January 10, 2007 2:47 PM PST
A heavy load for the iPhone to bear
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But it's not really a smart phone if you have to use two hands. A consequence of the Multitouch input system is that two hands are required to navigate through the iPhone, whether that's scrolling through contacts, answering another call, searching the Web or just about anything else that Jobs did during his keynote speech.
Smart-phone designers have focused on making their devices one-handed for years, after everyone got sick of using styluses on their PDAs. Will they be willing to go back to two-handed navigation to experience the rich graphics and full Internet experience delivered by the iPhone?
Also, unless you've got a whole OCD hand-washing thing going on, are you prepared to see fingerprint smudges all over your beautiful iPhone? The select few who actually got to play with an iPhone on Tuesday, including David Pogue of the New York Times, raised this concern but said Apple put a lot of effort into selecting a surface that would resist smudges or at least be easy to clean. Pogue did note that typing on the touch screen is not easy, because you can't feel the ridges of a key like you can with a BlackBerry or Treo.
Price: Apple defenders will remember the outcry against the initial price of the iPod back in 2001. And, of course, that came down over time. But let's face it, the iPhone is expensive.
At $499 for 4GB and $599 for 8GB, the iPhone comes in at, or near, the top of the smart-phone market. Jobs defended the price by saying those other smart phones don't have an iPod video inside and that $499 is what it would cost to buy an iPod plus a smart phone from another company. But are people willing to ditch their iPod Nanos and current cell phones for the iPhone? With only a maximum of 8GB of storage at launch, heavy video users or iPod consumers with big music collections may not be motivated to get rid of their 30GB or 40GB iPods.
And don't forget, the iPhone will only be available through Cingular and requires a two-year contract. Cingular is the largest carrier in the U.S., but potential customers who don't use Cingular might have to break contracts with other carriers and face hefty penalties if they want an iPhone. Sprint, for example, would charge $150 for early termination of one of its contracts.
Data service through Cingular--a must to tap into the Internet browsing of the iPhone--costs at least $19.95 a month for unlimited data. You might be able to get away with a metered data plan for $9.99 if you are often within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Plenty of similar concerns accompanied the introduction of the iPod five years ago, and it's clear how that device worked out for Apple. Many analysts believe the iPhone is just the first generation of Apple's push into the mobile phone market and that future versions might well answer some of the questions about the initial device.
Jobs declared he'll consider the iPhone a success if by the end of 2008 the company garners 1 percent of the near-billion cell phones sold every year. Both companies are betting that mobile phone customers are ready for a new type of device and that they'll abandon their other carriers for a chance to use the iPhone.
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