My First Reactions to the Original iPhone Keynote

Back in the day I had a small blog on blogger and I wrote a few first impressions of the original iPhone after watching the keynote where it was announced. Thought it would be fun to post that article here as my blog is now defunct and see how well it all still holds up today. Anyways here it is, blemishes, bad predictions and all. Let me know what you think:

Apple's Greatest Boondoggle

As many techies already know, Apple has unveiled their newest product, iPhone, amongst great fanfare. The word iPhone has most Apple-nuts foaming at the mouth. While it certainly looks pretty and I would graciously accept one as a gift if someone got me one, I would like to explain why the iPhone will be one of Apple's greatest boondoggles since the Newton and will set the stage for the great Apple bubble to finally pop.

First off let's explain what exactly the iPhone is. Apple wants the iPhone to be your brand new all in one device. They want it to be your iPod, your phone, and your Blackberry all at the same time. Not a bad concept but in order for it to work it must do all three reasonably well. In order to accomplish this Apple has decided that the iPhone will run OS X. This set off a major red flag in my head especially after watching the demo. There is no way that thing is running the full version of OS X. Calling this a full version of OS X is like calling Windows Mobile the full version of Windows. I really doubt that iPhone will allow you to just load any 3rd party app onto that thing, let alone run it properly. If I don't like safari will I just be able to install firefox? Probably not becuase judging by Steve Jobs' demo the version of safari he uses looks highly modified from the full version as much as he claims it isn't. I really don't see Apple supporting 3rd party apps as well as the Palm OS does.

Before I go on and to silence the Apple lovers out there I want to point out what I think are the features that set the iPhone apart from everything else out there. The things that Apple has done right are their media management and playback features and the wireless internet feature. The version of safari they have on the iPhone is a genuine browser unlike anything else on the market. To this I say bravo (though will it be able to use plug-ins like flash, adobe, and quicktime remains be seen). Most web browsers on smartphones are pitiful and end up butchering all but the simplest websites. The media features essentially take what everyone loves about the iPod interface and converts it for multi-touch use.

The next heavily touted feature of the iPhone is the revolutionary new input method it employs. They call it "multi-touch". It's essentially a touch screen just like you've seen on palms for years but it's designed to use your fingers. Somehow that's supposed to be more accurate then using a stylus. Jobs notes that one of the "flaws" of most smart phones is the plastic buttons that are stuck there and can't change and for that reason the iPhone essentially has no buttons. You will use the touchscreen for everything! This includes typing e-mails. Somehow using a small touchscreen with your fingers to type e-mails is a great improvement in accuracy and speed over using the tiny keyboards that you currently see on smartphones. I'll believe that when I see it Jobsy. I want to see some WPM studies done on this claim.

Another problem with the device is the fact that it only holds 4-8 GBs. Now if you use this thing for everything apple says you can such as movies, music and all your favorite OS X apps 4-8 GBs is nothing! The smallest regular iPod holds 30 GBs. Not to mention the fact that like the iPod there is no way to expand this through any sort of media cards so you're stuck with the amount of memory that comes on the thing when you buy it.

Apple's other problem is their choice of mobile provider they've teamed up with to release this. They decided to go with Cingular since they have the most subscribers. I think that this is a huge mistake. Cingular doesn't really have much of a 3G network to speak of so the internet on the iPhone will crawl unless you are using a wi-fi connection. And even if they did have a 3G network the iPhone doesn't support them so you'd be SOL. The more natural partners should have been Verizon Wireless and Sprint both of which have extensive 3G networks capable of broadband speeds wherever you are.

All these critiques may seem small and petty but now I will explain why this will be Apple's greatest boondoggle ever. It's so simple when you think of it. The problem is this device has no natural market!!! I have no idea who Apple plans to sell this thing too. The average joe on the street doesn't need a device that can do all of this. And the price tag on it of $499 for 4 GB and $599 for 8 GB will take all but the most die hard Apple junkies out of the personal user market.

This brings me to the other major market for cell phones and that is business users. These are the people who usually buy these feature laden "smartphones". For these guys the major selling point should be the iPhones ability to handle and send e-mail. I really doubt that it will be easier or faster to send e-mails on this thing then it is on a Blackberry or Treo. I have a hard time believing that multi-touch will be easier to use for typing up e-mails then your standard thumb keyboard. The other sticking point is I don't think many businesses will shell out the money for one of their employees to get one of these things. Most businesses have no reason to buy their employees a phone that has so many media features. All these iPod media features blur the line between this being a serious work device and a tech toy and I think that many companies will balk at getting their employees a phone that's more expensive then the other smartphones out on the market just so they can watch movies on it in their spare time. And when you really boil it down most smartphones on the market can do all the things the iPhone can. Sure they don't look as pretty doing it but they get the job done.

So now that we've essentially eliminated the personal user market and the business user market, who the heck does Apple plan on selling this thing to? Only the most hardcore and wealthy users will bother to shell out for one of these things. It is for this reason that the iPhone will be a failed product and will bring down Apple which has invested so much in this products success. I would just like to be on record as the first to say "told you so!"