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Next day thoughts on iPhone

iphoneYesterday expressed my unbounded enthuisiam for the iPhone. I'm still 90% enthusiastic (great screen, no stupid clickwheel, solves many cellphone gripes), but the iPhone is currently vaporware. There is a big difference between making choices about a technology you would buy today versus one that is six months away. If you are willing to wait six months, then why not 10 months, 12 months? I find this line of thinking especially difficult with the iPhone: it has a two-year contract. Thus begins the paralysis of the never-ending improvements of technology.

My top area of paralysis is the 4 or 8 GB. The pattern on this paralysis is: the big screen and UI are great for __, but I won't be able to use it much with that little bit of storage. For example, video looks great on the larger screen, but a 1-hour TV show is 500MB: how are you going to leave room for other stuff? Or, yeah I'd love to sync my photos onto it, but I can take 4GB of photos in a single weekend. Or one final one: Cover Flow is nice, but how necessary is it if you only have room left for 10 songs?

The fact is, if it were just a cheaper 30GB iPod without the phone and commitment, I'd probably buy it, which is perhaps why TUAW has a post titled, "WIll the iPhone Cannibalize iPod Sales or Vice Versa?". But I really do like the phone.

Then there are the other breakdowns: * If I take it is a device of fantastic convergence, how many of those features could I use with its limited battery life? I charge my phone perhaps every three days, which I find annoying. Do I really want to give myself the choice of, "If I watch this episode of Scrubs, will I have enough battery life to talk to my parents tonight?" * The Internet browser looked great, but I imagine that Jobs was demo-ing using WiFi. Is it going to be even half as great with the relatively slow Cingular EDGE? Note: EDGE isn't even the fastest capability that Cingular has, which means that you can be sure that there will be an upgrade to the iPhone's specs in the near future. Also, how much will that EDGE plan cost?

And I'll finish with meta's sage advice: 1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. 2. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line 3. Never buy the first generation of new Apple hardware.

I'll be clear here: I'm still 90% certain I'll buy one, but I have six months to think about it, and six months to debate whether or not waiting another six months will solve all the problems I listed above. None of the problems I listed are inherent to the notion of an iPhone. Do I want to be the person who rushes to buy the first generation, or do I want to be part of the second generation crowd that laughs at the first generation crowd stuck in their 2 year contracts? Apple could put in a hard drive. Apple could release a 16GB flash version. Apple could upgrade from EDGE to the faster UMTS. Apple could release a cheaper iPod-only version. Apple could add video conferencing. Apple could, could, could.

Comments (8)

Do you need a data plan for that push email crap? I'm guessing when you're within a wireless internet zone you can just check email and browse as normal. I can't see myself paying any more than $5/month for cellular access. Mostly I figure that data plans are for business customers (but then, so are smartphones, or were).

I don't see the iPhone getting updated (obseletzored) quite as often as iPods. The cell phone market moves more slowly, and it seems like there's a lot that Apple can do with just software updates, though clearly adding storage, battery life, and other radios aren't among them.

My observations:

* Battery life is going to be an issue. I'm guessing it'll have pretty smart power management software, but you're right, watch one TV show, listen to some music, then try to make a call with whatever life it has left.

* For the past two cellphones I've had, I've used a cradle for charging (they both used the same cradle, actually). The difference between being able to plop the phone on your desk to charge it and having to root around on the floor for a cable is pretty vast. The iPhone does come with a dock, so it's the same thing. Then again, I also always hang up my keys on a hook when I walk in the door. Not everyone's good at routine stuff like that.

* You're right, storage is a huge concern. 4gB isn't enough when you start tossing on lots of email messages, photos, and movies to have anything left for music. That gets in the way of it being able to replace the iPod in your pocket.

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Yeah, so, here's a stumper:

If iPhone Gen1 actually does make it out and in the marketplace by June, what will the inevitable pre-holiday refresh of it look like for X-mas 2007?

Personally, my list of things missing from the iPhone that seem to fit it are:
1) Video conferencing/VoIP.
2) Continuous sync (why pick what you put on it? Keep a working set around, and suck in whatever photos or audio or video you want when that intelligent cache fails)
3) Alternative/improvement to 2: SD slot, or a built-in hard drive.

Of course, maybe the iPhone will actually launch with either lower prices, more storage, or something from this list.

It just occurred to me that I don't think I saw Steve demo the calendar - did I miss it?


@David: Now that you bring it up, I imagine I'll need to buy a second charging dock: one to sit by my computer and one to sit on my bed stand. I'm the type of person who forgets to bring my Nano to work only because I don't see it on my way out the door.

@bp: personally, I don't see VoIP going in unless its sold as "improve your Cingular coverage into your home with the new Airport Extreme update." A lot of what's cool about the iPhone is what they got Cingular to let them do.

As for continuous sync, that pretty much falls into the same camp as the mystery of why the Zune doesn't support it. One possibility is that with already limited battery life, they didn't want to further limit things, but that's only a guess. I know that with the CF reader for my old iPod, the battery on the iPod would almost entirely be used up in a single transfer, even though the CF reader had its own batteries.

Another thing that your #3 reminded me of is: why not a replaceable battery? Not as pretty, not as iPod-dy, but would put me at better ease.

I didn't notice the calendar either (I only scanned the keynote), but I noticed this from David Pogue:

"The phone wont be available until June, so some of its software isnt finished yet. As I tapped my way into obscure corners of the phone, Mr. Jobs pointed out a couple of spots where only a placeholder graphic was available."

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I don't see VoIP per se as the type of feature that'd go in. More of a "seamless cross-integration with iChat conferencing + computer-based call management/negotiation". Yes, enhanced home coverage would also be a nice perk, if it's zero config. And, really, any of these things could be done without VoIP as such, but that's, in practice, the type of technology that would rule behind the scenes. Certainly, I don't see it as a replacement for service cost - keep the costs the same, but make the consumer's home Internet connection carry some of the stuff, and expose extra features.

You're probably right about the continuous sync stuff. Alright, so, why not sync-over-wifi? Could be an option anyway, I suppose. For $500-600, I'd like to see these things come with some form of mandatory .Mac account that offers automatic sync and resurrection in case of hardware failure. Sidekick users can basically resurrect their sidekick on another sidekick after failure with no though to backups....

The device seems to have enough potential energy that people love to start poking holes in it. "It can do x, why not y?" re: syncing, things that come to mind are the ability to work on documents on the road and sync them back up continuously. But then you're not just talking about a device, you're talking about Apple reinventing the entire workflow of computers (which Google Docs kind of starts to do). I'm not saying Apple couldn't do it, but right now they're worried about music and address books.

There's no reason the iPhone couldn't be the tablet PC that everyone seems to think they want, except that it fits in your pocket instead of awkwardly on your lap. I also didn't see a demo of any kind of documentation creation, though there's a "notes" button on the home screen. I'm guessing a Bluetooth keyboard would work for this if you were doing some heavy typing.


One of the things they claimed during the presentations they were giving on the iPhone throughout the day was that the battery would supply:

1) 5 hours of talking, video, internet
2) 16 hours of audio

I'm guessing the reason this is possible is because it's probably an OLED screen on the iPhone, which uses up far less energy than an LCD.

Not having a replaceable battery is a problem, because I don't upgrade phones frequently. The reason for upgrading for me is typically because it's been so long the battery doesn't really hold a charge anymore. My current phone is about two and half years old. I get about 30 minutes of talk time before it goes dead.

Still, I have faith in the iPhone modders that they'll discover a way to open it up and replace the battery.

The prototype they were showing didn't appear to have any seams to allow for the addition/replacement of anything -- not even a SIM card, which leads me to believe that the design of the phone will yet be undergoing some changes before production. There does appear to be an external port at the bottom of the phone for iPod connectivity, so I assume the sync will be via iPod cable.


SIM cards: there was a SIM card slot, or at least an arrow pointing at the top where one would be.

I'll reiterate that I'm very positive on the device: I think it's good that the worst things we can imagine are not being able to use it as much as we want to :)

> I think it's good that the worst things we can imagine are not being able to use it as much as we want to :)


The one, big area where I think it'll come up deficient for some people will be hardcore typing. I'm sure the touch keyboard is fine for short messages, but for people who live and breathe mobile email, it probably won't do. I can already hear the add-on gadget market spinning up.

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