We have made every effort to keep a rational distance from the iPhone hype – the daily news bits, the predictions of its success or failure, and the complaints about lack of certain features or how the features it has work.

We’re not here to repeat any of that. You’ve read it enough times already. Instead, let’s talk about who we believe Apple is building the iPhone for, because it seems many analysts have not come to the same conclusion as we here at Phone Scoop.

Since its unveiling, the majority of analysts and pundits have compared the iPhone to smartphones like those from Palm, HTC and Nokia. Part of this is due to the fact that like those phones, the iPhone runs a known operating system – in this case OS X – and it was believed programmers could write applications in the OS’s native language instead of using Java, BREW or some other sandbox environment. These folks, along with many hopeful Mac developers were disappointed to learn the iPhone would not run third party applications at launch.

The iPhone’s price of $500 or 600 is also more in line with that of smartphones that the average mass market phone. It is true that most high-end feature phones launch at a lower price when sold with a contract. However some phones such as the Black Motorola RAZR launched at over $400.

Recently some people have begun comparing the iPhone to corporate-centric email devices like the Blackberry (as well as Windows Mobile and Palm smartphones) because like those devices, the iPhone is capable of sending and receiving email as well as browsing the desktop web. These people tend to be surprised that a $500 phone wouldn’t have native support for Microsoft Exchange.

I don’t believe that the iPhone is designed for smartphone users – at least not smartphone users who pour over the huge libraries of software available for their device and customize it. These people represent a fraction of the cell phone subscribers in the US and abroad. They do represent a larger percentage of people willing to spend lots of money on devices and software, however, which is why so many companies pay attention to them. But other manufacturers are devoting plenty of attention to these users.

I don’t believe that the iPhone is designed for corporate email addicts either. The number of people who use Exchange is far outpaced by the number of people who have “standard” email accounts. Even most corporate users have their own personal email accounts with Gmail, Hotmail or some other POP or IMAP service. However, as with the smartphone crowd, corporate users often spend more money on devices and calling plans than others, so great deal of attention is devoted to them.

But what about everyone else – all those people who comprise the vast “mass market”? These people usually just get a free or inexpensive phone, but they have been convinced to get something more expensive and / or more advanced in a few cases. Often they will spend more if a phone has an impressive design – one that is well beyond the ordinary. Other times they will spend more for features that they use all the time and want in their mobile phone.

When mass market users upgrade to one of these more expensive devices, they aren’t looking for every feature under sun, or the option of every feature under the sun. They are looking for a good, solid, friendly version of the feature(s) they want.

The SideKick’s success among IM addicts is an excellent example. It appealed to people who used the internet and all of its common communication channels (im, email, web) every day. It had a unique form factor and a unique set of features. And even though it hasn’t been a huge success, the SideKick has gotten many subscribers to switch from a simple feature phone to a more advanced handset. In many ways, it paved the way for the iPhone.

The iPhone’s target audience is not smartphone “geeks,” nor corporate “suits;” it is every man, woman and child who doesn’t want to spend a dime on a phone because there’s no reason to. Learning to use a phone, especially an advanced feature phone or smartphone is difficult. Most high end phones are usually packed with features that nobody except the carriers want. And most phones are not designed with any real sense of style – they are either derivative or just plain ugly. And so with the iPhone, Apple is giving all of these users who normally don’t want to spend a dime on a phone a reason to spend 5000 of them.

If analyst reports are correct, Apple had trouble finding an American carrier for the phone, and are having even more trouble finding a European partner. Many are chalking this up to rumors to that Apple is driving a hard financial bargain, however i believe they are overlooking the fact that the iPhone does not have any advanced features that the carriers want. Instead it has advanced features that users – regular mass market subscribers – want.

The day the iPhone was unveiled at MacWorld, a number of my friends – most of whom are free-phone users – immediately contacted me asking when it was coming out and telling me they were starting to save their pennies. They were getting one. While geeks were disappointed with the lack of 3G support, these free-phone users were enamored with the simple access to features they use, be it on their phone or on their PC. Normally these folks get frustrated with even the most basic functions like 3 way calling or texting. They loved the fact that they could easily sync their own music and videos onto the iPhone and not have to struggle or wind up at the carriers’ mercy. And applications like Safari and Google Maps appealed to them – they use a browser and Google maps all the time.

Today’s announcement that the iPhone will also ship with a stand-alone YouTube application sealed its place as a mass market device. With brands like Google, YouTube (which, yes, we know is also Google), and iPod Apple knows exactly who it’s aiming this phone at – every 18-35 year old out there. These brands, and the features they represent, are what many mass market consumers are looking for in a “smart” phone.

Apple is not taking any chances communicating its message and attempting to educate its target market. Instead of talking about specs and technology, Apple is showing off software and interface. These are the things that matter to regular users. They are showing off every day scenarios that your typical web surfer and cell phone user might find himself in. Surfing the web, playing music on an iPod, deciding what to eat, calling friends and sharing YouTube videos and showing how the iPhone works while doing all this.

And these users who care about YouTube videos and think threaded SMS that looks just like iChat is the cutest thing since Hello Kitty do not care about 3G or Exchange support or whether the iPhone can run 3rd party OS X applications. They care about being able to figure out their phone’s interface, about battery life, and about the phone’s style. And this is what the iPhone is trying to nail.

We cannot say if Apple really really did nail what matters yet. After all the iPhone hasn’t launched. All we can say is those are the type of features that Apple has expended its efforts on. The iPhone still could fall short of the mass market’s expectations. But that won’t be because it doesn’t support Exchange. I promise you that.