MIR: Whatley’s Apple iPhone dilemma continues unabaited

Whatley is a Symbian guy, through and through. He’s got more applications on his Nokia then I can shake a stick at. But he’s tempted, sorely tempted by Apple’s iPhone. I suspect the o2 unlimited data plans are also annoying the hell out of him as he’s stuck with Vodafone’s paltry offering. But will an all new (well, not really) 16GB iPhone finally push him into the o2 shop?

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I am not ‘a Mac person’.

I’m getting there, (before you all start booing and hissing), and I’ve been known to get a bit ‘Mac curious’ every now and then.

It’s not through lack of trying though. In fact the other day I borrowed a MacBook Pro from SpinVox to take home and ‘test drive’ for the weekend. Only problem was it was one of those weekends when all of a sudden you have NO TIME to do a single bloody thing and I ended up handing it back Monday morning having only figured out how to get the bloody thing online, (and that took long enough).
Anyway – as I said – I’m getting there. One day I’ll make the jump.

The same thing however cannot be said for the iPhone.

I was at a lunch recently where upon I found myself sitting next to the editor of Mac Format magazine. He and I were discussing mobile et al and of course we ended up comparing devices. ‘Eww…’ he said, looking my N95 ‘Already I’m thinking ‘PC! PC!’ I don’t know how you do it mate…’ – and I in turn went on to mock his iPhone loveliness.

‘But can yours do THIS?’ he said, free scrolling up and down web pages like he hadn’t a care in the world.

‘Well… No. But…

‘Come on. What’s so bad about it?!’

‘Well… Er… the price for a start.’

‘Forget the price. We know it’s over-priced. What else?’

‘Um…’

And I stumbled. I lost my thought process. I looked at the N95 in my hands and the iPhone in his and I just stared blankly, grasping around for something… anything… that would aid me in my explanation…

Suddenly it came to me:

‘Well no 3G for a start, or HSDPA. Plus the camera leaves a lot to be desired, (the one you do have doesn’t have a flash) and then there’s MMS…’

And I was away, fighting my corner like a true N95 loving mobile geek.
Once again all was well in the world.

However, I must say that as much as I profess to be an iPhone critic I cannot deny its beauty, its simplicity, and its innovation. Its sheer impact on the on industry we all know and love so well is truly something to behold.

Eventually, Mr Mac Format and I came to a friendly truce. He pointed out that I was probably never the target market for the iPhone in the first place and I acknowledged that the iPhone ‘Mark 2’ would no doubt fix all the problems that I currently had with the device.

I applauded Apple for creating a device that my Mum could pick up and use and I also added that the masterstroke that was making the menu screen the same as the home screen was just pure Genius. Talk about removing barriers to entry. Brilliant.

So why the iPhone love?
Why now, after all this time?
Have I fallen over and bashed my head somewhere around SpinVox HQ?
Well …No.

The fact is I still mock and point and laugh at anyone who’s mug enough to fork out the minimum £900ish that is required for an iPhone in this country, (on o2 in the UK it is £269 for the 8GB variant + £35pcm (min) for the 18mth contract = £899), and I still insist on putting everyone off of purchasing one wherever I go and whoever I talk to.

The question I always ask is: ‘Why do you need an iPhone?’

The answer is often: ‘I need one.’

Wow.

A pure emotional decision that is not based around utility whatsoever, just some clever marketing, (and I don’t say that lightly; ‘clever marketing’ in this instance is like saying Britney Spears is ‘a bit mental’), huge brand awareness and a near-subconscious desire to own this beautiful thing that can only really explained if the Pied Piper of Hamelin appeared in the ads himself.

So what else drives this insatiable need? The price puts me off. I’ve made that much clear.

But we’ve also established that I am not the target market for this handset. Are you?
We’ll come back to that one…

Ewan recently wrote that the iPhone would ‘only ever be a bit player‘. Well given that it is merely one handset in a market of thousands well then I’d have to agree. But of course that wasn’t the intention was it? The intention (as was clearly laid out by some of the more balanced comments to that piece and of course by Mr Jobs himself), was to gain a single digit market share.

Here we are less than one week away from the biggest and most highly regarded event in the mobile sector and Apple seem to have done just that. Maybe next week we’ll see what the industry reaction is. What have the other handset manufacturers got up their sleeves?

If anything…

Coming back to the target market question – I’ll leave you with the comments I made a few days back in response to another iPhone piece:

‘It’s interesting –

When it comes to the pricing issue – you do have to stop for a moment and think about why o2 launched the iPhone at that RRP.

In the UK the economy in general has recently seen a downturn in overall sales of products but an upturn in overall value of said market(s). Consumers are fleeing the every day, mass-produced, mass-market products and are saving their cash and investing in the latest luxury ‘designer’ items.

Therefore there’s a school of thought that o2 knew exactly what they were doing when they launched at £269.99 + contract. They were pricing the everyday ‘common man’ consumer *out*.

Instantly making the iPhone tap into that hidden snob inside us all, (well, not us, but them, y’know… The Normobs).

I was at dinner recently and the two gentlemen at the next table were talking; discussing work etc, and halfway through one exchange the gentleman diagonally opposite to me produced and iPhone from his pocket, waved it sufficiently around to make sure that everyone saw and then placed it on the table in front of him.

Conversation stopper right there. Followed by gasps of

‘You’ve got one?! Where from? OMG it’s gorgeous! Does it do email?’

Etc etc.

The iPhone has been subconsciously marketed as a luxury device. By having one you are instantly making a statement: ‘Look at me. Look at what I can afford.’

I actually heard someone say recently: ‘I want an iPhone. I can afford one too. I just don’t think I’m cool enough. I don’t deserve one yet…’

The device is *cool*, outside of this industry we all move in. Yes we think it lacks key features, that’s because it does.
And yes we think it’s over-priced… Well that’s the point.

o2 don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry to have one.
o2 want every Tom, Dick and Harry to WANT one.

And trust me, they do.

_______________________________________________

I’ll be in Barcelona next week, attending Mobile World Congress with SpinVox. If you’re going to be at the conference, why not come say hi? We’ll be in Hall 2, stand 2D33. Trust me; you won’t be able to miss it.

See you there!

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15 thoughts on “MIR: Whatley’s Apple iPhone dilemma continues unabaited”

  1. I’ve just returned from three weeks travelling around the UK visiting most of the major cities with my E65 on Three’s X-Series and I’m fuming!
    Not just at the intermittent 3G coverage and hopeless hand-offs to Orange gprs but the lousy connection speeds for simple browsing that I’d previously accepted was a local issue.

    But in Manchester I found someone browsing on his laptop using a Three USB dongle (I believe, at theoretically twice the speed of my gorgeous E65) and setup a head-to-head comparison test.
    I was horror struck to discover that he was able to display full web pages at least TEN TIMES faster than the shrunken or windowed version on my E65!
    And obviously the whole XP user interface was massively superior to the fiddly and, at times, pathetic, Nokia/S60 software.

    Maybe it’s all the under-used apps that are still lurking on my phone.
    Perhaps I’ve screwed up some of the connection settings along the way.
    I’ll try to set aside some time next week to wipe the E65 down to bare metal and only install the absolutely essential bits of software and do another connection speed test standing underneath a Three mast.

    If there’s not a huge improvement then this Opinionated Normob (a pc tinkerer for over 20 years) will be taking a serious look at the 3G iPhone when it arrives later in the year.
    It’s probably a good thing that Three decided to abandon the X-Series blog while I was away as I’d have been banned for my bad language…

    HeavyLight’s last blog post..Study Says Mobile Churn is Approaching 40%

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  2. One of the main problems I had with the iPhone I had for about 2 weeks was, its all nice and dandy to scroll webpages, but just try downloading files not supported by the iphone from a website, it falls flat on its face. My mobile is a compact mobile pc for me and the iphone even with its limited 2G speed failed miserably in downloading whatever I wanted.

    My N73 with Opera Mobile v8.65 (hopefuly v9.5 very soon) is a beast which will store anything the internet has on my external memory card.

    I do admit the styling of the iPhone is superb, its just a pity the content lets it down. A bit like a perfect 10 model with an IQ of 50.

    gerrymoth’s last blog post..UPDATE: Gmail v1.5.0.1191

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  3. I really exited to see how the big players will respond to the iPhone, will they miss that certain something that only Jonathan Ives can bring?

    As someone recently said, Apple can add the missing camera quality, 3G and 3rd party apps. But can the others add the missing slick user interface, world class industrial design and most importantly, the practically bomb-proof OS which is being concurrently developed across several devices including the Mac? They might, but I’m not holding my breath.

    See you next week!

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  4. Hmmm…

    ‘intermittent’ 3G coverage = best in the UK (and therefore the world, apart from Korea/Japan, given the population density & size of the UK). Until the tie-up with T-Mobile, when it will get about twice as big 🙂

    ‘Hopeless handoffs’ = it would be, as there is no data session handoff between GPRS and 3G between 3 and their 2G partner Orange.

    The E65 is a 3G device (384kbps), the 3USB modem is HSDPA (3.6MBps). So in theory, your USB’d mate should be doing the bizzo nearly 10 times quicker…as you saw 😉

    The X-Series is not a technological enabler, it’s a tariff. 3UK have the largest 3G HSDPA network, by about a thousand sites I believe. When the 3G iPhone comes out, if it’s on O2’s 3G network you will have an experience on par with the launch of 3G 4 years ago. And we all know how well that went down, don’t we kids?

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  5. I know exactly what u’re talking about! I’m from India and a friend of mine bought an unlocked iPhone from the States. As iPhone still isnt available officially here, it’s a realy head turner. Everytime he’s browsing through his menu, people around just gotta have a look. And dont even get started about comparing it with other phones coz the only answer you’ll get out my friend is “I dont really care, i have an iPhone” …end of conversation. Over here an iPhone is nearly a perfect phone aside from the camera since we have no 3g, and people rarely use their phones for anything other than talking or texting. Ive seen people embarrassed to pull out their E90s around the iphone.

    Ps: I’ve got an E61i, and no matter what people say regarding its size, im in love with it!!

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  6. @HeavyLight: Network coverage frustrations aside, I believe some of the effect you are seeing is handset-related. Putting my (on EDGE) iPhone next to my E61 on 3 X-series next to each other they often render sites in the same time. I think it’s as much down to processing speed and efficiency of the layout engine.

    Opera’s browsers feel a bit quicker than the Nokia one on an identical connection.

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  7. Whatley, I’m not a ‘Mac Person’ either, but I saw the tv ad for the MacBook Air last night and I WANT one.

    At the moment I’m still a bit take it or leave it on the iPhone. I love the beauty of it and I love the fact that they have forced the rest of the mobile industry to sit up and take note. But what can it do for me (especially at a cost of c. 900)? I’ve got a digital camera and an iPod already – so I don’t need my phone to fill in for those. So what else can it do for me but look pretty?

    At the moment I can’t see the 900 vaule in it yet … maybe with the next version.

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  8. @Mike – what I meant about the speed difference was that he was browsing full web pages 10x faster than I was able to view cut-down, mobile-optimised pages with zero graphics. So I’d expect the equivalent data rates were more like 100x faster.
    I find it difficult to believe that the E65 is roughly 6x faster than dial-up but will run some tests to check what I’m actually getting.
    I certainly didn’t realise umts was that much slower than hsdpa. Maybe I need to think about a tablet plus 3g usb dongle?

    In my recent experience, there are plenty of coverage ‘holes’ outside the largest of urban centres — what *do* you call the process when moving from Three coverage to Orange and back again? And what causes calls and data connections to drop or hang if not a problem with a ‘hand-over’?

    @Ben – I can believe part of the problem is the E65 struggling to handle the data. But almost all the sites I visit are largely text-only. While viewing sites with either the Nokia browser or Opera mini, I’ve really come to notice the >5 secs pause before anything seems to happen — and that’s after the 3 secs wait before it asks if I’d really like to use the only bloody connection available at the time…

    Thanks for both your comments and helping me understand more about the complexities.
    And I hope my relatively non-techy, normob attitude to a poor experience doesn’t annoy you too much.

    HeavyLight’s last blog post..Study Says Mobile Churn is Approaching 40%

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  9. Go on Whatley. Give in to the Mac side once more. I’ll be waiting for you with the shiny gadget while you fight with your quirky buggy Symbian devices 😉

    Lots of Appley love,
    Vero

    [Note: I’m not that much of a fan girl. I just like egging Whatley on because he knows deep inside, he was made for Mac.]

    Vero Pepperrell’s last blog post..Mobile World Congress: Where to find us

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  10. My current phone is a behemoth of crazy proportions (me living in Japan and all), with a digital TV tuner, built in RF payment card system and an ape-ton of other features and I would trade it in for my old Nokia n73 in a heartbeat because of the intuitive (mostly) menu system and the customisability. On a recent trip to the UK I felt like a new man being able to use my OLD phone again.
    I don’t see what all the iPhone fuss is about, just carry a diamond around to make youself look flash and maybe join a club for cool people or something. One that won’t let me in because I won’t prostrate myself at the feet of Jobs and recite the Brand Loyalty Creed. The Emperor’s New Phone is a watse of money and brand loyalty is just another phrase for sheepish idiocy.
    That said, I’m sticking with Nokia.

    Joe Cooper’s last blog post..A Mini (Cooper) Adventure

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  11. @Heavylight:

    “In my recent experience, there are plenty of coverage holes outside the largest of urban centres what *do* you call the process when moving from Three coverage to Orange and back again?”

    Er…roaming handover? Intersystem handover? 3G-2G handover? Unfortunately, Three & Orange haven’t integrated to the point that data sessions hand over, hence why a connection will drop. In my personal experience of Vodafone’s much-Whatley’d coverage, same-operator 3G-2G handover is not the best either. Certainly not good enough to sustain a VPN connection anyway. But this is only an issue for business users who are mid-session on trains or in cars, really.

    MNO’s don’t dimension networks for such niche cases, or they’d go broke. It’s a best-efforts thing.

    “And what causes calls and data connections to drop or hang if not a problem with a hand-over?”

    Latency, timeouts, cell congestion, interferance – take your pick! There’s a whole lot of the net to go wrong apart from the air interface. Delivering what a few years back would have been considered impossible speeds is now routine, so we tend to forget just how far we have come. and where we are now will seem like the 9k6 modem days once LTE (100MBps download, anyone?) starts to roll out around 2015.

    /m

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  12. Come over to the dark side Mr Whatley, you know it makes sense. Resistance is futile and all that stuff. You will be assimilated, honestly you will.

    Lets all just get one thing straight and try and keep it that way, please. The iPhone does not cost 900. It costs precisely 269 for the 8GB model and 329 for the new 16GB model. If you want to marry it up with your own 35/pm mobile contract with the operator of your choice then it is clearly something that you can do. But for heavens sake, let us all dispense once and for all with this nonsense about the iPhone costing 900 across its contract life. It would only do that if for your 35 you got nothing else. As it happens, with O2 what you do get is 600 mins and 500 texts per month, unlimited EDGE and WiFi courtesy of The Cloud and a rather novel Visual Voicemail. Examine O2’s current tariffs and you will see that there is nothing to compare with any other phone.

    What you are buying into with the iPhone is an unsubsidised handset – but try and get one with the iPhone’s capabilities for anywhere near 269 and you will fail. But you will be asked to pay more than 400 for another brand with similar features. Remember, also, that the early adopters of the N95 and latterly the N95 8GB paid handsomely for their handsets when taking out contracts. Only when very many were sold did the price come down – and still they are only available free on high-value but comparably inferior contracts (unless mins and texts alone are your bag).

    I have the pair – N95 and iPhone, and I can tell you that I much prefer the latter to use especially for browsing. It is a positive joy over the N95 which often has its native browser usurped for Opera Mini – that says it all. The difference between EDGE and 3G/HSDPA for web pages on these mobile handsets is indistinguishable. And when using WiFi (home or The Cloud) the iPhone trounces the N95 every time, it is just so much faster. Navigation with the iPhone is a snip – effortless and again easy. And I have yet to see anyone not be able to operate an iPhone on first holding, unlike the N95 which completely loses them. Don’t get me wrong. The N95 is a highly capable device and I have one for good reason.

    But when comparing like for like between the N95 and the iPhone the latter does rather win out in so many ways, even with its [in places] lower spec. Considering it is a first generation device against the Nokia N95’s vintage Apple have to be applauded. That they have stirred up so much emotion that is still causing much wrenting of sackcloth and rubbing in of ashes among the naysayers is a testament to the impact that this immodest little device has had on the population at large. I hear it talked about in the street, on the train, in cafes and restaurants, in the office and peoples homes.

    Object of desire? Possibly. Disruptor? Most definitely – and now let us sit back and see what the market responds with, all these months later. Nice one Apple, nice one.

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