i missed macworld

13Jan07

i really don’t know what the CEA was thinking, making CES so late this year. Whatever they were thinking, it wasn’t nice. The CES delay meant this is the first year in 3 or 4 that i had to miss macworld, of course on the year that mad dawg finally launches a friggin phone.

of course i knew he was gonna announce a phone. back when steve pre-announced the itv in september, i knew he would launch the iphone at macworld. steve never pre-announces anything by more than a month, and i figgered the only reason he’d do that is because he had something even bigger to announce at macworld and he didn’t want the itv to steal the show. then on sunday and monday when everyone in the industry was talking like the iphone would be announced tuseday, well, that sealed it for me.

since you all know i deal with cell phones for a living, i’m sure you all expect me to weigh in on it. So i will. prepare yourself, i have no idea how long this is gonna get:

for the past year i have been saying to companies, optimize the interface with software, not hardware. i was tired of companies adding more and more buttons to their phones. i was also tired of less than optimal experience for things like music and video playback or picture taking because a company was too worried about making all their apps look exactly the same.

apple has been making more and more of their OS X applications look and feel totally different from each other, and some people have been complaining that they’re breaking their own interface guidelines, to which is say, GOOD! an interface for entering text is not the same one that i want for drawing, or playing music, or working with photos. and they have taken this to the Nth degree on the iphone, which makes me very happy. apple made a bold move and said “all these buttons and interface constraints are actually making things less usable, not more.”

so, i’m pretty psyched about the no button (or virtually no button) interface. it’s true that i’m wary of a phone with no physical buttons. how buttons work is a big portion of how i rate a phone (at least the physical aspects), but apple has been able to convince me of tactility where there is none in the past on the ipod. it’s possible that they can do the same on the iphone.

so i’m pretty psyched on the design, and the hardware and i’m definitely excited about the software they included and how well it seems to work. but there’s some stuff i’m less than thrilled about.

i assumed apple would sell the phone unlocked through its stores. in this case i thought making it quad-band GSM made sense. it would allow the phone to be sold in the maximum number of countries with the minimum amount of hassle. it would also justify the high price. but instead apple will be selling the phone locked to specific carriers around the globe. the carrier apple chose for the US (cingular) and all the carriers who are competing for the iphone in europe all have 3G (HSDPA). the fact that the iphone is 2G only is a real shame. prediction: the 2G iPhone will be launched in the US only this June. by Christmas (or next macworld at the latest), apple will launch a model with (850/1900/2100) HSDPA, which will be the first model for europe and the second one in the states.

the price is obscene. i realize apple is trying to defray years of development, but if i pay 500-600 bucks for a phone, you better damn well not tie me to a contract. normally smartphones cost this much, but you sign a 2 year contract and get them for alot less. see when you sign a contract, carriers are guaranteed they’ll squeeze a ton of cash out of you, so they’re willing to help you out on the price of a phone.

here’s what i think is going on. apple basically didn’t compromise with cingular on this phone. it doesn’t have any cingular branded applications, the phone isn’t branded on cingular, and it isn’t made to access cingular’s deck (the website you browse on your phone) for content sales, which are where the company makes alot its profits. so apple cut a deal with cingy – we (apple) sell the phone at price x and apple gets all (or most) the profits from that, AND we lock these poor suckers into a 2 year contract so you (cingular) are guaranteed to squeeze profits out of them too. Plus we’ll lock them into absurdly expensive data plans to help maximize those profits.

it’s gonna hurt. there is nothing i hate more than being locked into contracts. every carrier forces you into a 1 year contract these days, forcing me into a 2 year one when i know i’m paying full price for a phone burns me.

my only other complaint, which is almost as big as the price+contract debacle is that the platform is closed – at least temporarily. meaning that for the time being, you can only run apple’s apps. of course the phone is coming with a damn fine set of applications, at least for standard phone apps. but i know there are developers out there who probably have some great ideas of things to do with this phone. even i’d like some sort of RSS and AIM support from either apple or third parties. The only good thing is because the phone runs some version of os x, and apple is pretty cool about software updates that add new features, that we’ll see these features and more get added later on down the line.

so what would i want to see from iphone 2.0?

  1. 3G. if it doesn’t HSDPA i’m officially calling the platform dead in the water
  2. RSS. come on Apple, RSS is killer for phones. it’s a stream of data that can mean something on the go
  3. GPS. to integrate with Google maps, the way it does on the helio drift. being able to say “find me” for getting local points of interest or a starting point of driving directions is 1000 times easier than trying to figure out where you are and type in an address

The list may actually get longer once i actually get to use the phone. here’s hoping apple or cingular sends me a review unit!

oh, yah, and the appletv aka itv. i love it. i knew i’d love it, but then i was skeptical when it was announced. but i checked it out today. the fact that it will SYNC with my itunes and not just stream stuff is DOPE. the only problem is it won’t work with my old ghetto TV. i guess it really is time to enter the 21st century and by myself a flatscreen. something interesting to note: every time apple demo’d the itv playing something back, it was HD (widescreen). but right now apple only sells SD (4:3) shows and movies on the itunes store. does this mean we’ll see HD downloads soon? i HOPE so.

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