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I stopped into iPhone Dev Camp today. I walked in and was shocked to see hundreds of developers staring intensely at their laptops. I honestly didn’t expect so many people, but this is the bay area, and so it is Apple’s and Web 2.0’s home turf. Most the people in attendance had iPhones, but they didn’t seem to be using them. You could tell these were the type of people who generally don’t leave the house without their laptop. They also, for the most part, were not mobile developers.
The mobile interface and development world is small enough that everyone in it knows or at least recognizes each other, especially when it comes to online and not Java development… and i did not recognize a single soul in the place. so I went out to the organizers are expressed my shock at how into their laptops everyone was – both because this was the first dev camp i’ve ever attended (i often attend “bar camps” but those are much more social, even though they involve no bars.), and because everyone seemed much more interested in their laptops and full computer sized applications than mobile applications.
And that’s when the organizers stunned me. they weren’t surprised by the computer-centric makeup of the crowd at all, because the organizers didn’t consider an iPhone a mobile device. “It’s not a mobile device,” one said, “it’s more of a really powerful browser in a small computer.” And that view seems to be the one shared by most the attendees. I went back around and checked on the types of applications these folks were working on. They weren’t mobile centric. They didn’t consider the on the go nature of the iPhone or the fact that mobile UIs usually call for less information and less input. They were trying to squeeze full desktop applications or full desktop websites into the phone. The preliminary results were appalling in many cases. (but they were preliminary!)
But not all web developers are looking at the iPhone like it’s a MacBook mini. I was browsing the iPhone Application List and came across MoviesApp. It is, I would say, my dream movie times application. It considers all the capabilities of the iPhone so it integrates with the media aspects of the iPhone, Google Maps and more. And it also requires a minimum of input and clicks to get the information you want, formatted exactly how you would expect on your iPhone. I’m glad that despite today’s experiences that at least some people understand the iPhone’s highly mobile nature.
Now what i’m really hoping is that these same developers who are making well thought out web applications for the iPhone realize that there are millions more Windows Mobile and S60 phones out there that can advantage of their hard work; and they expand their development to allow these millions of users to experience wonderfully designed applications as well. The one thing I was hoping the iPhone might do is get more people to develop truly well designed mobile web sites, instead of forcing us to use their unwieldy desktop sites or their ultra low bandwidth sites that fail to provide enough information.
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.
I don’t think anyone, least of all a phone site, can deny that the iPhone is the most highly anticipated gadget of 2007. And because of this we are seeing two things – tons of press releases coming out every day with the word “iPhone” in them simply to beg for attention, and the publishing of every possible whisper and rumor about the iPhone. This week a number of reliable publications have published statements that border between rumor and fact. They all come from unnamed analysts and all look suspicious enough that we will not publish them on Phone Scoop’s news page. However they are just believable enough enough that they could be true. Because of Apple’s incredible secrecy, there’s no way to know.
At the start of the week, another iPhone story in USA today casually claimed that Cingular has a five year exclusive deal with Apple, preventing the company from launching phones with any other American carrier or developing CDMA handsets during that time. However the paper does not cite a source for this information and even after it was published, the only thing AT&T and Apple will say is that the two have a “multi-year exclusive agreement.” However USA Today pulled a number of other parts from this article in a revision to it three days later, but did not change or pull the statement about the five year agreement, lending it an air of authenticity. If this is true it would be rather unprecedented.
Last night an analyst on CNBC said that the iPhone would be available on June 20th. Immediately the internet was all aflutter with stories on this, until people started investigating what the analyst actually said. It turns out that a store employee told the analyst the iPhone would be available on the 20th. One Cingular store employee. Gizmodo asked a Cingular employee and was told the 11th. Forbes did its own investigation and was given dates between June 11 and 22. Wireless Info asked in a number of stores throughout Boston and was given answers anywhere from June to August. And both Apple and Cingular continue to say that the iPhone is on track for arrival in late June.
The only thing we know for sure about the release is that both Cingular and Apple have continually been adamant about a June launch, and that the iPhone has cleared FCC approval, so it could happen at any time. We also know that many people have talked about June 11th because that is the start of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference(WWDC) and June 12th because that is the date of Job’s keynote at the WWDC. If Jobs does not announce the iPhone is available at the conference, it is possible he will announce the date it will become available.
Yesterday Motorola did us the courtesy of wasting an hour of our time re-announcing phones they had already launched before finally getting around to yet another RAZR. While describing each of these “new” phones, which were all announced 3 months ago at 3GSM, Motorola was sure to make some direct, as well as many indirect comparisons between these products (which were originally announced after the iPhone) and the iPhone.
Reframing these phones’ features and form factors did not make them any more of a competitor to the iPhone than they were before. It was a marketing ploy, and a poor one at that. After the failure of the first ROKR, Ed Zander (who is lovingly referred to as ZNDR in phone nerd circles) often said Moto should be more like Apple and he wanted to copy Steve Jobs’ style. (minus the black turtle neck, natch.)
And ZNDR would do well to learn some lessons from Jobs. For instance, when Jobs wastes his breath comparing his products to that from other players he only does it in two cases, to say “everyone has tried to copy this” or to say “no one else does this.” This is reinforcing Apple’s position as an innovator. However every time Jeremy Dale or ZNDR talked about the iPhone yesterday, it wasn’t in a “look what Apple learned from us” context, instead it was “hey look at us, we sortof do that too, see?” And all that does is reinforce Motorola as both a second class citizen and a company who clearly is focusing on just one thing – the iPhone.
Anyone who’s been in the ring knows that focusing on just one thing you’re afraid of often leads to your downfall. It opens you up to all sorts of other attacks, and worse, it often means that you miss your opportunity to strike the winning blow. You’re so focused on that one thing that the opportunity just passes you by when it presents itself. and so it happened when ZNDR finally got around to announcing Motorola’s new (more like updated but never seen before) phone, the RAZR2.
Motorola is a company steeped in legacy. Heck even their most original phone in the past 5 years, the RAZR, was just an updated Startac. So who could be surprised when they finally got around to announcing something new that it was yet another RAZR? And they blew this the same way many fighters have blown fights. They are so focused on the one knockout punch or submission that has helped them win before that they again miss an huge opening for victory that presents itself – the fight equivalent of one-hit wonders.
And so Motorola was so focused on reviving the glory of the RAZR that they totally missed their opportunity, even though the technology and designs were already in their portfolio. The RAZR2 is average for a high end phone at best. In fact, feature-wise the HSDPA and CDMA models are not improvements over Moto’s current offerings in the least. The CDMA version is actually a downgrade from the RAZR Maxx, and the HSDPA version has the exact same specs as the V3xx. The GSM version is actually pretty hot, but will not be Moto’s big seller for the US.
While Moto was so focused on making yet another RAZR (how can we make it thinner? No, It needs to look more RAZR-like.) They totally ignored the one truly innovative feature and turned it into nothing more than a gimmick. The RAZR2 has 2 QVGA screens. TWO!! Which is so totally gluttonous it makes me sick to my stomach. Never mind that because the outer screen has an amazing feature – the bottom part of the screen is touch sensitive. So when you access the few features available with the phone closed, you control them by pressing on labels – labels that change since they are written on the screen. And when you press them, you get a little vibration that helps you realize you pressed something (it’s called haptics).
Moto totally had it in the bag. They could have redesigned their slider (maybe a sleeker sexier version of the Z6?) and used this screen as the main screen. They could have done away with the traditional soft keys and used the on-screen soft key area for ALL navigation. Sure it would have take some serious interface redesign, but it would have been worth it. People would have gone gaga over how cool it was that the buttons that are always so far away from the labels of what they do were actually on the labels of what they do. Yes the Palm OS and Windows Mobile Professional both do this, but they don’t do it with haptics (and the Palm OS doesn’t really do it in any organized fashion either). And Moto could have really innovated. They could have changed the game. Maybe even making an OS that was even easier to navigate than the iPhone.
But they were so worried about their one knock out punch (the RAZR form factor) and how badly their opponent might hurt them, that now this innovation is just a gimmick. nothing more than LEDs on equalizers. And this fight will have to go to the judges instead of being decided by a knockout blow.