Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No, the Apple Iphone 3G won't take the DS down either

Going back to the subject of the Apple Iphone. The new version has been officially announced, and the result is some people who are claiming that the lower price and faster speeds will pose a threat to the Nintendo DS and Sony Playstation Portable. Well, what where the major tenets that I went over before? Well, lets list them.

A: Hardware Design : how the unit feels to use
B: Price : how much the unit costs
C: Price : how much software costs
D: Obtaining the software
E: Exclusivity : modifying or using the device
F: Software portability : can you use software on one device that you purchased for another?
G: Actual development support

On each of these points with the current, or previous if you will, Iphone, Apple comes up short. So how does the new Iphone 3G stack up?

A: The hardware design for the Iphone has indeed been tweaked. However, it still looks like the same high class piece of equipment that will break if you drop it. If it's anything like the first gen Iphone I was given some time to play with, it's going to continue to be a unit that will make you feel self conscious about using. The playstation portable has the same problem. There is always a sense when using the PSP out on a train, or in an airport, or down at Taco Bell, that you are somehow going to mess it up.

B: The price is actually pretty attractive at $199 for the 8gig version, and $299 with the 16gig version. Let me ruin that pricing with just five simple words: With Two Year Service Contract. If you want an Iphone you will have a purchase minimum of a two year contract with the phone vendor. Apple is subsidizing the sale of the Iphones, which is a common tactic used by Sony and Microsoft in the console market. Ergo if you want just a basic Iphone without a service contract, forget it. Apple will not sell you one. Okay, what about simply buying an Iphone with the service contract, then canceling the service contract? I wouldn't count on that method working either. Most phone service providers have steep penalties for canceling multi-year contracts. While specifics are not yet available about the punishment for canceling a phone service contract with an Iphone, you can probably bet that one of two terms will be included in the fine print. The first possible term is that the Iphone will have to go back to the phone vendor. The second possible term is that the buyer will have to pay the full price of the Iphone in addition to a service fee for cancelling.

In other words, buying an Iphone then getting out of the 2 year contract could wind up hurting the wallet more than simply living with paying a 2 year contract.

C: The exact software costs are still up in the air, but some of the mechanics are not. According to Dailytech it will cost developers $99 to post content to sell. Apple will also take 30% off each sale through their hosted store. That leads into how users will be able to obtain the software to begin with.

D: There will be two ways to get software onto the Iphone. The first is through the cellular connection, and as predicted, it will only be available through the official phone service provider. Iphone owners will be able to download applications directly to the Iphone as long as applications are under 10mbs in size. Applications over 10mbs will need to be downloaded through the Apple Itunes Application Store. That's actually a big problem because the fastest growing business computer market today isn't from Microsoft, and isn't from Apple. It's Linux, and Itunes is still not available on the Linux platform. For the business user examining an Iphone then, it doesn't support the platform a business man is likely to be carrying. That's a problem Apple will need to address for the Iphone to be successful in the business market, much less the gaming markets.

Apple also has the very real problem of promoting particular applications. There appear to be no plans for a retail presence, which fits in with my own predictions. The lack of a retail presence means having to rely on online advertising for various products, and that is not the most viable method of getting information out. As I see it the Applications available to the Iphone will only be visible to those who already own an Iphone. 3rd party Application support does not appear to be in a position to make or break the Iphone itself.

E: As already touched on in the price segment Iphone owners will need to pick up a minimum 2 year service contract with a phone provider. In the US that is a very real problem to deal with as AT&T is widely regarded as having the worst cellular network in the US, bar none. One of the reasons the hacking scene became popular on the first generation Iphone is that business users and tech-savvy buyers wanted the Iphone, but they didn't want the lousy phone service that came with it. With application purchases seemingly bound to the phone provider, and a potential lock-in to a particular vendor the Iphone is a hardsell. So, Apple's continued reliance on exclusive partners is perhaps a matter of concern.

F: Just as this is point F, Apple receives a failing grade here. I've scoured the official press release and rumor sites and I can't get a straight answer on whether or not Iphone Software is portable between Iphones. As far as I can tell, if you buy Sega's Super Monkey Ball on one Iphone, you can forget playing it on a friend's iphone.

G: Application support is again a failing grade. Apple is not a game developer and does not have the resources to support any true gaming attempts for their platform.

Okay, so this is a rather harsh look down on the Iphone. I think TheRegister.com actually put it better. The author's conclusion after going over the features of the Iphone itself, then the up and coming competitors from the likes of Samsung, HTC, and Blackberry, was this one sentence.
It’s going to take much more than 3G data speeds to keep the hearts and minds of the people who drove in to hear the keynote in an 1998 Toyota Camry. ®
The Iphone simply isn't in the same market as it's competitors, and it certainly isn't a competitor to anything Nintendo or Sony have on the market for handheld gaming. Yes, the Iphone looks nice, but personally? I'd rather have one of those Blackberry Thunders.



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