The Case For The iPhone

by Hadley Stern Jun 10, 2003

Now that Apple is no longer just in the Macintosh business, (much to AppleMatters approval) thanks to the iPod, it is time to branch out into other products. Apple needs to do what it did the mp3 market—design a killer user-interface and physical product that works with computers—to the cell phone market. The competition is tougher, with companies like Nokia, Motorola and others being in the business for a long-time. But as I, and many others can attest, the usability of cell phones is dismal. Indeed, the best ones out there leverage the user interface of the Palm. While clunky (but they are getting smaller) a Palm enabled cell phone provides its owner with a clear interface for entering numbers, dialing and, of course, syncs with user’s computers.

Still Apple can do better, far better. Apart from the interface cell phones are, by in large, ugly. While some are better than others none of them would compare to what Apple could produce. Combining form and function the way the iPod does, an iPhone would instantly be clearly superior to the competition. Sure, some people would still buy other phones (just like some people buy the absurdly ugly Archos players). But many would switch to an Apple iPhone.

Perhaps the greatest reason for Apple to branch out into the phone market is the fact that its core user base would switch to the iPhone in a second. While AppleMatters is not suggesting that Apple just shove products into the marketplace we do believe Apple is missing an opportunity to grow its product diversity and penetration. Mac users who have an iPod would gladly add a well-designed phone that would sync with their Apple address book, iCal (all through Bluetooth, of course) and maybe, one day, combine itself with the iPod.

As I painfully navigate what barely passes for an interface on my color Motorola T720c I cannot wait for Apple to release a product like this. What do you think? Should Apple branch out into this market? Would you buy an iPhone?


  • This would be awesome. I hate my current cell phone too clunky and the icons suck. Imagine quartz on our cellphone screen. Now that would rock!

    bobby had this to say on Jun 10, 2003 Posts: 15
  • I think this would be a major mistake. The phone industry is in deep, deep trouble. An Apple designed OS for a phone would be one thing (it couldn’t possibly be worse than the garbage that M$ produced), but to actually go the whole hog and produce and sell a complete phone would be a very risky proposition. Apple would be better entering an area where the market is more promising, maybe the iPalm? Of course, such things are heading towards fusion anyway, and we could expect an iPalm to have phone capabilities in the near future.

    Dan Ebeck had this to say on Jun 11, 2003 Posts: 23
  • Well, that’s real simple. There is a little company out called Danger. They happen to sit in Palo Alto, also happen to have some of the finest brains from former Apple days, WebTV etc. and have brought us the HipTop (or Sidekick). Probably the best, most innovative device in years yet supremely easy to use! Get Iveson to design a nice shell, add bluetooth and WiFI functionality and Apple would be in business. Wonder why they are not doing it. Most Apple users would seriously consider buying it and if 2003 is the year of the laptop, then let 2004 be the year of “m”-iLife!

    Mobileguru had this to say on Jun 11, 2003 Posts: 1
  • I believe that it would be a mistake for Apple to get into the cellphone hardware business. Look at the current financial state of the hand set makers, Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, Motorola, et al.

    Furthermore, high end sell phones, and that is what an Apple branded phone would be, are a very small portion of the market. Most people get their phones for free. For example, I have a Sony-Ericsson T68i, with which after rebates I actually made $25. And this is a full featured phone. Apple would be hard pressed to recoup their investment in hardware development.

    No, what Apple could do, is become the Microsoft of cellphones. That is, they could develop and license a cellphone OS. As you correctly point out, cellphone OS’s leave much to be desired. If Apple could develop and license an elegant cellphone OS then we could have the best of both worlds: the Apple OS would ensure Mac compatibility, and the hardware market would continue to be competative, driving prices down.

    Will this happen? I doubt it. But Steve has repeatedly said the cellphone is the survivor hand held device. We shall see.

    Steve M

    SteveM had this to say on Jun 11, 2003 Posts: 5
  • Apple should do it.
    I’ve tried a Palm OS device with phone capabilities and I’m currently experimenting with a Java enabled Nokia phone with organizer applications. As far as I can tell
    the difference between a handheld organizer with phone capabilities and a programmable cell phone is that one has a nearly useless keypad and a touch screen and the other has a completely useless keypad and no touch screen.

    If someone did a knockout job on the user interface in a portable enough package that synchronized in a hassle free way and that was also an mp3 player they would win big.
    Its hard for me to believe that Apple isn’t thinking about it. If it was an unlocked GSM phone with these properties I would buy one without thinking about it yesterday.

    I’m just waiting for the announcement.


    oldwhine had this to say on Jul 01, 2003 Posts: 2
  • My problem with cell phones is my problem with most products of convenience. There is little in the way of standardization. AND, certain services force you to use certain phones. That is dumb.

    Cell phones don’t need to be smaller or thinner. They can be, but they don’t HAVE to be. The easier something is to lose or break, the worse it is.

    If Apple were to develop a cellular phone it’d be a lone ranger. It’d be the only Mac-esque or Mac-based cell and so wouldn’t really play well with other phones. It’d be expensive and maybe three people in your half of the world would admit to wanting one or even owning one. Their best bet is to co-develop and manufacture one with another, established company in the cell business. Sony/Erricson? Moto? Nokia? Heck, Apple and Motorolla already do business together even with the IBM-made G5 (PPC970), so they might as well team up in other ways!

    Waa had this to say on Jul 29, 2003 Posts: 110
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