As a proud and delighted owner of a 2G iPhone, I was sitting on the fence last month when Steve Jobs presented the new 3G version at the WWDC in San Francisco. Getting an unlocked version in the UK (I would not go for an O2 subscription obviously ;)...) had a cost, and seeing my investment become obsolete so quickly was quite frustrating. On the other hand, the iPhone is by far THE best gadget I ever had, so anything even better would be too attractive to resist.
So the 3G iPhone was announced and now launched. In terms of hardware, it is more an evolution than a revolution vs the previous version, with HSDPA and A-GPS as the main upgrades. HSDPA will be nice and should offer a browsing experience closer to WiFi. A-GPS is interesting, but still waiting for the apps to make it worthwile on a mobile. However, these two improvements do not hide the fact that the iPhone is now playing catch up with the specs sheet of the flagship devices of players such as Nokia or Samsung:
- 2 MP camera ? Please... The benchmark now is 5 MP with flash and at least digital zoom
- No video support ? Are we in 2008 or 2002 ?
- No MMS ? OK email is great, but some people still like to send pics (or videos by the way...) via MMS for the immediacy and all. Why not giving users the choice ?
- Haptics and some tactile feedback (quite standard now on Motorola, LG and Samsung) would have been nice to improve the user experience of the virtual keyboard
- Memory: why cap it to 16 GB ? The only reason I see is not to cannibalise too much the iPod sales, but still, 32 GB would have been nice....
Even with these shortcomings, the iPhone launch in 21 markets worlwide was a huge success with people lining up for hours from Auckland to New York via Tokyo and London and the demand proving to be too strong for the iTunes activation systems.
There is one basic reason behind it: price and affordability. When Apple launched the first iPhone, they were too greedy and tried to kill too many birds with one stone, so convinced were they of the iPhone uniqueness:
- They did not want to cannibalise iPod sales and therefore forced the mobile operators to sell them unsubsidized
- They required a revenue share from the operators to maximise the value per device
Don't get me wrong, and let me repeat it, it is true that the iPhone is THE best gadget ever. However, when as a customer, you are used to get a new phone for free every 12-18 months, you are not that ready to spend $400/£270/€400 for an iPhone, especially if you can get a top-of-the-range Nokia, Samsung or Sony Ericsson for free. For Apple to have "sold" 6m 2G iPhone under this model is quite impressive and clearly demonstrates how good the device is.
To become mainstream and mass market, Apple had to review its model, hence the success of the 3G iPhone launch:
- Accept the subsidised model, sell to the operators for a guaranteed revenue, get lower margins per device, but achieve major gains in volumes
- Take some lessons from Andy Grove and proactively cannibalise iPod sales
I also think two new developments will support the sales numbers:
- Exchange support opening the gates to the enterprise segment
- 3rd party apps support expanding the range of user experience on the device
As my personal contribution, I took a pic of the line in front of the O2 shop in my neighborhood in London. This is no flagship store, and the line was solid all day long on Friday. As a comparison, there was no line at all when the 2G version got released. On Sunday, it was far quieter, as the store had sold out as almost any other 3G iPhone outlet....
So I am ready to bet the 3G iPhone will become the 2008 bestselling smartphone, far ahead of Nokia, RIM and Windows Mobile. The key question is whether I will upgrade my 2G version or not...
Seems Google finally demoed the now legendary HTC Dream at a conference today in San Fran. Details are still thin on the ground, so check Engadget Mobile for further updates. Based on the video it looks quite promising !
The hype better be good, the 3G iPhone is indeed due in only two weeks...
OK, so a bit more than five months after its announcement, the iPhone has become widely available across the US, in what has become the most overhyped consumer electronics launch of all times. You had it all, camping, long queues, famous people, and this sense of victory when finally getting it. It did beat hands down game consoles and Windows 95, and is something unheard of for a mobile phone. Engadget has a great recap hour per hour coast to coast of the launch day. Apparently, the buzz of the raving reviews was real and the momentum is still going, as the iPhone is already out of stock in several locations.
The key question is obviously whether Apple will be able to deliver on expectations and revolutionize the mobile industry with the iPhone in the same way as it did change the music industry forever with the iPod. Based on its joint interview with the new at&t CEO, Steve Jobs is quite bullish. At the same time, several established players on the mobile value chain are already admitting - directly or not - that they will be impacted by the iPhone, be they smartphone specialists, handset manufacturers or mobile operators. The Financial Times had this week an in-depth assessment of the potential impact. Key questions include:
- Will the iPhone deliver the simple user experience that is promised to really make phones fund and easy to use ?
- Will OS X, Safari browser and widescreen finally support the development of the mobile internet ? As it also favours large data bundles, who will benefit from this potential growth ?
- As the iPhone created precedence in terms of how much the handset manufacturer controls the activation process, will it change comparative positioning between the different players on the value chain ?
- Will the bet pay off for at&t and will it attract churners from other networks, Verizon in particular ?
The launch of the iPhone is just the beggining of the story... The next six months and the European landing will be even more interesting
Ahead of the forthcoming iPhone launch, The Economist has this week a great set of articles on Steve Jobs and Apple. The special report focuses on how Steve Jobs' and Apple's destinies are so closely related with great insights on how Jobs became stronger during his years out of Apple, setting up both NeXt (foundations of the current Mac OS X) and Pixar.
The leaders' article attempts to benchmark Apple to identify best practices on innovation. While three of the drivers are actually replicable, i.e. internalisation of external innovation, focus on simplicity and fail wisely, the fourth factor - be able to ingore public opinion in product development - is actually quite a different story. It would actually be a clear source of failure for a lot of companies that would hence come up with products nobody wants except the engineers that loaded them with features. Net net, it boils down to being Apple, or rather being Apple led by Steve Jobs' gut and successful track record. At the end, innovation still remains more an art than a science that can be benchmarked and "best-practiced"....
By the way, the iPhone has now a launch date - June 29th - in the US and rumours have it that 3 million units will be available at launch. It seems Walt Mossberg already got one and is rather positive. Apple also rolled out a whole new set of TV commercials that you can watch on the Apple store.