Today’s nation-wide release of the iPhone is like technological manna to Apple aficionados and gadget junkies everywhere. Six months of increasingly frenetic hype has culminated in a launch around which the excitement has reached fever-pitch. The New York Times reports that over the last six months, the iPhone has been fodder for 11,000 print articles. It currently generates around 74 million hits on Google. Fans have been camping out in front of the hallowed entrances of Apple stores around the country days in advance of the release date, even paying people hundreds of dollars to stand in line for them.
But with all the lavish praise and attention, inevitably comes some backlash. Apart from the obvious worries about glitches and bugs that often accompany first time gadgets, tech critics and journalists have highlighted some major issues when it comes to Apple’s latest invention.
Barriers to entry
“There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive. Even in the business where it is a clear pioneer, the personal computer, it had to compete with Microsoft and can only sustain a 5% market share… And its survival in the computer business relies on good margins. Those margins cannot exist in the mobile handset business for more than 15 minutes… What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it’s smart it will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget… Otherwise I’d advise you to cover your eyes. You’re not going to like what you’ll see.” John C. Dvorak, Market Watch, March 28th 2007.
“I think it will be big in the U.S., but not anywhere else. In Europe and Asia there are all those phenomenal phones out there that make the iPhone look pedestrian.” Daniel Hesse, Nokia board member. As reported by CNN Money, June 15th 2007.
Not all that new
“Like the video iPod before it, the iPhone isn’t the first to market in its category. Helio’s ‘Ocean ‘ beat it by more than a month and received a positive review from the Wall Street Journal’s Walter S. Mossberg. The Ocean is $200 cheaper than the cheapest iPhone and it does GPS, while the iPhone doesn’t.” Jack Schafer, Slate.com, June 20th 2007.
High cost and service charges
“The worst thing about the iPhone is the price. $500 for the 4GB and $600 for the 8GB, and remember you don’t get a discount. You have to pay the price of a desktop computer to get this phone and get locked into the contract. Forget it. When I can get the LG CU 400 with 3G for free, why would I shell out for this hunk of white plastic.” Tom Merritt, CNET Video.
“One of the most anticipated, unknown iPhone features is its real price tag. We already know that it will cost $500 to $600, depending on storage capacity. But AT&T’s contract requirements could easily quadruple that price. To qualify for the lowest pricing on many smart phones, carriers require that you subscribe to an all-you-can-eat data plan for around $40 per month, in addition to a $40-or-more-per-month calling plan. So much for getting the cheapest calling plan and just using the wi-fi feature for the Internet. Add text messaging and taxes, and you’re looking at a bill near $90 per month. Over the two-year contract period, that’s more than $2,000.” Dan Frommer, Forbes.com, June 11th 2007.
No corporate e-mail
“While iPhones can be used for email, for now, many businesses don’t plan to sync them with internal email systems that use technology from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., Microsoft Corp. and Good Technology, owned by Motorola Inc. That means many iPhone users won’t be able to directly send and receive messages through their corporate email systems, although they may be able to forward their work emails through a third-party service like AOL or Yahoo Mail.” Jessica E. Vascellaro and Nick Wingfield, WSJ.com, June 19th 2007.
“It looks as if you won’t be able to access your corporate push e-mail system with the iPhone’s built-in software. The iPhone runs the Mac OS X operating system, so, in theory, writing powerful software should be easy for outsiders. But Apple has been cryptic so far as to whether it will open the iPhone to developers.” Dan Frommer, Forbes.com, June 11th 2007.
No ‘real’ internet
“Then there’s the Internet problem. When you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot, going online is fast and satisfying. But otherwise you have to use AT&T’s ancient EDGE cellular network, which is excruciatingly slow… You almost ache for a dial-up modem.” David Pogue, The New York Times, June 27th 2007.
Not compatible with 3G networks
“…We’re disappointed the iPhone’s data support tops out at 2.5G EDGE networks. Considering the multimedia-friendly feature set, the omission of any 3G compatibility is a bit bizarre, particularly since Cingular now offers UMTS and HSDPA.” Kent German and Jasmine France, CNET Reviews, January 9th 2007.
“… security researchers predict a litany of shortcomings that may allow hackers to pilfer private data stored on or sent from iPhones…The phone will use an operating system and a Web browser that have already been available in some form for years, so hackers will have a head start in finding entry points to exploit even before the phone is released. And the iPhone’s “closed” operating system makes it impossible to install protection software from security companies like McAfee or Symantec.” Andy Greenberg, Forbes.com, 19th June 2007.
“We’re telling IT executives to not support it because Apple has no intentions of supporting (iPhone use in) the enterprise… This is basically a cellular iPod with some other capabilities and it’s important that it be recognized as such… You’ll have e-mail in a place that’s unsecured. There are no firewalls on the device. There’s no ability to wipe (data from) the device if it’s lost.” Ken Dulaney, Gartner analyst. As reported by Jon Brodkin, Network World, June 21st 2007.
“The iPhone is not…a BlackBerry killer. The absence of a physical keyboard makes it versatile, but also makes typing tedious. Instead of raised alphabet keys, you get virtual keys on the screen. They’re fairly small, and of course you can’t feel them. So typing is slow going, especially for the fat of finger.” David Pogue, The New York Times, Jan 11th 2007.
“The iPhone’s battery is one example of a feature that could flop…What happens if you use the phone’s Wi-Fi connection heavily? Or a Bluetooth earpiece? Without a midday charging pit stop, iPhone owners may have to consistently choose between using its Web and multimedia features and saving battery power for phone calls.” Dan Frommer, Forbes.com, June 11th 2007.
Limited photo and video capabilities
“…the two-megapixel, fixed-focus camera looks underwhelming compared to the hi-tech autofocus cam of Nokia’s N95… More frustrating is the lack of storage.” Rob Waugh, Daily Mail, June 16th 2007.
“The two-megapixel camera tales great photos, provided the subject is motionless and well lighted… But it can’t capture video. And you can’t send picture messages (called MMS) to other cell phones.” David Pogue, The New York Times, June 27th 2007.
“In a Consumer Report’s Study, AT&T’s signal ranked either last or second to last in 19 out of 20 major cities. My tests in five states bear this out. If Verizon’s slogan is ‘Can you hear me now?’ AT&T’s should be ‘I’m losing you.'” David Pogue, The New York Times, June 27th 2007.
What does all this mean for the iPhone?
If all the criticism has you somewhat taken aback or perhaps riled up, remember: for every iPhone basher out there, exist ten enthusiasts. Praise and criticism go hand in hand. Although accused of being overpriced and under-equipped, the phone has been also been hailed as “revolutionary,” “magical” and slated to “alter the face of the cell phone industry.”
Clearly the iPhone isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t have to be in order to sell. It’s innovative, new, and exciting, and absolutely everybody is talking about it. While it remains to be seen whether the phone will be able to live up to all the hype, the inevitable criticism that has reared its head in the last few moths does not mean that Apple will fail. After all there was a massive onslaught of criticism from all quarters before the iPod was launched. And look where it is now.