Wednesday, September 19, 2007

There went the iPhone?

As predicted, yesterday's special event saw the UK launch of the Apple iPhone. Surprisingly it left me unmoved, and from the reactions I've seen elsewhere I'm not alone. In fact I've been left with a certain feeling of disappointment...

CREDIT: Engadget

Comparing the iPhone specification to the Nokia's current flagship product the Nokia N95, the iPhone doesn't really measure up very well. Crucially it lacks that 3G magic we're used to in the UK, and the absence of an onboard GPS has always puzzled me, but perhaps the thing that's going to surprise Apple is the reaction they're going to get to the crippled Bluetooth functionality. The iPhone can only use it's Bluetooth to talk to a headset, we're used to more. I doubt I could even find the data cable for my Nokia N80. Having to sync my phone by plugging it in with a wire is so last century.

The deal with the Cloud is interesting, but not amazingly useful. The places people want to use WiFi such as train stations, airports, coffee shops and book stores, are mostly using T-Mobile in the UK. The Cloud on the other hand seems to have most of its hotspots located in pubs. I don't know about you but I've never taken my laptop out of its bag in a pub in my life. I don't think I've ever seen anyone working on a laptop in a pub either. I've never figured out how the Cloud made any money. I'm presuming there are other hotspots, but I don't think I've ever run across one.

With estimates that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of early adopters have hacked their iPhone, either by installing third party native applications, or by unlocking it, it looks like there is a lot of suppressed demand for both. I'm guessing that the UK market isn't going to take well to a locked iPhone either, again we're used to being able to unlock our phones. In fact we're so used to having unlocked phones, it'll probably confuse quite a few people that they can't just put one of their pay as you go SIM cards into the phone from the outset. It's interesting that Apple have gone with Carphone Warehouse, their normal policy is to sell all their phones unlocked.

Of course the big stumbling block is price, like most Brits I was guessing that Apple just wouldn't be able to persuade a UK network to sell the iPhone without a subsidy. It's totally alien to the way the UK market works, I've never paid for a phone and I've always had high specification phones. It's also interesting to see that the O2 contract is for 18 months. Lately, driven by the uptake in 18 and 24 month contracts in the US, the networks have been trying to push these fairly hard in the UK. They aren't popular, I'm on a 12 month contract and wouldn't sign an 18 month one under any circumstances.

I guess that I expected better from Apple, and I'm part of the mounting back lash. That said, just as soon as someone manages to jailbreak the new iPod touch I'll be picking up one of those. For me at least, it's pointless getting one unless I can use third party applications. Although the lack of any Bluetooth at all is puzzling. I know that in the US Bluetooth never really made a big impact, but in the UK, and Europe, Bluetooth is everywhere. Virtually everything electronic I own talks to each other via Bluetooth. It'd be weird to own a pice of kit that doesn't...

As for a phone, I'll stick with my Nokia for now. Maybe the next generation iPhone will tempt me when it arrives early next year. But unless they fix the crippled Bluetooth at least I'm not so sure, even then I wouldn't buy a locked phone.

Update: At least according to the New York Times (via TUAW) it isn't as if they don't have the margin to offer the subsidies we were expecting either...

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