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iMobile

January 09, 2007

So we’ve all heard by now of the new goodness that is Apple’s iPhone, right? Wow. The wait is going to be painful for this one, it will be at the back of my mind every time I reach for the old Treo. I have a short checklist of things I absolutely need from a phone, and it delivers. I have a much longer checklist of things I really want from a phone, and it delivers in spades. I think it’s safe to say that what Apple announced today far surpasses anyone’s wildest expectations.

I have no doubt the iPhone is going to be a huge kick in the mobile web pants. It doesn’t run a stripped-down mobile browser that delivers a sub-par experience, it runs Safari — a customized version with special UI tweaks, but that’s still WebKit under the hood. It will render your site the same way your desktop does. Multi-touch is an inspired new interaction method that makes using a mobile phone a less painful experience than what we’ve had thus far. And with an accelerometer built-in, the switch between viewing a web page in portrait or landscape mode couldn’t be easier. Just flip the thing over.

iPhone

In fact, mobile web expert Brian Fling expects that if competition manages to catch up to it, this pretty much spells the beginning of the end for WAP 2.0. Provided using the web is a seamless experience on the iPhone, I have no doubt this will be the case. There will be no need to continue referring to a “mobile” web.

There are a few reasons why I could see this not quite going according to plan however. The device itself is brilliant, but the services that will support it are traditionally horrible. Somehow there has to be reconciliation between a bandwidth-hungry device like the iPhone promises to be, and the bandwidth-stingy mobile plans that many of us are stuck with. It doesn’t seem likely that buying an iPhone will make much sense without a relatively generous data plan to match.

Given that the new visual voicemail that requires special carrier integration that has resulted in a (currently, hopefully temporarily) exclusive partnership with Cingular in the US, it seems like Apple might be making inroads into changing business-as-usual. I’m hoping that carriers will start climbing over each other for a chance to offer it to their own customers, giving Apple leverage to dictate their own terms for supporting service plans.

However, for a customer to get the phone when it launches, they will need to sign a two year contract with Cingular. The price point revolves around that assumption. That it’s an exclusive to Cingular at the moment suggests that, at least at launch, the phone will be locked to one provider. This is typical for the mobile industry, but disappointing for those of us who’d prefer to buy an unlocked phone at cost and transport it to our network of choice, visual voicemail or not. (Which is particularly relevant when, say, you don’t live in the US…)

So I guess the question is, was the contract a method of offsetting the original price and driving up demand? There’s no way this phone was going to come cheaply at first. I suspect even an entry price of $499 seems high to many people, but this is certainly down from what an unlocked phone would cost. Or, is the contract a sign that Apple needed to make concessions to partner with existing service providers, and the telcos will end up calling the shots?

Time will tell. It’s comforting to have the precedent of Apple’s taming of the music industry, and their in-progress repeat with the film industry. If history is any indication of what they can pull off with mobile carriers, the mobile web is going to be a very big story indeed. Hey Cameron, does this mean a new chapter in the book?

Update: It looks like Canada might be getting it around Q4 2007 or Q1 2008, and both Rogers and Telus are making noise. (Thanks Paul) If Telus gets it, that means a CDMA version is forthcoming. Interesting.

It still remains to be seen whether anyone will offer a special iPhone service plan, or whether carriers will continue calling the shots. Non-Canadians really need to see Rogers data plans to understand why this is such a concern here (the rest are equally as bad).


January 09, 15h

> “It doesn’t seem likely that buying an iPhone will make much sense without a relatively generous data plan to match.”

I’d happily get the phone even without being able to use the web features, given how nicely it appears to do phone calls, SMS, music, photos, contacts and (I presume) calendar stuff.

However, yeah, data rates from phone companies are a joke at the moment. We’re used to fast, flat-fee broadband. Mobile web is stuck in the dial-up days, EVDO etc. excepted.

January 09, 15h

“…the phone will be locked to one provider. This is typical for the mobile industry, but disappointing for those of us who’d prefer to buy an unlocked phone at cost and transport it to our network of choice, visual voicemail or not.”

— certainly not typical in the UK, and I’ll be interested to see how that sort of deal will weather this side of the Atlantic.

And a 24 month contract? That sounds like quite a long time to lock yourself into a specific network provider.

It’s intriguing, though, as I’m sure Apple have done their sums; 18 month contracts are becoming more common in Britain, which perhaps is an indicator that people are less fickle than they were a couple of years ago.

Still, I’d have to think pretty hard before signing myself up for an iPhone on this basis.

Dave S. says:
January 09, 15h

“And a 24 month contract? That sounds like quite a long time to lock yourself into a specific network provider.”

Though mobile all generally sucks at the moment, North America seems to really take it in the chin. 2 years is standard in the US, and *3* is standard in Canada. (We’re world leaders in broadband, and bass-ackwards in mobile data. Go figure.)

January 09, 15h

Kudos to Apple for including Wifi on the phone though… they could have easily locked it down to only support Cingular’s medicore EDGE. if you have plenty of hotspots nearby, you can easily tap one of them to get your mail without springing extra.

At least one less device I’ll have to carry come June…

5
Philly says:
January 09, 16h

Ya I was watching this closely today as it was being annouced. I work over in Nova Scotia for Aliant, which is now Bell Aliant. I have a feeling were gonna be doing some fixes to our infrastructure in order to support such a device as the iPhone, since honestly bandwidth has never been a ‘major’ issue to our customer base.

Now seeing what a mobile device such as this can do I see no choice but to upgrade our systems quickly in order to accomdate it. Otherwise were looking at a mass exodus from our younger customer base.

I am now thinking my current hopes of designing a new mobile website for our customers is out the window now that it looks like the days of WAP 2.0 are numbered. This by the way is a great thing.

Hopefully the iPhone will allow widgets to be added to it so these can be customized for our local customer bases.

I hope this doesnt sound like a plug, just trying to point out how its going to effect the telco’s in Canada cause I agree we are behind times and this will force a change, though im only a lowly peon here I know this is going to be a hot topic over the next few months.

Stv, says:
January 09, 16h

Yeah - my little Razr is dying and I’ve been looking at getting a blackberry, but I think now I’m just going to wait. But I wonder how long we’ll wait up here in Canada? Traditionally, it seems that AT&T/Cingular and Rogers have played nice in the past, so hopefully that trend will continue. But if this phone is, say 75% of what Jobs promises it to be, it’ll be more than enough for me to slap down some big dollars, and if I have to, to jump to a different provider up here.

January 09, 16h

Dave S said: “We’re world leaders in broadband, and bass-ackwards in mobile data. Go figure.”

World leaders in broadband, you? *Giggles* Yeah, so maybe you should visit Sweden some time.

(DS: Yeah, in the top ten. Sweden isn’t exactly leapfrogging us, you know. 22.7 vs. 22.4 ain’t a huge difference. http://www.oecd.org/document/9/0,2340,en_2649_34223_37529673_1_1_1_1,00.html )

I’m actually the most excited about the new Airport Extreme which supports the 802.11/n standard, finally I’ll be able to actually use all my broadband, instead of just a small piece of it. ;-)

Dave S. says:
January 09, 16h

“But I wonder how long we’ll wait up here in Canada?”

Europe gets it Q4 2007. Asia sometime in 2008. I’d be happy with any time this year up here, but I’m also thinking a trip down south to get an unlocked version might be more likely.

Brian says:
January 09, 17h

“However, for a customer to get the phone when it launches, they will need to sign a two year contract with Cingular. The price point revolves around that assumption.”

Where did you hear this? I missed it if it was in the keynote and I don’t see it on Apple’s site. Also, I heard in the keynote that Cingular’s exclusivity with the iPhone is “multi-year.” So don’t hold your breath on waiting to see it on other American providers.

(PS - “heard” = read in several accounts of the keynote, as the video isn’t working so well right now…)

Dave S. says:
January 09, 17h

Which part?

The two year contract was on a slide within the keynote.

The contract subsidizing the phone price is just industry standard, so I’m assuming that’s what’s happening here.

January 09, 17h

My guess is that Rogers will be the network to pick this up in Canada. I think they currently have the EDGE technology that the iPhone relies on and are usually the first kid on the block when it comes to getting the newest and greatest phones. Unfortunately, as you said, Canada is far behind when it comes to the mobile world. So, even if one of our networks gets the phone you can bet that for us to use it to its full potential is more than likely going to cost a small fortune.

January 09, 19h

I too think this is, more or less, the end of the “mobile” web …ie, serving up a different presentation of content just for those devices. Since the iPhone connects to the web like any standard desktop machine, it just doesn’t seem necessary to worry about it any more.

Of course, this assumes the iPhone will have as big an impact on that industry as we think it will. Then again, that’s almost a guarantee at this point ;)

Brian A says:
January 09, 21h

After reading the specs on the iphone and seeing the photos of it…I’m blown away. Its completely software based, one hardware button on it from what I can see. I’m a fan of both mac and PC (yes, we do exist) and this in my eyes is a BIG deal. Both for us as developers and the consumers looking for shiny new toys. I currently have a treo 650, and I can see going to the iphone just for the size difference (Q has no touch screen). I read that cingular has exclusive rights with apple till 2009 on the iphone, but I cant verify that. Does anyone subscribe to the cingular edge service? If so, how much is it? We currently work with verizon and have multiple phones on the EVDO network and boy its not cheap. In any event, I agree with you Dave, the wait is going to be painful for this one…I cant wait.

January 10, 00h

About the data transfer: I live in Norway, and we probably won’t get the phone until December. Luckily we have great prices for data transfer in Norway. For about $4, I can surf as much as I want per day. That’s a fair price, I’d say.

I currently have a W900i, which is 3G-enabled. I must admit that I was completely fanatical about the fact that 3G was required when I purchased a phone. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used the video conference feature.

The current technology just isn’t good enough, and I think Apple has realized that.

Ms. Jen says:
January 10, 00h

iPhone = iDrool

But the 2 deal killers for me for the iPhone are the 2 mega-pixel camera (hello, my Nokia has 3 mega-pixels) and the 2 year contract with Cingular. Blech.

2 mega-pixels for 2 years. Blech.

Apple, let me know when you have a 5 mega-pixel camera with a Carl Zeiss or better lens on an unlocked phone. Then I will pay happily.

;o)

Tom says:
January 10, 01h

This product will obviously define a new era on the mobile market, but it still needs some improvements.

It is a great object, but it lacks UMTS connectivity, and the built-in battery is a really bad point..

Anyway it has a great interface, I hope Nokia and others manufacturers will think about it for the future.

Here it Europe the iPhone will be available only in the last quarter of 2007.. I’ll wait :)

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Ole says:
January 10, 02h

I like the phone realy. Despite the lack of 3G I want one. Edge is crap, but it has wider coverage then 3G and I suppose it is used when a WiFi node is not available.

Henrik, we’re being robbed in bright daylight by the two mobile network owners here ;-)

January 10, 04h

Hopefully you can also add other widgets than those shown in the keynote.

Then this could get the best part of the iPhone: Every Web-Developer would be able to develop services for the iPhone by using widgets.

No expensive or complicated programming ressources needed, just use plain xhtml, css and xcode to create small apps for free ;-)

Hopefully that works, we’ll see when it comes to market.

By the way: The interface is a nice preview of what comes in Tiger and where the story goes, isn’t it?

January 10, 05h

“Hey Cameron, does this mean a new chapter in the book?”

Short answer? No :D I’ve got a post drafted arguing the iPhone *won’t* change the mobile web landscape much. (If time affords I’ll post that in the next day or so.)

But can you count me in for one? Absolutely.

January 10, 05h

What I’m curious about his the ‘new’ and ‘patented’ multi-touch interface.

It looks awefully similar to the work of Jeff Han, as demoed at TED:

http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=j_han

Brian says:
January 10, 06h

“Then this could get the best part of the iPhone: Every Web-Developer would be able to develop services for the iPhone by using widgets.

No expensive or complicated programming ressources needed, just use plain xhtml, css and xcode to create small apps for free ;-)”

This would be excellent.

22
eric says:
January 10, 06h

“So I guess the question is, was the contract a method of offsetting the original price and driving up demand?…Or, is the contract a sign that Apple needed to make concessions to partner with existing service providers, and the telcos will end up calling the shots?”

Unfortunately I’m thinking the latter is true. I hope the end result is not what you predict though. Right now, Apple needs Cingular more than Cingular needs apple. In order for this device to be internationally viable, it HAD to be GSM quadband. The only other national carier for GSM in North America is T-Mobile, and I can’t see apple partnering with them. Don’t get me wrong, Cingular will enjoy plenty of market gains because of this phone, but Apple was basically locked in to using cingular in the USA regaurdless of what Cingular did.

I have a suspicion that this deal is still countering the current mobile phone pricing structure though. Most current phones are arbitrarily overpriced in order to give the phone companies leverage in forcing customers to sign a longer term contract and make them ‘feel’ like they are getting a good deal. Apple really didn’t want to do this, but had to concede something (multiyear exclusive deal) in order to get Cingular to invest in the necessary infrastructure improvements.

We will reallly get to see if Apple is having any influence positively for the customer when we see how much the data plans are costing. Hopefully they are leaning on Cingular HEAVILY to get them to only charge $5-$10/month for data access, with the rationalle that 95% of the time the thing is going to be using wifi, so Cingular should give away unlimited low speed (EDGE) data access for fairly cheap. Sorry Apple, but if Cingular is going to charge me $40/month for access to email and google maps while I’m on the road, I’m not going to buy the current iphone.

tom says:
January 10, 08h

Eric (above) makes a good point — what are the extras involved? DOES the phone really switch to wifi for calls? The carrier(s) would lose out on quite a bit if the technology nascent used it at home as a VOIP phone.

Even bigger than that, I wonder how this thing would fare in a car. Not that I (or anyone) should be on a cell for long if at all while driving, but sometimes ya gotta do it… It was a pain to adjust to the RAZR with it’s shallow keys. Once upon a time I could dial all of my previous phones solely by feel. Also, what about a vibrate function. It wasn’t mentioned because I’m assuming it wasn’t perceived as that important. But I use vibrate frequently. I can envision this thing being dangerous or at not very useful in certain situations. Thoughts?

Brian says:
January 10, 09h

From the slides of the keynote I saw that a bluetooth headset is included with the iphone(not positive on this though). That would solve the driving issue(for most people). I cant imagine how many 3rd party accessories will be developed for this device. Look at all the ipod gadgets out there, its crazy.

astrazds says:
January 10, 15h

Interestingly, I think if Apple pushed to try make it more of a global release they would have pounced on the market a lot more. Of course that is a huge feat.

My main comment though is that for us Australians, who really knows when we’ll get it. From watching his Keynote he went as far as mentioning Asia next year sometime, so we are to follow sometime late in 2008? The problem I see is by that stage other phone makers will have decent alternatives so there won’t really be a need to jump on the iPhone bandwagon.

I’d go out a buy one as soon as I could because it is pretty much the best mobile device I’ve ever seen, but in a year and a half, it’s not going to look to great.

I could be wrong though!?

January 10, 19h

@ tom: Yeh I would definitely miss vibrate if it wasn’t a feature… but I’d imagine that and voice prompts/dialing will be standard features… as they are on most other phones. Since it runs a modified version of Mac OS X, Apple’s voice recognition and text-to-speech capabilities could easily be added.

January 11, 04h

Dave S: Wouldn’t want to derail the discussion or anything, so I’ll end by saying that I was talking about *speed*, not just percentage of users with *some* kind of broadband.

28
Andreas Sikkema says:
January 11, 06h

The current Nokia N and E series phones also have a pretty useable webbrowser. I seem to remeber it being KHTML based, but I’m not sure.

29
David Robarts says:
January 11, 09h

The Bluetooth headset was an accessory that Apple is also making, but not included. Included are new earbuds with a microphone/switch on the cord.

AFAIK the automatic switch to wi-fi is only for data, not voice, so this is not a significant drop in billable service for the cell company. There was no mention of VoIP related to the iPhone in anything I’ve seen from apple.

I wonder if the widesreen iPod will surface on its own at some future date (please include PDA functionality and wi-fi).

January 11, 17h

It looks awefully similar to the work of Jeff Han, as demoed at TED: [url]

Except it’s not. What is generally overlooked from Han’s multi-touch screen, something he purposefully doesn’t mention, is that his screen “runs dry” after a while; you need to keep wetting your fingertips to continue using it, otherwise it loses sensitivity and eventually just stops working until you wet them again.

The iPhone’s screen is not like that.

Ian Adams says:
January 11, 22h

I have a feeling that Apple is going to be calling the shots with the service. Apple in general, and Steve Jobs in particular, are pretty anal about those sorts of things. And if the iPhone is anything like any of the other phones to come out over the years on an exclusive contract, after a couple years you’ll be able to get it for any carrier.

But I don’t know. Everything is still unknown; we don’t even know how it’s going to be in the US. Pretty exciting stuff, though, if you ask me.

January 11, 23h

I used to think Australia’s mobile data rates where bad until I saw Canada’s and one of our providers here just halved their prices (1Gb a month for AU$50 = US$40).

Can not wait for the iPhone, I will end up buying a Noika next week. I will wait for the 2nd generation and replace the Noika in 2 years. Os X is the big selling point for me.

Two year contracts are the go in Australia too, a few offer one year deals, but a little more expensive upfront.

January 12, 01h

FYI - Canadian carrier data-rates did have an impact on our decision to move our (mobile content) business from Canada to the UK.

In Vancouver (on Rogers/Fido) we were paying about $3CDN per/mb - in the UK (T-Mobile) I’m charged a maximum of £1 per day for data usage.

If I (as a mobile content developer) am not willing to pay those fees for mobile data charges, then there is little hope that Joe Public will. I remember hearing countless horror stories from friends ‘testing’ out a web site, or downloading a game/song and being charged around $10-$30CDN in data charges in addition to any fee being charged for that SINGLE piece of content.

Hopefully the Canadian carriers pull their heads out of their ***** before Blackberry is/was the only mobile success story to come out of Canada. Broadband data in Canada is fantastic, but mobile data is a joke.

Can’t wait to see what Bell (CDMA network) does for the upcoming Winter Games in a couple of years as the world (largely on 3G,GSM networks using SIM cards) converges in Vancouver.

January 15, 08h

Why wait for the mobile web?
Get Opera Mini on a lot of phones already on the market.

It handles normal web pages, no real specific coding required, it uses the Opera rendering engine and transforms it to be suitable for a mobile phone screen.

How does the iPhone Safari handle things? Download the entire page and make you scroll around? or does it shrink the whole lot? Or do something intelligent like Opera and make it more useable on a small screen?

Opera’s also chunks the downloads and I believe compresses images so you don’t have such big data bills.

Opera has already signalled the end of WAP, and I’ve already talked elsewhere about the uselessness of the new .mobi TLD’s because of it.

And though Opera make a desktop browser that will run on OSX, it seems Apple are enforcing a software lockin, and won’t let you install 3rd party stuff on it. So even if I wanted an iPhone, I wouldn’t be able to use my browser of choice on it.

I just find everyone’s going all gooey legged over it because it’s an Apple product, and saying it’s completely ground breaking, when in actual fact, it doesn’t seem to be really. Battery life issues, the lack of tactile feedback on touch screens, software lockin, forced use of iTunes, jsut a few reasons I’m not bothered.

35
Roger Smith says:
January 17, 03h

iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?

Well, the only solution I could fine was http://www.Cellswapper.com - they get you out of any cell phone contract!

36
Joe k. says:
January 19, 16h

I was pleasantly surprised with the way apple decided to implement the keyboard for the phone. The multi-touch screen with the gestures is a great design. I especially like the web browser, but I disagree on what many of the other posters on other blogs have said about the software locking. I see it as a way to make sure that no crap software or bloatware can get on to the system. There’s alot of crap out there today, and by limiting the developers allowed to access/post software for it, they keep the Phone’s version of leopard (Yes it runs leopard) as clean as the Desktop version of leopard will be.

Denise says:
January 21, 14h

I think it would be better off if it was 3G network compatiable and a little less exspensive. Also the fact it has no FM radio kinda stinks but overall I would say it is quite lovely device in design and useablity even without any of the above features.

January 23, 07h

i believe the iphone is all hype… sure the interface is nice, but theres too many ties to apple and you know you’re going to have to pay through the nose for just about everything.

January 26, 08h

That maps would integrate nicely with google maps ( or another map service ) if it had GPS. I think one thing also stopping inception of this phone is lack of 3G signal, but I bet the battery life will be even more abysmal.

40
sanjay kumar singh says:
January 29, 07h

Yeah - my little Razr is dying and I’ve been looking at getting a blackberry, but I think now I’m just going to wait. But I wonder how long we’ll wait up here in Canada? Traditionally, it seems that AT&T/Cingular and Rogers have played nice in the past, so hopefully that trend will continue. But if this phone is, say 75% of what Jobs promises it to be, it’ll be more than enough for me to slap down some big dollars, and if I have to, to jump to a different provider up here.

41
Tuan Tran says:
February 04, 19h

I don’t know about you guys, but are you willing to seriously pay 500 or $600 US for a iphone??? the 8gb is 600 i believe. and that’s alot of money to just upgrade your blackberry or normal cellphone. I assume that phone prices will be dropping in June for other companies. this device does look very kool i have to admit.

42
Nate says:
February 21, 01h

Love the idea of this phone. We’re not going to get these in the UK for some time, but the demand will be pretty huge. Let’s just hope there’s not battery or screen issues, since Apple’s latest releases have been plagued with malfunctions.

Frank says:
February 26, 01h

I think the iphone won’t be really a success for apple. Now everyone is talking about it. But the other big phone companies won’t sleep and will push much better mobiles on the market.
The iphone will only be a mobile for apple fans - and that is not enough to really annoy Nokia or Motorola.