Ultimate Death Match: iPhone Versus RAZR
As much as Steve was pushing the iPhone as a competitor for smart phones, and Steve was pitching that concept harder than a head high Nolan Ryan fastball, the truth is that the iPhone is only going to take on smart phones as a side project, the iPhone’s real target is the Motorola RAZR. Why the RAZR? Because at one time the RAZR was cool, the RAZR was status and the RAZR was hip.
Forgive a momentary tangent: your car, your phone, your computer do most definitely not make you cool or hip. You can’t spend your way to hipness. Well, unless you spend money on tattoos, leather jackets and smoking.
Back to the point, the market that Apple is really after isn’t the smart phone market, it is the people who need to be cool market, the people who bought the first cell phone, then bought the first startacs and then bought the first RAZRs. In other words, the iPhone is aimed squarely at those with disposable income who must be cool.
The objection at this point is obvious: if the iPhone is really aimed at those who believe that status comes with a price tag why did Steve spend so much time comparing the iPhone to smart phones? The answer is not obvious at first but it is simple: to justify the price. Smart phones are the most expensive cell phones on the market, if Steve had thrown the iPhone up against a $29.00 RAZR and revealed the $499 price tag the iPhone would have seemed wildly overpriced even factoring in the price of a nano, a cell phone and a camera.
That notion seems ludicrous right? Everyone who saw the keynote saw what the iPhone can do, comparing it to a RAZR is unadulterated lunacy, right? Before dismissing the argument out of hand let’s have an old fashioned bake off. This time instead of comparing Adobe Photoshop filters across platforms, we’ll compare the capabilities of the iPhone to the capabilities of the RAZR. A little spec sheet throw down so to speak.
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The list is carefully chosen to show that, under the best of circumstances, the RAZR can perform the lion’s share of the iPhone’s functions. The fact that the RAZR is, on paper, almost a match for the iPhone noted it is time for a little reality.
The RAZR is a pretty horrible device when push comes to shove. As a phone it is nice, the clamshell design wraps about the head with a certain anatomical precision but that is where the usefulness ends. Want to send a text message with your RAZR? Good freaking luck, there is a reason that text messengers write messages in the easiest way decipherable and it has more to do with the limitations of the keyboards than stupidity of the U5ER5. Want to listen to .mp3s? Entirely possible in theory but in reality (particularly if you use the vile Verizon) it is a lot harder than it should be. Battery life? Pathetic. The user interface? Ah ahahaha, right up there with instruction manuals written in English by native mandarin speakers with a single semester of English.
It’s true, it’s true as a device for anything other than calling and looking cool the RAZR sucks. So the actual bar for the iPhone to surpass is now set. The iPhone doesn’t have to be a better choice for the corporate world than the Blackberry, it just has to be a better phone than the RAZR.
Now here’s the rub, the iPhone will be worse than the RAZR. First, we have to consider the primary use of the device: calling. The RAZR wins this challenge hands down. Where the iPhone has a melted bar of soap form factor the RAZR enjoys the clear advantage with the clamshell design. Where the iPhone must be ogled to place a call, RAZR owners can dial by feel. Finally, RAZR owners can go for pink, iPhone wannabes can opt for, well, iPhone black.
That, most would agree, is the end of the RAZR’s advantages. The iPhone will be easier to use for everything else. Text messages? iPhone wins. Digital audio player? iPhone. Internet browsing? iPhone. Watching videos? iPhone. The list continues and aside from calling, there is not a single place the iPhone loses out to the RAZR.
The iPhone ‘wins’ are impressive but the overall effect is negative. People use their RAZR for calls and that is about it. That won’t be the case for the iPhone. With internet browsing that actually works, with a video player that is almost watchable, with an iPod inside there will be no barrier to taking full advantage of the iPhone’s capabilities. Taking advantage of capabilities is another way of saying sucking down the iPhone’s battery life and running up the cell bill. The five hour battery life people never worried about with the RAZR will become a major impediment with the iPhone. Users who just wanted a phone will soon find themselves surfing the internet and paying for data with the iPhone. When users mentally compare the iPhone to their previous phone, the previous will seem simpler and less troublesome.
All in all, Apple has made a lustworthy product, sure the iPhone doesn’t do anything new but making something easy to do (say “Hi” 128k Mac) can be revolutionary. That is also the iPhone’s undoing, Steve said calls were the “killer app” and then bundled four more killer apps on the phone. Apps people will use, apps that will drain the battery. If every application was equally unimportant, no big deal but when the battery is gone because an iPhone user has been browsing Apple Matters archives you can bet they’ll blame the phone and not themselves. Then the RAZR will look mighty sweet.