Jan 13, 2007

iPhone - Anything different?

Amidst the usual fanfare and hype surrounding any Apple product launch, the iPhone seems destined to be the next star product from the company. Described by Steve Jobs as "magical" and "revolutionary", the iPhone is expected to change the landscape of technology once again.

But before we start drooling over it, a bit of reality wouldn't do any harm. The iPhone is a combination of the legendary iPod and a GSM phone. It also comes loaded with standard smartphone features, Bluetooth and PIM functionalities. The one thing that is sure to excite Apple loyals is the operating system it runs : OS X. Put in a sleek Apple-style cool interface and you have got the iPhone. The 4 GB model that would be released later this year comes at $499, and a 8 GB one would cost $599.

The iPhone has no usable feature that isn't available on other competing devices, so I can't see why they would call it magical and revolutionary. If you are talking about the capability to play MP3 and other digital audio formats on mobile phones, others have had it for years together. WiFi and Bluetooth are nothing new either.

Apple has, quite predictably, decided not to open up the iPhone to third party applications. Any new application that you would like to run on the iPhone would have to come from Apple, and that too, at a price. Most mobile platforms, including Symbian and Microsoft, allow third party software to be run on their systems. This encourages more developers to contribute software, which in turn attracts more users looking for greater variety of software. (Also known as the Network effect).As a result, the price of software on these platforms would be much lower than controlled platforms like Apple's, simply because of the demand supply equations.

iPhone applications would be costlier to develop as developers would have to pay out huge sums as royalties and license fees to Apple, and this would inflate cost to the end user. So anybody getting an iPhone is not only looking at the base price tag, but a much higher investment in terms of cost of additional software. The usual service charges associated with Apple would still stick, as even the battery comes built-in and you would have to go to Apple for servicing it.

With all the above, Apple doesn't seem to be looking to market the iPhone to the masses. But then again, Apple has never tried to be the mass-market company. Either way, it would be really interesting to see how the iPhone does in the already crowded market.

BBC, Wikipedia (Technical specifications)