What the Technophiles Don’t Get about the iPhone

by Chris Seibold Jan 20, 2009

The web is full of iPhone love. You hear about the App Store constantly and if the economy is in the tank it's because it doesn't run on iPhone stories. Amidst the general iPhone love in you'll run across the occasional rant about the failings of the iPhone. While the ranters usually have good points they're really missing the point and the audience of the iPhone.

If you need an example of an anti-iPhone screed you can do much worse than the article David Chartier recently wrote for Ars Technica. In the article David takes the iPhone apart, shortcoming by shortcoming making the iPhone seem like something better suited for the cretaceous. His points are well argued and it is extraordinarily difficult to take issue with any of them. No MMS messaging? It's ridiculous for the iPhone not to have it. Bluetooth for the headset only? What the hell is going on, did the iPhone come out in 1999?

Here it is instructive to make a detour and take a look at another Apple product that proved to have some staying power. The Apple iPod. The iPod was released in 2001 at a small press gathering on the Apple campus. Initial reaction was tepid. There were other, better specced mp3 players on the market. Perhaps nothing summed up the techies take on the Apple iPod than Commander Taco's reaction on Slashdot:

"No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame."

The iPod had failed the technolust crowd before anyone had even laid a finger on the scroll wheel.

You know that isn't the end of the story. The iPod was a monster hit, the thing still sells like crazy eight years later. The iPod didn't sell on technical merits, less space than a nomad after all, people bought it because they trusted Apple to make something they could use. If the idea of a digital music player was appealing the appeal was negated by the uncertainty of whether or not they would actually be able to do something useful with the thing. With an Apple digital music player the fear was gone and only the appeal was left.

The iPhone is the same deal. People wanted a smartphone but they feared being stuck with something they couldn't use easily. When Apple announced the iPhone people felt assured Apple would make a smartphone the average guy could use.

That is what the tech elite miss when they start complaining about the iPhone. People aren't buying on the spec sheet, people buy it because it comes from Apple. Think about the average guy who buys an iPhone. He's not giving up his Blackberry, he's dumping his RAZR. He's been told that the RAZR can do web an e-mail but the actual process of getting all that set up is clunky and full of uncertainty. He's not worried about that with an iPhone.

The last piece of this puzzle is one of the smartphone market. While Apple doesn't call the iPhone a smartphone almost everyone else does. When the iPod came out it didn't just dominate the mp3 player market, it created a lot of the market. What needs to be ascertained is whether or not the iPhone is sucking away business from other smartphones or creating brand new smartphone users.

Why does it matter? If the iPhone is grabbing market share from Blackberry then the tech types are right, the Apple iPhone is a hobbled machine. On the other hand if Apple is creating new smartphone users then the percieved shortcomings will go largely unnoticed by users. The iPhone types will be new to the smartphone game and their demands aren't the same spec sheet demands of long time smartphone types. Guess which type of users the iPhone is capturing.

That is what is so hard for the tech types to understand. Tech types talk to other tech types and they ALL know the iPhone's shortcomings. It is a natural thing to think that the rest of the world is in the same spot. But they aren't. The average person isn't a tech type, they aren't interested in the minutiae or the spec sheet. They just want something that works with a minimum amount of fuss for maximal returns. A missing To Do list sync is no big deal for 99% of people because 50% of them don't have to do lists at all, 38% have to do lists on post it notes and 11% of folks just get other people to do their to dos. The last 1% actually do use to do lists on their computers and would like to sync the list with their phone. But that 1% uses Verizon. Sorry technophiles, everyone is not you.

All that said the fact that you can't record video on the iPhone is an outrage.


  • Chris is absolutely spot on with this comment. I never even considered buying a smartphone until the iPhone. I never spent more than 100 USD on a phone.
    I did not have a flat subscription plan with data (and now I pay considerably LESS than before… so guess what? The iPhone for me costs LESS than the initial price, not more, due to the considerable savings each month).

    And one more thing that Chris has not said: it’s a beautiful object. I bought it, and accepted its price, in part because it’s beautiful.
    I still remember the first time I saw a (1st gen) iPod nano: I was not a Mac user then, and I thought that it was too small, too sleek to be real. And that all those other, ugly MP3 players out there were just not in the same league; that there were two different classes of music players: the iPod (nano), and all other MP3 players. Never underestimate the power of looks!
    Just my personal experience.


    Robbie70 had this to say on Jan 20, 2009 Posts: 1
  • Apple and AT&T;really need to fix the terrible user experience using MMS on the iPhone in the US. I make the case here: http://blog.mcmanus-family.com/2008/09/the-case-for-mms-on-the-iphone.html

    drewmcmanus had this to say on Jan 20, 2009 Posts: 1
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment