon Wireless is that EVDO access is great. It’s a somewhat inconsistent experience, but when I need it, it’s fast and it works in a lot of places. Moving to EDGE may prove to be a frustruating step backwards. Also, I don’t live in San Francisco. There isn’t a Wi Fi connection on every corner. This may be one of the big challenges for me if I pick up this phone.
9. AT&T Wireless – In the words of Apple Phone Show host Scott Bourne, the one factor that could really muck things up is the slow moving and beauraucratic AT&T. They are running ads showing their youthful side and with claims that they have the fewest dropped calls. But will they stand in the way of Apple’s wanting to innovate with this phone as time goes on? Will they block Apple from any possible connectivity with sites that will use the bandwidth in a way that hurts AT&T like Skype? Five years of exclusivity is a really long time. To put it in perspective, five years ago almost nobody had an iPod. Will AT&T just be smart and stay out of Steve’s way as he tries to mature this device into the level that the iPod is currently? Only time will tell.
10. No Open Architecture – I keep hearing murmuring about this one, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal. There are rumors that next week at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) that Steve Jobs will announce a developers kit for the iPhone, but as of yet, the iPhone is pretty much a closed architecture. Personally, I think it’s a smart idea initially. There’s too much potential for instability and not being able to control the user experience when you open the phone developers kit to everyone. For the initial launch, just get the thing out and working with the basic apps. But to give creedence to the argument, I’m sure that folks who are used to putting a bunch of apps from different sites on their Windows Mobile phone will be a bit skeptical to hear that they don’t have this freedom.
11. No Expandable Media? – Here’s another biggie. It’s obvious that Apple wants to keep consumers locked into the decision to buy either a 4GB or to pay $100 more and get an 8GB. SD Memory is really cheap and most folks would probably get the 4GB. But in this day and age, I don’t like the fact that they elected NOT to have an expandable memory slot. This is a phone — this isn’t the iPod. Why not offer removable storage. Almost every mobile phone I’ve picked up in the past 3 years — smartphone or not — has had the ability to add some form of storage to the device. For all the steps forward that this phone is taking, I consider this a big step backwards. And a greedy one, at that.
12. Not Much Space – ….and the above point leads me into the fact that when you consider the fact that iPhoto pictures and downloaded movies and music (not to mention contacts) take up lots of space, is 4GB enough? Heck, is 8GB enough? I remember the day when the 5GB iPod that launched was thought to contain more space than we’d ever need for our music. This isn’t 2001 anymore.
When you see all those CoverFlow albums in the commercial, you have to wonder: if those albums are on that iPod, there probably isn’t room for much else.
13. Flash-Based Sites? – Steve tells us that this thing is going to allow us to see “the real Internet — not the watered-down Internet.” Well, if that’s the case, I shouldn’t notice a problem when I visit sites that contain flash, right? After all, the phone is built on OS X, no? Somehow I have very low expectations for this. The stationary sites are going to work, but forget about going to any Flash-heavy sites.
14. Revisions, revisions… – If there’s one thing that you can count on from Apple is that they aren’t going to make the mistake that they made back in the mid 80s. Never again will you see a hot product (like the Macintosh in 1984) that just sits around and ages while competing products mature. You can count on updates at least once (and sometimes more) annually. The iPhone is very impressive, but I’m excited to think about how they’ll improve upon the phone. Unless iPhone designer Jonathan Ive has an ephiphanny, I’m pretty sure that the design will remain largely the same. But you can count on either a jump in storage (can you say 5GB/10GB models?) or a decrease in price ($399/$499)? Or perhaps both? And surely they will respond to early adopter’s complaints in revised models. Certainly by January we’ll be seeing a new model announced at MacWorld that expands upon the current one. (They’ll probably be taking into account a lot of the things that have been mentioned above.)
When it comes to tech, there’s always the debate about when the “right time” to buy is. Usually it’s right after a revision announcement….or a price drop. Perhaps even after a press release from the company where no mention of new product is announced. But if there’s one agreed upon time when you probably shouldn’t buy tech — it’s when a product launches. Early adopters always get screwed. Look at the early iPod 5GB. It looks o.k….. kinda. But a year after it released Apple releases a 10GB model — for the same price. And so on. Clearly whomever buys this iPhone will be looking down at it with contempt when newer models come out.
Most of the iPhone articles have been proverbial “love fests”. I am not blindly in love with the idea of the phone (although pretty darn close to it). I recognize that there are potential shortcomings and I wanted to share them. And I’m sure that this is by no means an all-encompasing list. But these are the major points that stick out in my mind and ones that may keep me from diving in early. But it will hurt so much to wait! Ugh. (Who am I kidding? This phone will undoubtedly be mine and reviewed right on this site!)