Why the iPhone Is the Next iPod.

It’s not the reason that you think. Sure, it includes a bunch of iPod functionality, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Not the least of which is, absolutely everyone is talking about this device. I haven’t seen this much buzz over a device in a long time.

Buzz is definitely nice, and warranted, but that’s not why either. Back in the day when the iPod was released, everyone thought that it was going to flop - because it had a hard drive, and almost all of the players at the time were using flash. The iPod changed the mp3 player from a device that had a tiny screen that you could display maybe 2 lines of text (if you were lucky), and that you needed a course in computers to use, to a high-resolution screen, easy to use device. Nothing else at the time was even close. It succeeded because of it’s complete rethinking of the user interface, and that is why the iPhone is the next iPod. This got pretty long, so I’m cutting it. (Sorry, people who hate clicking!)

UI is the key

The new iPhone changes everything about the smart phone but the phone, and it heaps a bunch of features on that as well. The interface is easy to understand. If I picked up a iPhone from the ground, I would be able to figure out how to use it instantly. There’s a bunch of buttons on the front, clearly labeled, and waiting for you to press them. When you press something, it has a visible effect - even when you’re browsing, and it’s just going to zoom in, it blinks to give you a response. It’s excellent feedback, and quite useful.

The problem with all the smart phones on the market today is the keyboard - they either don’t have one at all, in the case of Palm devices where you use graffiti, or they have a chiclet keyboard that takes up at least 1/3 of the total front of the device. There is no stylus on the iPhone - you can do everything with your fingers. This means that you don’t need to worry about losing a little thing, because everyone has fingers. The keyboard is a well-known layout, not some strange one like FasTap either. It shows up when you need it and goes away when you don’t.

“The phone is the killer app”

iPhone is a phone, but it’s different than most phones that anyone has used in the past. There is no keypad getting in the way, and it’s not hardware, so people can use features that everyone has on their phone, but they never use. Looking at the interface while you’re in a call, the buttons are clear in their meaning, and I would bet anyone could use them. I have had hold functionality on every single cell phone I have ever owned, but I’ve never used it (intentionally). It’s because I don’t know what button to press. I’d have to read the manual and make sure, and even then I need to make sure I can get the person I have ON hold, OFF hold. With the iPhone it looks easy - Pause. Hit the button and it puts someone on hold. Call waiting is similar, with labels clearly explaining what is going to happen. Conference calling is another disused feature that’s easily represented on the UI: Plus for adding someone. Using features you’ve always paid for but never understood is what makes the phone the killer app.

The other reason that the phone is the killer app is because you now don’t have to carry your phone. It’s one less thing to keep in your pocket, with one device replacing your phone and iPod, which a lot of people carry anyway.

The downside, and why it’s not such a big deal

The big downside with the iPhone is that it’s locked into the Cingular’s craptacular service. I know some people will say that Cingular is a good player and in much of the US they have good signal and work great, but in my neck of the woods, Cingular is really horrible. I don’t know what they’re saying when they talk about the network with the lowest dropped calls, because I would estimate that 90% of all calls that I have made on Cingular drop. It’s not the phone, because this happens over the 4 different phones that I have tried on Cingular. The network here just sucks.

However, it’s not that big of a deal. There are enough Apple fanboys out there that are on other networks - there will be a hack sometime that will allow you to use it on other GSM networks. Besides that, I’m betting that this is going to change the smart phone landscape - Apple was not a big player in this industry until today, and they made a big splash. The repurcussions are going to be felt all over. I’m guessing that Palm at least is going to try to give Apple a run for their money with the smart phone market, and I can’t imagine Motorola not giving it a go as well.

Also, the iPhone has Wifi. How long do you think it’s going to take for them to release a non-cellphone model that works over your AirPort (they snuck an update to that under the radar) with VoIP?

Things that would make the iPhone the best thing since sliced bread

Even with the iPhone being the best thing on the market today, there are some apps that would make it just rule. The biggest thing that this is poised to do is stomp all over what is supposed to make the Zune better than the iPod. It has WiFi - it shouldn’t be hard to let you share songs with other iPhones. Other sundry things that would make the iPhone just that much cooler

  • Playing your iTunes Music to people who are on hold
  • iTunes Ringtones - say goodbye to extortion for ringtones
  • VoIP Phone
  • Video recording
  • Games
    • Two fingers = strange new interface, sparking new thinking for games
    • Wifi = multiplayer games