Nine things wrong with the iPhone

BY Jason

Published 30 Mar 2007

So, after watching the iPhone announcement the gadget we’ve all been jonesing for—what’s the first thing we all do? That’s right, figure out all the things that are wrong with it and why it’s not going to be the “killer app” for Apple. It happened to the iPod, why not the iPhone. Here’s my take on the caveats…

  • Cost: The price point hurts! It’s $499 for for 4G and $599 for 8G. So as not to be stupid about it, that’s $500 and $600 for a phone. And apparently, that’s with a 2 year carrier agreement! The Tyler household isn’t going to be springing for one of these any time soon at that price. Will businesses? Quite possibly, because as extensible phones go, that’s not a huge price. Also, we should keep in mind the application of Moore’s Law. The iPhone costs a bundle now. In a year, it won’t. The price will go down through technology improvements, economies of scale, so forth and et cetera.

    And, let’s all remember that when the RAZR came out, it was  $500. I just got mine for $30 with a 2-year contract right before Christmas. As they say at Wal*Mart, “Watch out for falling prices.” Also note, that this is a high-end phone plus the best music player on the planet. A 4G iPod Nano costs $200 already. Another $300 for an extensible phone suddenly might not seem too outrageous, especially if you already carry too many gadgets. I still want one.

  • Cingular: There’s no cell phone plan information yet from Cingular. Cingular trumpets the fact that it doesn’t drop calls… but everyone I seem to hear from hates them (I have T-Mobile, so no personal experience here). Plus, add the fact that Cingular bought AT&T Wireless because AT&T had such awful customer service that business was crappy. When Cingular actually did well, AT&T bought Cingular back. Brings up the question, “Is AT&T going to suck less as a cellular carrier the second time around?” Remains to be seen. All in all, the fact that the iPhone is not carrier independent is making lots of people unhappy (including me).

  • No 3G: This is a hardware issue, so for first-generation adopters it may be a
    biggie. Business users or tech enthusiasts with a thirst for the latest and greatest are going to care, big time. A case can be made that the price point of the iPhone puts it solidly in the business and enthusiast market. On the other hand, those of us, like me who are woefully behind the technology curve when it comes to cell phones, are not going to care much. Presently, Cingular doesn’t even support 3G in all its markets (and in those, coverage isn’t extensive), so it’s hardly worth paying for the circuitry when it can’t be used. In a year, the iPhone may indeed support 3G.

  • No WiFi sync to iTunes: it strikes me that this is a software-only “problem.” At present, no iPod syncs over WiFi (no iPod has WiFi). Once the software supports it (and there’s no reason I can see that it can’t) it’ll happen.
  • No over-the-air downloads from iTunes store: This is a direct result of slow data speeds. See 3G above.
  • No removable memory: I saw this in a blog somewhere… can I laugh hysterically now? I mean, when I went to put a ringtone on my RAZR (God, I hate that phone), I couldn’t copy a whole MP3 onto it (and you should have seen the uncommunicative error it threw). There wasn’t enough memory for a 3MB file. Are 4 gigs somehow not enough that we need an extra 1GB removable memory? Color me as not getting this complaint at all.
  • Battery life issues: Here’s a potential problem. You get 5 hours of talk or video and 16 hours of audio (no mention of how much standby time you get). If you’re surfing and watching and listening when you’re not talking, this could be a potentially huge issue, especially since you can’t just keep an extra charged battery and swap them out.
  • No MS Exchange or Office support: This is a potential biggie to business users. Consumers aren’t going to give a flying fart. But since the iPhone is extensible and runs actual Mac OS X, there is simply no reason that Exchange support can’t be added. There is no reason that it can’t support Office documents. None. Big deal at first? Maybe. Big deal forever? Doubt it.
  • Not extensible by third parties: This is probably the biggest long-range caveat. If Apple locks down the iPhone permanently to all third-party developers, it’s going to weaken the platform in the long run. Third party developers are the lifeblood of almost any platform. For business reasons, they can do things that a large company like Apple cannot do. However, it will be interesting to see if Apple uses the certification of third party products as a revenue stream (something like SalesForce’s App Exchange). I strongly suspect that somehow, somewhen, third party apps will make it to the iPhone, especially if companies like EA Games, which is pushing hard into iPod games market starts leaning on Apple for a portal into the iPhone.

ars technica