How the iPhone Has Changed the Mobile Game

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
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How the iPhone Has Changed the Mobile Game

Finally, after weeks/months of waiting I got an iPhone 3G. You may recall the mix-up I had at the AT&T Wireless store which seemed like it would keep me from ever getting one. Well, the store manager had been emailing me regularly this past week and when the phone came in yesterday, I thought it better to get it quickly before they give it to someone else again. ;)

The store manager gave me a free iPhone case and screen protector for my trouble and the funny thing is, I really wasn't that upset about the whole situation. After all, it gave me some good writing material. Apparently the person working the day my phone was "borrowed" didn't check ID... I am sure they figured -- Tehrani, how common a name could that be? I checked whitepages.com and there are 13 records matching my last name in Norwalk, CT alone so it is more common than I thought.

Anyway, I brought the phone to TMC last night and showed our designers how TMCnet looks in your pocket. They did some checks on their more esoteric designs and reported all pages looked good... Nothing looked too out of whack.

So now I have the famous Blackberry sandwich I have heard so much about... You know a Blackberry and iPhone in your pocket. It seems like many of us us techies have one of each. In my case, my Blackberry is an XV6800 from HTC.

I have obviously used iPhones before but with prolonged exposure to the latest OS I can tell you it is light years ahead of all other wireless phones available in the US.

And here is the problem for every other company in the space. They are working on dozens of phones at a time and the software sucks on all of them. Don't they know this?

I was in the local mall today and I passed by a line of ten people waiting to buy iPhones and then I walked past the Verizon Wireless store where there were a few people checking out the phones they had on display. The LG Dare was one of the company's newest offerings and as I tested it, I just couldn't help thinking how could they "dare" to sell this phone.

The phone is a direct knock off of the iPhone but the UI is worse in every way. It is as if they took an iPhone and told an engineer to copy it -- and I am sure that is what happened.

But getting back to the iPhone, as I have complained about before, the on-screen keyboard is a major limitation. In addition, it was a bit of a hassle to get it to work with my Exchange server. Nothing insurmountable but I did receive a certificate error which threw me. Once working though, my contacts and appointments came in very smoothly -- perhaps more smoothly than on a Windows Mobile device.

The other iPhone downside is the lack of a clipboard to cut and paste data between applications. This would be quite useful if you are looking to blog and you want to point readers to a URL.

I am really not thrilled with the email interface either but I am getting used to it and viewing individual emails on this phone blows away other devices because you can zoom in and out of HTML email allowing you to actually read even complicated pages.

I used to have to wait until I got to a PC to look at much of my HTML mail and now I can deal with it on the road. What a time saver.

So while other phone companies like Motorola (and analysts) think it makes sense to launch more and more devices to be like Nokia, I want to express my extreme caution at such an approach. The mobile phone world has changed and users now understand that the crap most manufacturers pass off as web surfing devices is just that. Oh and one important point... They really do want to surf on the go. I recently saw numbers pointing to a 5:1 ratio of iPhone surfing to Windows Mobile surfing. The solution to this obvious problem is not to come out with 30 different types of crap in assorted colors, shapes and smells.

For some reason this all seems strangely obvious to me and I wonder why this message isn't being espoused more often by others.

If mobile phone companies want to compete against Apple they need to understand that cell phone design is more art than science and designers who are really good need to be involved in how they look and more importantly, function. The mobile browser is a crucial element here. Skyfire and Opera are doing a good job but I think partnerships with Mozilla might be the only way to compete effectively with mobile Safari. Germany's Debitel partnering with Opera to install the browser software company's "Mini" browser on their devices may be a smart model to follow but there also needs to be tight application integration.

One other point... If you can't come up with one cell phone as useful and easy to use as the iPhone, don't launch even more devices. Sure I understand why you might want to make a line of cheap phones for emerging economies but Apple is getting to the point where they will sell so many iPhones that their cost model will allow them to sell their iPhones at a price point close to your entry level device. Then what do you do?

vzw-touch-screen.jpgIt is amazing to me to see how cell phone providers and service providers have joined the touch screen frenzy. Verizon Wireless even has a touch screen category at the top of their device list and guess what -- all of the phones on the list are inferior to the iPhone.

So Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, SonyEricsson, etc you are forewarned. Oh and to the Microsoft Mobile team, you have done a good job until now but you have obviously just had your rear ends kicked. How will you respond? Will the Samsung Omnia help you overtake Apple's momentum?

Many of my readers and audience members at speeches tell me they won't buy Apple devices because they are closed. To this I answer, I buy my device to solve a problem... In this case to boost my productivity so I can be more successful in my job and have a better quality of life. If the price for reaching this goal is a loss in device openness, who cares?


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