Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The New iPhone

I'm as excited as the next guy about the new Apple iPhone. I think it's a big deal and I think it has the potential to put the Blackberry and its clones out of business and kill Microsoft's already embarrassing entry into the mp3 player market.

But it's not all so revolutionary as we'd like to think. Why? There are issues on both ends.

First, look at functionality. The Motorola alpha-numeric pager at right is the last pager I had before I switched to my first mobile phone. The beauty of this pager, which dates back to the late 90s, is that I got weather, sports, business, news, and stock updates -- free of charge -- 24 hours a day. It was amazing. My point? I have yet to own a phone, ten years later that will give me that kind of simple information. Yes, I could pay between $5 and $20 a month to connect my phone to the internet via a slow-ass rudimentary web browser. But After getting constant updates for free last century, why would I want to?

I look at the shiny photos of the new iPhone and I see icons that look like Apple's dashboard widgets and I think 'holy shit! wouldn't it great if I could get all that on my phone?' And then I remember. Motorola was doing it for me with my pager. And then they stopped doing it. It may be better, but it ain't new.

I tried like crazy to download subway maps for my Motorola mobile phone. I have them for my ipod -- iSubway Maps has them for lots of cities, including London, Tokyo, and Moscow. Why can't I get this on my phone?

What I'm saying is this: the Apple iPhone will be great, but half its features have been available in other places for years, and I'm annoyed that we're so excited now that they've come back. They're not new, they're late.

My second issue has to do with Motorola, too. The ROKR was a phone (I write this as if it were as old as the pager) that Motorola did with Apple's cooperation. It was to be an mp3 phone, a sort of hasty farmed-out version of what someone might imagine an Apple mobile phone might be -- only without the distinct Apple styling. The problem is, it only fits 100 songs, which, as my brother (who is not an owner) complained, that isn't even as good as the ipod Shuffle.

The new Apple iPhone has a similar problem. While it does run on the same operating system that my Apple laptop does, at 4 and 8GB, it has a significantly smaller amount of storage space than my video ipod. Why should we think the iPhone will be any more successful than the ill-fated ROKR?

And then there's Apple's exclusive deal with Cingular, a wireless provider that I don't have a contract with. I'm not an early adopter, but if by the time I'm in the market for an iPhone they still have that deal with Cingular and haven't begun to offer it with other providers, I won't be paying a $200 penalty to get out of my contract to get one. It ain't worth it.

Finally, I'm also wary of any device that tried to do everything for me. I don't want a talking car that uses satellites to prevent me from getting lost. I don't even want a car that shifts gears for me. Why would I want a phone that's camera that's a stereo system that's a personal computer that's a GPS unit?

My dad gave me an old pocket watch for Christmas this year. It's fancy but it probably isn't worth Antiques Roadshow prices. I like it because it was passed down from his grandfather to him and now to me. I also like it because it reminds me of how elegant something functional can be. But then, this watch was designed to last for a while. I'm guessing I won't be passing along my first generation ipod to my son and my son's son's son. That's the beauty of a mechanical piece of equipment that runs on a winder. I don't need proprietary software, I don't need batteries, I don't even need an external power source.

Sometimes, when I leave my apartment for the bodega down the street, I forget my mobile phone. I'll panic when I realize it. But then I'll relax. I don't need all this technology for my day-to-day life. I don't care that this pocket watch doesn't tell me the weather. I can just go outside and feel it. Looking at this old pocket watch, and then at my old ipod, the watch looks almost permanent. I can use it still.

Back to the new iPhone, which comes out in June: I can forsee its obsolescence already.


Blogger The Masticator said...

From Jason Kottke makes a cardboard iPhone and compares its size to everything.

10:27 PM  

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