Problems I have with the Apple iPhone

If you saw Apple’s iPhone announcement, you’re no doubt already thinking of ways to justify a $500-$600 purchase. I know I am. The Apple iPhone is beautiful, the interface looks amazing, and it will definitely be the “status item” of 2007, the way the Motorola RAZR was a few years back and the Motorola SLVR was for a few months last year.

But I have concerns with the Apple iPhone, things that might be showstoppers. In no particular order:

Cingular only
I left Cingular a few years back, even though I get a discount on service through my job, because I couldn’t deal with their customer service, and I’m not looking forward to returning. I’m on T-Mobile, and have had near-zero customer service issues with them.

Two-year contract
A contract for cellphone service is saying “we don’t think you’ll want to stay with us because we suck or we’re too expensive or we’ll piss you off enough to want to leave, so we’re going to force you to stay for a long time”. (“Two-year contract” is much easier to put on a brochure.) I don’t get how a two-year contract provides me with any value: it only benefits the cellphone company.

Phone cost
Whoo boy! $500 for a phone? Even a “smart” phone? I certainly don’t need a smart-phone; of course, “need” has never stopped me from buying cool toys before. But parting with $500 or $600 to get a phone that’s bigger than I like a phone to be, even though it has all that cool multitouch stuff? That’s tough. If I lived by a smart-phone, I may see this as a great upgrade, but I gave up on Palm Pilots five, six years ago.

On the other hand, I am considering a new full-sized iPod, even though I don’t carry my current “big” iPod around with me everywhere (it mostly stays in the car). A worthwhile replacement, and I get the phone “for free”?

You can’t have a phone without replaceable batteries. You just can’t. And the Apple iPhone doesn’t have replaceable batteries. Real road warriors—those most likely to spend $500-$600 on a phone with an expected $80/month service fee—expect to carry a second (or third) battery for when their extended phone calls and email jaunts drain the primary battery while on a cross-country flight. Pulling out a laptop to charge the phone will be unacceptable.

Monthly cost
Although no pricing has been announced from Cingular, their basic voice service starts at $40 for 450 minutes, and doesn’t include internet access. If you’ll only ever use 802.11 wireless for your internet access, that may be all you need. If, however, you want to go online in locations where there isn’t free wireless, you’ll need either their Smartphone Connect ($20, unlimited), Data Connect ($45, unlimited) or (Wi-Fi) Laptop Connect ($80-$100, unlimited).

Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cingular prohibited voice-only plans for the iPhone. More likely they’ll introduce an “iPhone plan” that combines voice with internet for somewhere around $80 a month. That’s a lot more than my current $40 for 1000 minutes. Moving to Cingular for voice alone on a plan similar to my T-Mobile plan would cost me an extra $480 over the two-year agreement, and I’d lose 2,400 minutes in the process. Add another $960 for the data plan over that term, and suddenly we’re looking at real money.

No 3G access
If you’re not using 802.11 (i.e. Airport) for your internet access, you’ll be using Cingular’s EDGE network; that means those Google maps will be extremely slow to display and downloading email will crawl. The lack of 3G (aka HSDPA) access from the iPhone is supposedly due to lack of 3G coverage across the U.S., but 3G is exactly what the iPhone needs.

Devices like phones, iPods and PDAs get used and abused all the time. They’re tossed into jackets, purses, pockets and glove compartments. They are handled several hours a day. That means they will get scratched, have fingerprints all over them, and they might break or be lost or stolen. I hate that my $80 iPod shuffle is already scratched, and that my black MacBook shows marks from handling it. How bad will the iPhone get, when you’re supposed to be rubbing your fingers all over it?

And I hate the idea of losing a $500 product. I don’t tend to walk around with $500 products in my pocket. I’d be so paranoid about it being lost or stolen, I may never want to leave the house with it.

Perhaps now is a good time to invest in Chinese case manufacturers.

4GB memory (iPod nano size)
The $500 model comes with 4GB of flash memory, which holds the operating system, music, address book, and so on. 4GB is what you’d get with an iPod nano, for $200; an 8GB nano is $250. And not all of that memory will be available for music on the iPhone.

$250 also gets you a full-size iPod capable of holding 30GB of music.

The iPhone’s memory seems chintzy in comparison. I’m sure future devices will benefit from lower flash memory prices, and, just like the iPods, we’ll see more memory for the same (or lower) prices. But the opening salvo just seems too low.

So that’s my list of issues with the Apple iPhone. What about the phone makes you want to wait for the next revision?

Note: I first started writing this three or four days after the announcement. That’s how long it took for Steve’s reality distortion field to wear off, even 50 miles away, via satellite.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,