Why The iPhone Isn’t A Revolution

Like many Mac converts I watched the keynote speech from the Macworld Expo last night. Unlike many Mac fans I left feeling a bit disappointed. Although Ian shares many of the same misgivings I have.

The obvious star of the show was the brand new iPhone and while I was disappointed that there was no new news on computer hardware or the upcoming OS X upgrade, I was still very interested to see how Apple would ‘reinvent the phone’.

Two good things immediately leapt out at me, the design of the thing and the User Interface. The design looks very sexy, although with a black touchscreen I wonder how many seconds it will take to get covered in fingerprints and earsweat. The User Interface does indeed look lovely and the multitouch screen seems intuitive to use. All the applications tie nicely together and it is this, rather than anything else that separates it from Smartphones.

The rest I’m afraid was a bit disappointing. While the iPhone’s applications appear to work well and the Safari browser looks particularly nice, there doesn’t seem to be enough applications. Everything the iPhone can do my current smartphone can do.

  • Web browsing and Email? Check!
  • Google Maps? Check!
  • Music player? Check!
  • Videoplayer? Check!
  • Bluetooth and Wifi? Check!
  • Use a finger to poke soft-buttons? Check!
  • Switch between Landscape and portrait? Check! (With a cool transformers type move).
  • Phone with SMS? Check!
  • Ignore 3G? Errrmmm…actually my phone supports 3G.

To be fair to the iPhone, it does look a lot easier to use than my current smartphone and some of the applications look nicer, but it is hardly a ‘revolution’.

It is not just the lack of ‘revolution’ that bothers me, it is some of the things that were left unsaid that are worrying.

The Smartphone platform has hundreds of applications, it’s easy to get your hands on a development platform for Windows Mobile. This has lead to a spree of development, including the traditional ‘one man in his bedroom’ development houses. Jobs didn’t mention how applications would be developed for the iPhone. I would have been happier with an announcement that Apple would be updating Xcode to allow for mobile programming, currently I have the fear that development for the new platform will be closed off. I’m hoping that an announcement that you can use Xcode and that development will be open will happen closer to the iPhone’s launch.

My mobile at the moment has several offline maps, an offline copy of wikipedia, an ebook application, an IM client, a couple of games, Pocket versions of MS Word and Excel, Java, Skype, Tom Tom navigator, an IRC client , a photo editing app and something that will play pretty much every video format out there. These extra applications have expanded my phone in a frankly ridiculous manner.

Without easy 3rd party coding, the iPhone simply won’t have the codebase for it becoming the ‘one-stop-shop’ of mobile communications. Instead people will have to be drip-fed applications from Apple and a few ‘licensed’ developers.

And was it just me who found his “we will defend our patents” a bit scary? I guess that means that if you want a multi-touch screen, Apple will be the only place to get it.

The keyboard on the screen? Nice, but there isn’t any tactile feedback and, while it may just be a personal taste, I like feeling my thumbs sliding over a real keyboard. Battery life seems pretty good, I wonder how long it lasts on Standby.

The other big killer for me is that lack of an SD slot. With SD card prices being very affordable these days it becomes easy to expand your phone’s storage, it is also an incredibly easy way of transferring photos from your digital camera into a photo editing app.

My Smartphone syncs up to my Mac using the excellent MissingSync 3rd party software and it moves across my contacts, calendars and more exactly like the new iPhone.

So – not a revolution, but the UI does look very droolworthy.

Oh, and AppleTV? I do that at the moment with my Macbook and DVI to Composite connector, and I’m not tied to iTunes DRM either.
[tags]iPhone, Apple, stevejobs, Keynote, smartphone[/tags]

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