Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First Generation iPhone is NOT for the Mass Adopter

Someone who is much smarter than I am and way, way, way more successful who I’m sure would prefer that I not capitalize on his good name put it to me more or less like this: the iPhone like devices will someday reach mass adoption, but the first generation iPhone won’t.

He went on to complain that the phone was too much gadget and not enough phone and needed to be improved where it was more phone and less gadget.

I agreed with him about the first gen iPhone not reaching mass adoption, though for different reasons than product design specifics. I’m not really sure on the other stuff. Here were my thoughts:
I agree the 1st generation iPhone is not a device that leads to mass adoption. I’m not sure if we agree on the reasons though.

There are a couple of aspects about the phone that suck. one of them can easily be fixed via software and the other can be improved, but I don’t know about “fixed”. First, there’s no “speed dial” and that’s just dumb. But as product development goes, that’s not so hard to fix and can be done via software. There’s a harder problem though – if I pull the RAZR out of my pocket and flip it open, I can just start dialing. Not so with the iPhone. Here are all the steps involved:

1. Hit “wake” button
2. Slide to unlock
3. If not already on home screen, or phone functions hit “home” button
4. Touch telephone
5. Select “keypad”

There are a few shortcuts I can think of to knock steps off, but I can’t solve the problem of making it as easy as the RAZR to place an outbound call. However, it handles inbound calling much better (and better than the RAZR). It wakes itself automatically and displays the caller id info, and it’s one press to take the call (or send it to voicemail). For the added benefits of the integrated media player and web browser I can live with it taking a few button presses to make an outbound call. If voice activation is your thing, seems like that can and will be solved for.

There are many things I like about the browser implementation, but the browser has some bugs and issues which I have no doubt will be much improved by version 2.0. But as iterations go, it’s already much more Windows 95 than it is Windows 1.0

I’m guessing mass adoption occurs with the 3rd generation. By then there should be some copycats/competition. No matter what happens the iPhone can’t dominate the cell phone space as Apple dominates the portable media space with ipods. And certainly not the one flavor with a $500 and $600 pricing structure based on storage model. There are too many phones at lower prices. While one could argue the iPod isn’t always the best price/value, Apple at least has models of the iPod that play across the broad pricing spectrum.

While I have no doubt they’ll wind up being a few flavors of iPhones, seems like they’d all be in the above $300 spectrum for a while. There’s a huge part of that market Apple will not be competitive at all in but I’m guessing Apple doesn’t care. Its stated goal is 10 million units by the end of ’08. In its earnings announcement they project one million sold by the end of September. That will give them 5 quarters to get 9 million more iPhones into the world. Christmas and launch of V2 will be key, but it seems like a reasonable bogey.

Rarely is the first generation of anything gadgetry (even TV and radio) for the mass adopter. But as first generations go, it ain't bad at all.

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