First and foremost: I don’t have an iPhone. I never plan to buy an iPhone either. I don’t have any Apple products, including an iPod. And to be honest I’m as much an anti-Mac Zealot as many people are just Mac Zealots.
To be honest I don’t find the Apple OS easier to use, and I don’t think the iPod is the best MP3 out there (but I will give Apple kudos for having the best marketing efforts to make people actually believe that Apple makes a better computer and a better MP3 player). That said I actually like that the iPhone is doing for the mobile phone market in the United States.
If you travel internationally at all, you might notice that the United States actually trails behind the rest of the world in mobile innovation and service. In the United States we haven’t traditionally had the best mobile devices – those come from far off places like Japan, Korea and Finland! Our mobile coverage has been spotting, and our phones haven’t always had the best features.
So why is this? The simple reason is that the United States has traditionally had the best and most reliable landlines in the world. We had reliable phone service. But in many parts of the world service was bad, and the landline solution is just being skipped for mobile phones. This past year I’ve learned of new innovations to bring mobile to distance parts of the world where traditional landlines could never hope to go.
Flexenclosure is a small Swedish company that is developing remote mobile transmitting stations powered by solar panels, rather than the more traditional diesel power. This is notable given today’s high gas prices, but also because it means that the stations will only need to be serviced every six to eight weeks, instead of the usual two weeks.
But back to my main point: in the United States we’re slow to adapt to this way of thinking. Our electrical grid is very good, and thus why mess with what works. The same has been true of our mobile phones. So what if the users in Asia could already watch TV… we have bigger TV sets than ever in America.
Last summer that thinking changed when Apple rolled out the iPhone. Announced in the January 2007 Mac World it was easily one of the worst kept secrets in the consumer electronics world, but it got people – both designers and users – thinking about mobile phones could do.
There have been smart phones for years, but suddenly the iPhone made non-smart users stand up and take notice. This is exactly what happened with the MP3 players. Companies such as iRiver and Creative already had very good MP3 players – Creative practically dominated the early market – until the fall of 2001 when the iPod changed the landscape forever. While there are still many non-iPod users like me out there, the fact is that iPod is on the verge of being a product name rather than a brand (ala Jello, Crayon and Xerox).
The difference with the iPhone is that not everyone is ready to jump on the platform again. Even with the rollout of the second generation iPhone, there are issues that could keep the masses from going with the phone that Steve Jobs built. For one thing many mobile phone users upgrade their phones a lot. For another thing there are going to be those who won’t want to pay the premium for the iPhone.
But all this is fine, because on the one hand it will mean that LG, Samsung and Motorola need to make sure users can do the same things with their phones as they could if they owned an iPhone. More importantly the mobile Web will continue to adapt, both for the iPhone and for all the other phones out there.
So while the iPhone can let you IM, use the Web, listen to music and talk on the phone… it isn’t the only game in town.