I believe that electronics consumers are savvier then they were 20 years ago, and are not as easily fooled by marketing statistics and checklists. They are a very “show me” bunch, wanting to see it before they believe it. If so, this bodes very well for Apple’s iPhone.
However, it’s clear many technicians and pundits of the world are still stuck in “statistics and checklists” land. How else to explain the belief by some that the iPhone has nothing really new to offer? It’s all been done before. They’ll mention a smartphone with a touch screen and say it’ll do email, it’ll do web, etc., as if the ability to “do” those things is all it takes to be an iPhone. These are the same type of people who felt Microsoft Windows was just like the Mac because it would “do” windows and menus.
I picked this blog entry as representative of the breed. It follows the usual formula: Pick one iPhone feature, show another phone that also has it (or at least appears to), and then claim the iPhone is nothing special:
“Many people are quick to state how “amazing” the iPhone’s interface is. Well I have news for you, Palm has had this interface since 1996, when the first Palm came out. Let us first look at a more recent Palm device, the Palm TX. Note the fact that there are icons on the screen. These icons represent applications that can be used. By tapping the touch-screen interface, you can activate a program.”
So, since Palm also launches apps with a button touch it’s no big deal. That’s it. There’s nothing to see here. But touch launching an application is hardly what sets the iPhone apart; Apple never made any great claims about it. Apple posted iPhone ads focusing on the interface. They show how different it is than anything before. To the author of that post I’d recommend “How to”. That is most definitely not a Palm!
Another example of this “just as good” philosophy is this video. The video, like the blog, shows how superficial these claims are. Someone slapped an iPhone sleep screen and main menu on a Windows phone. Big deal, yet they act like that’s all the iPhone is about. People, the devil’s in the details, and Apple sweats those, unlike Palm or Microsoft. Once you get past the iPhone-rip-off menu, the beauty stops. It’s amazing some people think the iPhone is only about the main menu, and nothing further!
For example, look at the iPhone’s web browser in “Watered Down”. Don’t just see the web page and think there may be a few phones that might render the page as well (the vast majority can’t). It goes deeper than that. See the interface customization for the smaller screen, so a double-tapped photo fills the screen while retaining full scrolling? See a double-tap on a column also fills the screen? See the swapping of landscape and portrait view, using the best for the material you’re viewing? It’s a beautiful optimization allowing the screen to be rendered as a real web page, yet quickly manipulated for easy reading.
Perhaps some people read the blog or saw the video and were fooled. Are they incapable of looking all the way through an interface? Do they only have enough attention span to look at the first couple levels, and then go numb and never wonder if the rest of the interface lives up to the promise? As I said in the opening, I think people are savvier now. They recognize ease of use and consistency when they see it. If not, many people will be getting a cheap iPhone knock-off saying it’s “just as good.”
If you don’t want a smartphone, that’s great. However, if you’re considering a smartphone then you owe it to yourself to look deeper. Go to an Apple store and see the iPhone in action, then see those same tasks on the competitor of your choice. It will likely be no contest. It isn’t 20 years ago, “just as good” is no longer good enough.