Top 10 Reasons the iPhone is Incomparable - Wait-a-Thon!
[Ed: We're bringing back the Wait-a-Thon and making it regular again. Sorry we dropped it off there for awhile, folks. With all those 3G and iPhone 2.0 rumors flying about these past couple of weeks, it almost felt like the release was already here. In the meantime, comment on any post tagged "Wait-a-Thon" for your chance to win a $100 iTunes Gift Card!]
This is not a response to Crackberry.com's excellent article, Top 10 Reasons Why the iPhone Is NO BlackBerry. Quite frankly, the iPhone doesn't need a response; it's the rest of industry that's so desperately trying to find one to the iPhone.
I don't know about you, but it's getting more than a little tiring hearing everyone compare themselves to -- and constantly try to rip-off -- the iPhone. I can't surf a website or cruise the main without some claw-handed Crackberry addict, neck-bearded Palm artifact, or frazzle-haired WinMob frustrati glaring and frothing with barely-contained envy at the perfectly balanced, seamlessly integrated, lustfully convergent iPhone held ever-so casually in my grip.
They know the iPhone is beyond cool. Sure, they cling to their once innovative, formerly revolutionary (at least in the case of Palm and RIM) devices, the ones overwhelming nostalgia or massive business infrastructure investment won't let them slam to the ground and stomp into the call-dropping, web-mangling, constantly crashing oblivion they so richly deserve.
So the comparisons to the iPhone just won't stop, despite the fact that the iPhone is pretty much incomparable. Don't believe me? I've got ten reasons to back me up. And these aren't minor feature gripes or personal peccadilloes. In proper Apple fashion, these are just 10 simple little words...
It’s right there in the name: iPhone. Steve Jobs said it himself at Macworld 2007: the killer smartphone app is voice. How ironic, then, that so many other smartphones so often kill voice.
Making and receiving calls without my phone freezing or crashing, as my previous device did almost daily, is huge. Unprecedented simplicity in everything from easily finding my way back if I navigate away from the phone app, to elegantly handling call holding, muting, and multiple output sources like Blue Tooth, to effortlessly setting up conference calls is huger still. I can’t remember how often I got lost, couldn’t get calls off my headset, or accidentally hung up on people with the confusing hackjobs that passed for interfaces on my previous smartphones.
The iPhone also introduced desktop-class HTML email rendering and “just the internet”, AJaX powered, standards compliant web browsing, along with interface innovations for SMS, .MAC gallery transfer for photos, and the ability to email YouTube videos, photos, and web links at the tap of a virtual button.
(The browsing is so good, ironically, everyone from Amazon to Facebook to popular blogging plugin makers are providing iPhone-optimized web pages now, lumping every other device into the substandard “mobile” experience or the abortive hell that is WAP).
While some may grumble that this or that power-user feature, or device-specific protocol is missing, Apple has proven they can deliver updates faster and better than anyone in the industry (going from version 1 to 1.1.4, with 2.0 immanent, in less than a year and adding significant capability in the process).
For the user, the interface is the app, and for Apple, their interfaces are remarkably back-end independent. So, if the iPhone needs to improve SMS, or add IM or MMS for now until the differences between desktop and handset protocols evaporate, well Apple’s already got patents pending for that as well.
In the mean time, as most of the iPhone commercials show, having music or video or web pages fade away when your phone rings only to fade right back when your done -- that's truly killer.
Listen up, communication-centric users, especially those who want the internet in their pocket, are all over the iPhone.
The iPod is the king of all mobile media, with an over 70% share of the US market. People love them their iPods and Steve Jobs has repeatedly said the iPhone is the best iPod Apple has ever made.
Just look at the stats: up to 16GB of flash storage, a 3.5”, 160dpi wide screen display, and seamless integration with the #1 music and leading downloadable media store in the US, iTunes.
Apple can also extend iPhone media in ways their competitors can only dream. From high-end Final Cut Pro for Hollywood scale video production, to (Mac) desktop Garage Band podcast and ringtone creation, to Apple TV syncing and streaming the same iTunes content to your big screen TV, Apple literally can create, manage, and deploy iPhone media from end-to-end. They can do it easily, and what’s really scary (for the competition) is that this is something the iPhone merely inherited. (Imagine what they might just be preparing for the future...)
No one else, not desktop monopolists, old media stalwarts, or upstart email monsters, even come close.
For media-centric users who don’t want to fill their pockets with a second device just for voice and data, the iPhone's barrier of entry is zero.
Though not to anywhere near the extent of media, Apple has been integrating gaming into the iPod -- and into iTunes -- for years now, and with the SDK Roadmap event, they’re getting serious about putting it on the iPhone as well.
EA’s Spore and Sega’s Super Monkey Ball (among others, including Apple’s homegrown Touch Fighter) were given the spotlight, taking full advantage of the iPhone’s unique video and audio power, accelerometer, and multi-touch controls. Sega even said they’d so underestimate the iPhone’s potential they had to fly in another developer just to crank up the graphics. Wow.
No other smartphone, even today, can boast the 1 year old iPhone’s raw feature set (chips + sensors + inputs + display). As for gaming handhelds, the Sony PSP can’t fully match it (though their dedicated chipsets and vast software library clearly give them a huge advantage... for now). Only the Nintendo DS, which sports touch and mic, is competitive (massive understatement given they’re the sales leader in mobile gaming).
But here’s the thing: while other smartphone are playing copycat and catchup with 1.0, the iPhone is poised to go to 2.0, and while dedicated gaming kits have undeniable advantages, they can’t make cell phone calls, can’t play iTunes media, and can’t do a host of other things the iPhone delivered on day one.
For anyone who wants to game and doesn’t want to carry around a second, dedicated box to go with their media-savvy phone, June will score for the iPhone as well.
Make no mistake, the aforementioned iPhone SDK event didn’t only reach out to gamers, it offered a firm handshake to business as well. Exchange ActiveSync (not to be confused with the confusingly named desktop Windows ActiveSync), 802.1x, Cisco VPN, remote wipe, Enterprise “App Stores”, and a host of other features were released as part of the iPhone 2.0 beta.
What’s more, unlike RIM's technology, which uses a single Network Operations Center (NOC) to handle all Blackberry data transactions -- making the service infamously prone to failures and terrifyingly susceptible to security compromises, state-sponsored and otherwise, ActiveSync offers a direct connection between enterprise server and user client. No Chinese or Singaporean RIM-supplied proxy snoopers, no Indian data disconnections. With ActiveSync, each individual business' server would have to be individually compromised or blocked, a vastly more difficult task.
For Microsoft users worried about a “premiere” experience, having an Apple client may just redefine their concept of "premiere". And for open-source advocates, Apple’s been their from the beginning, with full support for standards like IMAP, and community-friendly initiatives like CalDAV.
Bottom line, the iPhone is in a unique position to appeal to almost all business-centric users who don’t want to lug around an second or third device just to watch a movie or play a game on the flight home, or call their loved ones when they land.
Communication, media, gaming, and business. In one or two of these areas, other devices currently have an edge. That is, if you’re happy with the idea of carrying around a feature phone, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, and Blackberry all strapped to your utility belt (I’ve been there and it wasn’t pretty!).
Convergence, however, doesn’t begin or end with just the iPhone. As we touched on before, Apple is the first, and so far only company to truly deploy spherical integration across their product line.
Apple designs its own hardware (iPhone handset), engineers its own operating system (OS X) and software (built in apps like MobileSafari Touch and the Google Maps client), creates its own accessories (docks, media cables, headsets, etc.), offers its own ecosystem (from Macs to the Apple TV, from iLife to Leopard Server), sells them all in their own retail Apple Stores (which bested Tiffanies last year in earnings per square foot), handles their own carrier activation via iTunes, provides value-added services (iPhoto books), runs its own cloud services (.Mac) and ties into other cloud service providers (Google search, Yahoo! weather), offers the #1 music marketplace in the US (iTunes), which also provides TV, movies, and a staggering amount of free audio and video podcasts, iTunes University, and other free content, and is about to be joined by the App Store, which may just do for 3rd party App sales what iTunes did for music.
Verizon commercials like to show a virtual network of technicians following its users around everywhere they go. Just imagine that commercial with Apple’s 360 degrees of integration backing up every iPhone user.
When it comes to convergence, nothing else matches the current iPhone’s capabilities, never mind its next-generation potential. Anyone looking for the “one device to rule them all” will find it all elegantly wrapped up in only one package: the iPhone.
Okay, numbers 8 and 7 -- and thus 6 -- are still in beta. Fair enough. But what’s driving that beta is an SDK the likes of which has never been seen before in the mobile space.
Sure, some platforms use Sun’s “Compile once... er... often.. run anywhere” Java language/interpreter, or Microsoft’s Windows-in-name only kit, and others delve deep to the metal on Palm’s sold and bought-back and locked-in-stasis OS.
Apple, much as they miraculously managed to cram a UNIX-based OS, BSD networking, Open GL, and other desktop class systems into the iPhone, also delivered a remarkably mature, surprisingly polished SDK based entirely on their existing Mac Objective C and Cocoa (dubbed Cocoa Touch for the iPhone) architectures.
Far from the afterthought or hurried response partisan pundits paint it, thanks to Steve Jobs’ legacy from NeXTStep, its frameworks, and its processor independence (it’s run on PowerPC, x86, and now Arm), Mac developers instantly gained the ability to dive right into the system, while those familiar with other flavors of C quickly ramped up thanks to powerful tools like X-Code and Interface Builder.
(It was stated repeatedly during the SDK event that demoes were produced in just two weeks, mostly by developers who’d never touched Objective C before in their lives. Amazing.)
A desktop-class OS with desktop-class development tools leads to something no other smartphone maker has ever been able to deliver to consumers before: desktop class mobile Apps.
Combine all this with a serious attitude towards security, ensuring the platform doesn’t become unstable or an easy target for malware, along with an unprecedented delivery system in App Store -- which will put every App in front of every iPhone user, including free Apps for free, and numbers 8, 7, and 6 might actually underestimate the iPhone’s ultimate appeal.
Basically, anyone who wants to run anything on the next great platform wants an iPhone.
While software may sell systems, when electronics became mainstream consumers began to shop not only with their brains but with their senses and their tastes.
And if there’s one thing Apple has plenty of, it’s taste.
From the translucent berry-colored iMac and clamshell iBook that re-ignited Apple’s consumer push, to the iconic brushed-aluminum, rounded-rectangular slab that all but makes the computer disappear inside the ultra-thin current iMac, MacBook Air, and iPhone, Apple (or more specifically, the team led by perennial design award winner, Jonathan Ive) seems to hold the magic formula to modern, drool-inducing, industrial design.
Indeed, Apple has not only shaped this electronic generation, it’s shaped the design path of many of it’s copiers... er... competitors as well.
Let’s face it, for a long time garish gray or neon paint over chintzy plastic bodies that looked at though they were assembled from old lego parts with build quality straight out of the Soviet salvage committee were all consumers had to choose from. And, as the saying goes, while consumers don’t always notice good design, they sure do notice it’s absence. Apple knows this, just like they know for good design to be great, it has to be functional.
See, it’s not that Apple “just works”, it’s that Apple designs things, from first transistor to final trim, to “just work.”
Why else, at this very moment, would Jonathan Ive be jetting between NASA and Shenzhen finalizing some futuristic, light and yet durable stealth-like composite that will form the outer shell of the next most lusted-after consumer electronic device -- the iPhone 3G?
So that when consumers see, touch, and use it, it'll be just like the first iPhone -- what they want.
I have a two-and-half-year old godson who, first time he picked up the iPhone, figured out how to navigate in and between photos, effortlessly type his ABCs and 123s on the soft keyboard, play with his numbers on the calculator, tap to show and hide video controls, use the camera, flick through the weather, and transition between them all with the solitary hard button on the device face. And not only that, he enjoyed it so much he wants to do it again and again (and again!) every time I see him. (If Apple would just add dial-by-photo, I swear he could call me on his own already).
Give him any other smartphone and you know what he could figure out? How to use it as a building block or a projectile (and with my luck, the latter). A quick search of YouTube will show he's not the only infant interfacing with the iPhone either.
We've seen a lot of iClone skins and sku's, attempts to duplicate the most superficial aspects of the iPhone, but what few competitors understand is that its not the gradients and transparencies, not the special effects and animation that make the iPhone's software revolutionary -- it's the user experience.
Sure, I could lecture on about how animation hides transition, allows for error recovery, lends analog comfort, taps into intuitive understanding, and makes use of precious space in truly Tog-worthy fashion, but what’s the point?
Apple has made the smartphone so elegant and easy that a two-and-half year old not only can use, but really wants to. And they've done the same thing for adult consumers.
The little forbidden fruit with a bite out of it ranks up there with Superman's S and the Golden McArches as one of the most recognized brands in the world.
Apple brought the first consumer computers to market with the Apple II, the first consumer GUI machines to market with the Mac, the first consumer MP3 (AAC if you want to get technical) players to market with the iPod, the first consumer music download service to market with iTunes. And in so doing, they’ve earned a reputation for cutting-edge, consumer-driven innovation.
Sure, Blackberries have their addicts, but the cult of apple is legendary and, as outlined before, far wider reaching than just the smartphone space. You can't buy that kind of brand projection, trust, or loyalty (just ask Microsoft).
When Apple negotiates innovative features like Visual Voice-Mail, pressures carryings to lower data rates, gets Starbucks and AT&T to stop gouging and start giving away free WiFi at their hotspots, their brand is leveraged to benefit consumers.
When Apple Care or the Apple Store swaps out a 8GB iPhone with one dead pixel for a 16GB replacement, or instantly commands a managerial intervention for any unsatisfied email response, their brand is being protected to consumer advantage.
Other smartphone makers, who worry less about their lesser brands often abandon you the moment your credit card clears, or dump you to outsourced OEM ping-pong at the first sign of trouble. Is it any wonder the iPhone continually tops user satisfaction surveys?
Apple is far from the sales leader in the smartphone space, yet they’ve instantly become the de facto market leader. When every other company is racing to copy Apple’s hardware and interface, and all competitive product releases are tripping over each other to proclaim themselves the iPhone (or Apple) Killer, they can’t be doing anything else but following.
Palm almost patented Zen with their original Treo, but then they got comfortable and stayed there, with the original Treo, long after the world -- and technology -- moved on. Blackberry made mobile email so addictive it's likened to a drug (and for the record, please don't drop and drive), but buried their head so far up their email they seemingly forgot about everything else. And Microsoft... well, if Zen has an opposite, it's Windows Mobile, an OS whose power is matched only by its legacy handicaps and user impenetrability.
So now Palm is raiding Apple talent. RIM either wants to be the iPhone or just on it. And even die-hard Windows Mobile pundits have given up on Microsoft's ability to deliver on even their most realistic of vaporwares.
That leaves Apple, alone atop innovation mountain. And luckily, that’s just where one Steven P. Jobs likes to meditate.
It’s impossible to discuss Apple’s leadership without discussing its leader. If any one factor encompasses Apple’s (and the iPhone’s) current success, it’s the CEO. Perfectly melding unsurpassed customer savvy with unequalled industry prescience, his singular focus and uncanny aesthetic have not only brought Apple back from the brink, but made it the greatest second act in tech history.
It's largely due to Steve Jobs that no one else has, or can come close to the iPhone. Who else besides Jobs or Apple could sit on something like the iPhone for close to 3 years without so much as a peak or a peep. Who else could ditch the floppy one generation (iMac) and the optical disk the next (MacBook Air)?
Every great artist (like Johnny Ive’s design team) needs a patron and every benevolent dictatorship (like Apple Inc.) needs its guiding mind. As long as Apple has Steve Jobs, the competition can try to copy iPhone 1.0 all they want. Jobs is already putting the final, tiny touches on 2.0 and has his sites firmly set on 3.0 and 4.0. And that's fine because Apple -- as it proved when it killed the iPod Mini and replaced it with the Nano -- is really the only one who can compete with Apple anyway.
Jobs has always said Apple makes the devices they themselves want to use. Well, they make the devices an ever increasing amount of consumers want to use as well.
So, there they are. The top ten reasons that every other smartphone maker on the planet keeps comparing themselves to the incomparable iPhone. Come WWDC in June, the official SDK release, and -- dare we guess? -- iPhone 3G debut, it's only going to get worse (and harder!)
What do you think?
[Ed- Digg link...]