The press is already proclaiming it the gadget of the year, the Gadget Show has already written it off as contender when compared to a heavyweight rival. However Apple seem unperturbed as they set to release their new iPhone in the UK shortly. Just in time for the run up to Christmas there is a strong feeling that borders on certainty that this will be the gadget to have this year (and judging by the US response there could be something of a waiting time before you get your hands on one).
As is always the case with a product from the Apple stable a great deal of thought has gone into the iPhone. Designed as always to revolutionize the market it is entering Apple have done away with such tawdry conventions as buttons and gone for an elegant touch screen interface which you will have doubtless seen impressive demonstrations of all ready.
Incorporating aspects of the Mac operating system’s “look and feel” should lead to a potentially user friendly experience in terms of the phone itself. Not to mention there has been something of a rethink in terms of how the phone itself is actually used. The use of an onscreen touch keyboard should placate the text heads when they get used to the new layout and of course there is the rapidly “de rigueur” wi-fi applications and organisational features.
Apple is undeniably going to land hard in the marketplace and in the short term I can see this phone ruffling a few feathers. However in the long term can this device support itself as more than a mere novelty. Don’t get me wrong I’m usually the one in Apple’s corner but somehow I can’t help but think this might be another example of them spreading themselves a little thin.
There are a number of aspects to the iPhone that might just count against it in the long term. The first one being that Apple in the UK have tied themselves up with a deal with the phone provider O2, this essentially means that if you’re not with this particular provider then the upshot is you can’t legitimately own an iPhone. Of course there are ways and means around this as users across the pond have already demonstrated. Unlocking the iPhone has become the latest hack attack challenge, but as quickly as the iPhone has been unlocked Apple have been quick to release a patch to lock it up tight again, and in some cases turn it into an expensive brick.
Of course this has led to accusations that the once friendly and cuddly hippy cultured image of Apple has fallen by the wayside as they slowly metamorphose into another Microsoft (albeit with much smaller market share).
You have to ask yourself though are people really going to ditch their current contracts with all the expense that entails in order to jump ship to have the latest phone? Some of course will take the plunge but if you look at the phone market in the UK then you will see that users (particularly in the younger markets) are notoriously fickle. The phone is in many ways a fashion accessory and as quickly as the iPhone has arrived so will its successor in the future (sooner rather than later as well).
The expense and restriction of being tied to an eighteen month contract with a provider might be something that doesn’t sit well with many and with so many options on the market people might stare wistfully at the iPhone for a little while before taking their short attention spans somewhere else.
Then of course you have to look at the competition that is already in the marketplace. Already the iPhone has been pushed up against the Nokia N95 in a comparative test and come out unfavourably (granted this was on The Gadget Show which does often seem to have a downer on Apple kit as a whole in my opinion) but they did raise some interesting points. Is the phone a little too high on “wow” factor at the expense of certain practicalities? There’s no question that in many respects Nokia can swat the iPhone out of the ballpark in terms of features (although I have seen reliability issues with this model first hand). If Apple are going try for the business market are they going to be able to take down the giants of the US like Blackberry who are now gradually making their presence felt in the UK with a range of email and web orientated phones that have their own more integrated and mature system of operation (although in terms of Macintosh integration, they are pretty poor).
All in all the odds I suppose are stacked in Apple’s favour this time round although I for one wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there was something of an upset after the initial rush and the iPhone doesn’t perform over here in quite the stellar fashion it has in the US.
It all comes at a time when Apple’s spotless image has been tarnished a little, Leopard might be out of the traps and now installed on a lot of machines as the new flagship operating system but it has to be said the process hasn’t been faultless. Many users were faced with a somewhat sticky upgrade path as certain third part applications knocked their new installations in a manner reminiscent of Microsoft’s blue screen of death scenarios of yesteryear. There have also been questions raised about just how secure the new OS is as well. All in all splattering a little egg on the face of Cupertino’s finest, lets hope the same doesn’t happen when the iPhone hits the market.