Greetings to the Spy! I must say first that I think your column is one of the best I’ve ever read about trends in the technology and computing world.
I found your column while I was searching for discussions and predictions about the iPhone. I wish I’d only spent more time reading your articles when I was studying under you! It’s a great treasure.
This is mostly in reply to June's "Spring Roundup."
I’ve got some thoughts on the iPhone I wanted to discuss and analyse. I have a simple mobile phone. I have a Palm Pilot that I only use about 25% of the features, but might use more if I had a newer one. After hauling them in my pockets and belt clips for three or four years, I have concluded that I need to combine them into one device. I can only imagine the discomfort of carrying yet another device…the much desired iPod!
Why hasn’t somebody combined them? Uh…they call that a “smartphone.” I have been looking at smartphones as an upgrade, and every time I add up the price, I get really upset with the cell phone carriers for the price gouging for data, voice, and the high cost of the device. I see how they re-write software on the phone to limit its featureset – and that greatly disturbs me. Why are they limiting features to “lock” me into their suggested “use” of their devices? For example, take Bluetooth. I would love to sync my phone numbers to my Mac without wires. The manufacturer of my phone says you can sync contacts and then sync photos and music via some Bluetooth file transfer protocol. Yet the carrier has removed all Bluetooth functionality except the audio for a Borg-looking earpiece.
Today, my available smartphone options don’t have Wifi. Blackberries require enterprise software for MS Exchange. Palm appears to be dead, simply re-using the same features of the Palm 5 years ago, with nothing new built into the Treo. Windows Mobile is all they have left, but it’s clumsy.
I don’t need a camera in my phone. If I want pictures, I take along a really nice camera and keep it in my vehicle. I do need to sync my address book efficiently. I do want a large amount of memory to put some music on the phone and use iTunes-like features. I do want a QWERTY keyboard to send brief emails or text messages, and for typing notes to myself. But I don’t want to pay for texting! That’s price gouging…I only want to pay for data bandwidth and use Wifi when it’s there. Yes, I would LOVE to have a web browser and Wifi. That’s the killer app. Bluetooth is pretty much required so I can assimilate myself into the Borg and especially so I can sync without wires to multiple computers.
When discussion about the iPhone emerged about a year ago, I dreamed of a smartphone revolution and open carrier networks who competed for features not for number of contracts! I know the iPhone was going to be a big hit, but I also know its market share was greatly limited by the blunders of mobile carrier contracts. And of course, I read about its limited featureset, design shortcomings, and so on. But it still has the greatest potential to change the mobile industry. Like you said in Spring Roundup, the iPhone is the product “against which every other phone will henceforth be compared.” I truly hope and would like to predict that the mobile phone industry will be revolutionized, just like what Apple did to the music industry when it convinced EMI to allow DRM-free music sales. I for one, am glad that Apple has the weight to start getting rid of digital protection in music, and I hope they can do the same thing in the mobile industry.
That said, it appears to be a long road ahead. We must wait 2 full years for anyone else to gain access to the iPhone, and hopefully in that time, the iPhone 2.0 will address the consumer-demanded shortcomings of the first. Such as the price. In my area, AT&T is not available, and probably won’t be for at least 5 or 10 years. I guess I’m too rural to be cool and have an iPhone. I’m sure Rogers in Canada will have it up and available before I ever see the phone in my town.
There is a glimmer of hope for me. T-Mobile has a new phone service based on a technology called UMA. It combines digital Internet telephony with a cellular network. This means you can place calls over Wifi. FREE. And if you leave the hotspot, it will (mostly) seamlessly connect you to the mobile carrier network nearby. Talk about a really smart move! Combine the popular VOIP technologies with a cell phone. Now I’ve been waiting for that! Plus, their phone is nearly free, and the monthly service fee is much less than other smartphone plans.
However, for T-Mobile, it’s only a phone technology….now, if only they would put that into a smartphone! T-mobile is also not available to me, since I’m so “rural.” But I could get my in-laws to get me service in their area…. Back to the dreams for me, but I’m still watching and waiting.
So, what does the Spy think about a mobile phone revolution? Will other carriers step up to the competition brought about by Apple and deliver something bigger and better? I mean, they have a full 2 years for a window of opportunity!
I think so, but in due time. Perhaps the fourth law applies here, too. I just think that the mobile phone industry should move faster, especially with Apple winning the mindshare 6 months in advance and selling more than 500,000 iPhones in the opening weekend.