The iPhone is Just a SmartPhone

Yes, it’s cool, but there are other options. And is coolness really a reason to wait on line?

iPhoneI’ve been reading, with great interest, the articles about iPhone hype and reviews of the iPhone by people who have actually used one for a few weeks. The interest is twofold:

  • I think the iPhone may turn out to be the best-designed smartphone to date. And I’m not just talking about looks. I’m talking about usability.
  • As someone who has always been interested in marketing, I’m amazed at the level of hype for this new product.

Before I go any further, let me make two things clear: I’m a loyal Apple computer user and have been so since 1989. I’d like very much to have an iPhone because everything I’ve seen so far indicates that it will be a great product. I’m also an Apple stockholder.

That said, what is the big deal? The iPhone is just another smartphone. Yes, it’s got a great design and yes, it’s hot. But there are several smartphones already on the market that do just about everything that the iPhone will do.

Another option

My Treo 700p comes to mind. It’s got a touch screen. It does e-mail and Web browsing and lets me send and receive text messages. It syncs with my Mac so I can take my entire address book and calendar with me wherever I go. It takes still photos and video and saves them on the phone or e-mails them to someone else. It plays MP3s (although I still prefer using my iPod for that). GoogleMaps for Palm OS gives the Treo the same Map feature the iPhone offers at no extra cost. With the addition of relatively inexpensive software, the Treo can also do handwriting recognition and voice dialing. And software — did I mention that there are hundreds of third-party software products that can extend the functionality of my Treo?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you buy a Treo instead of an iPhone.

I’m just pointing out that there are other products out there that do what the iPhone does. And I’m pretty sure that all of them are cheaper and available with calling plans that are cheaper. So you can do the same thing for less money.

It’s all about design.

The main difference I see, however, is design. The iPhone looks cool and I know the interface is going to be a heck of a lot more intuitive than the relatively confusing interface of the Treo. (I can do standard tasks with the Treo, but have a hell of a time setting configuration options, which don’t seem to be centralized in a logical place.) If there’s one thing that Apple excels at, it’s design — from its product packaging to its advertisements to its stores to its hardware and software products.

But since when does good design warrant the kind of attention and consumer demand the iPhone is getting?

People have been using and raving about poorly designed products for years. (I won’t get specific here because I don’t want to set set myself up for the fanboys to bash.) Why, all of a sudden, has a potentially well-designed product become the center of attention?

Or is it?

Could it simply be the “cool factor”?

I remember when the Motorola Razr came out. My husband just had to get one the day they became available. He came home to show it off. Sure, it was sleek and small. But compared to my 3-year-old Motorola flip phone, it wasn’t very comfortable to hold and the buttons were difficult to push. I wasn’t terribly impressed. But I saw the reaction of others when he whipped out his phone to answer a call in front of friends and work associates. They were really impressed.

Could that be why people want the iPhone badly enough to wait in line for four days? Or to pay someone else to wait in line for them?

Is anyone out there saying “duh-uh”? Or is this a revelation to some of you?

Is the iPhone craze just another example of our skewed sense of values? Looks that way to me.

The survey says…

Meanwhile, the poll on this site indicates that of the 352 people who have voted, 28% of them claim they want an iPhone badly enough to wait on line to get one. Another 34% say they expect to get one within the next 6 months. Only 13% say they don’t want one at all. I realize that this isn’t the most scientific poll — after all, the people who found it online are the ones obviously interested in the iPhone. Here’s a more objective poll.

As for me, I don’t do lines. (Take that any way you like.) I won’t even wait 20 minutes for a table at a restaurant. (And I like to eat.)

Take a seat on the bleachers with me.

So I continue to watch the excitement with great interest from a safe position on the sidelines. Would love to get comments from other spectators.

3 thoughts on “The iPhone is Just a SmartPhone

  1. If you buy a discounted smartphone with a 2 year plan, the plan is not as cheap as AT&T’s iPhone plans.

    As a result, the iPhone plus it’s 2 year plan ends up being cheaper than most discounted smartphones with their 2 year plans.

  2. Maria,

    Nice overview post considering it is from an Apple stockholder :)

    I cannot afford a new phone right now, but would not jump on iPhone yet even if I could. Taking a sideline view like you. I would like to see more reviews after more user experiences, over time.

    I am not surprised by the hype – remember Microsoft’s Origami mobile PC just a while back? The buzz far out-weighed the biz. The iPhone certainly does have the cool factor, and the “gotta have the latest tech gadget” early adapters will always wait in line.

  3. @Peggy: … except the origami got panned in its initial reviews, and most of the buzz was paid for by MS itself (MS-created web sites, MS paying bloggers, etc).

    Maria,

    The iPhone has interested mainstream consumers who have cheap phones in the concept of a smartphone. People who may have tried a Treo/Blackberrys, or PDAs, and didn’t like the complexity are intrigued by the seeming simplicity of using the iPhone. These people have cheap phones not because they couldn’t afford the more expensive phones/PDAs, but because in their previous experiences, they always eventually stopped using the complex device. These people value simplicity: simplicity in choice, simplicity in use, because time is their most precious resource. Carl Howe at blackfriarsinc.com and others have written about this Tyranny of Too Much.

    I have a cheap RAZR. I’ve tried Palm, Handspring, Treo and Blackberry and didn’t like any of them; and I hate the RAZR user interface. I’d like an iPhone – I’d like to have access to web services from a pocketable device – but I’m not yet buying as I don’t like it so much to break my contract yet.

What do you think?