Opinion: Why iPhone is wrong, wrong, wrong

Too much money, too little power

The level of hysteria associated with the arrival of Apple's iPhone is just a notch, maybe two, below that of the Second Coming. However, there is a very good chance that, when the smoke clears in the next weeks and months, a whole lot of disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction will be left behind.

If iPhone is like other wildly anticipated products in the past, this could well manifest in one or more of the following forms:

  • The iPhone has a massive hardware defect that results in a recall of the hardware. This is not likely, but it is a risk with all first-generation hardware.
  • The iPhone is initially received with warmth, but after the first year of AT&T's two-year sentence, the public begins to realize that it's been had. See the Motorola Razr.
  • The iPhone is a smashing success and marks the beginning of a run of Apple dominance that, like other successful rebellions, becomes twisted and shortsighted, leaving the public with limited market options.
  • The iPhone is an immediate disappointment in both the power and performance categories and is immediately recognized as such, for some or all of the reasons explained below.

Those are the generalities. Now, read my 13 most probable reasons the iPhone will break your heart.

13. No GPS. The more you compare the iPhone to the BlackBerry, the more it pales. Imagine attempting to navigate your way through the streets of New York, or anywhere else for that matter. It's really, really nice to have a built-in Global Positioning System capability showing you the way. And it's really, really frustrating that Apple has neglected GPS in iPhone.

12. Text entry won't work well. There is no way -- no way! -- that the virtual keyboard on the iPhone's touch-screen interface will work as well as the physical keyboards found on BlackBerries or most other handheld devices. Most assuredly, entering text will be a frustrating, convoluted affair. Complaints about typing have already begun to surface, like this early usage report by Bruce Nussbaum of Newsweek.

11. It's ugly! There, it had to be said. The iPhone's awkward, neofuturistic design looks like something out of an old Star Trek episode. Remember the me-too styles and hairdos that were in vogue at the tail end of the '80s? The iPhone feels like that, and it likely marks the end of the relatively pleasing design aesthetic that marked Apple's rise to grace.

10. Slow Internet access. The iPhone will utilize AT&T's old EDGE (enhanced data rates for GSM evolution) wireless network, which means data speeds that aren't nearly as fast as far-superior 3G technology. In 12 months, when everyone you know is surfing the Web at lightning 3G speeds while they're mobile, you'll be stuck in the slow lane. And you'll still have one more year of locked-in service contract to go.

9. Sensitive screen = scratches. It's extremely easy to scratch the front of the iPod. It will be really easy to scratch the front screen of the iPhone, even with its glass faceplate. This is a neurotic concern, perhaps, but it's still valid, especially considering the $500 price tag for the low-end model.

8. It's pricey. As much as $600 for the phone. As much as $100 per month for a reasonable service plan.. That's almost $2,000 for the first year of iPhone use, which is a lot of cash. Worse yet, after the first year of service, first-gen iPhone users will still have another year remaining on their contract with AT&T, but by then, Apple could well be up to its third iteration of the iPhone.

7. No MMS. The absence of Multimedia Messaging Service technology means that you can't send or receive pictures via text messaging. This takes about 70% of the fun and usefulness out of the phone's camera. This is something that will likely be rolled into a future version.

6. Touch screens lose their sensitivity.. The hard reality of using a touch screen on the go is that, over time, it will lose sensitivity and begin to malfunction. Ask anyone who has toted hisTreo or Palm Pilot around in a bag or pocket for a few years.

5. No IM. Initially, the inability to use instant messaging applications may seem like no big deal. But it's a huge convenience for both workplace and social connectivity. BlackBerry users and Windows Mobile devices can already IM away.

4. No enterprise e-mail connectivity. Chances are that, if you are reading Computerworld, you'll want to use the iPhone as a work-oriented device. Unfortunately, if your workplace doesn't utilize Post Office Protocol or Internet Message Access Protocol e-mail servers, you're out of luck on the e-mail front.

3. No third-party applications. Given Apple's insistence on closed environments, it's no surprise that iPhone will not support third-party applications unless they exist within the Safari browser environment. Congratulations, Apple -- you have just stifled innovation and development on your brand-new phone for years.

2. Locked to AT&T? In the eponymous 1984-themed commercial that marked the debut of the Macintosh, Apple went out of its way to emphasize freedom of choice, freedom of life, freedom from the hegemony of the PC. Does anyone else think it strange that Apple is now releasing a phone based on a closed operating system with virtually no third-party application support and limited file flexibility? The clincher is that iPhone users only have one choice of service providers: AT&T. June 29, 2007, could mark the moment that Apple becomes the sort of oppressive, inflexible bad company that it has long accused Microsoft of being.

1. The smugness factor. How excited are you to be on a plane surrounded by legions of iPhone users, each of whom is smugly confident that his iPhone has transformed him into a superior being? Admittedly, this complaint ranges into grumpy-old-man territory, but remember when Apple used to be cool because it was alternative? On June 29, those days are officially over.

George Jones has been an avid technophile since the day he got his first Commodore 64 (and almost electrocuted himself by cracking it open with the power on).

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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