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A letter to Steve Jobs about iPhone


I just finished watching your launch video for the iPhone.  You’ve got great stage presence, lad, I’ll give you that!

I think your touch screen interface is gorgeous.  The velocity sensitive gestures are a stroke of genius.

But reinventing the phone?  C’mon…You’ve put a softphone on a handheld device.  It’s been done before, perhaps not as slickly, but it’s nothing new.  Visual voice mail is old hat, too. Corporate unified messaging systems have had that forever. And you know, you’re right that dial by name is a better experience than dialing phone numbers.  The first Microsoft smartphones had that in 1999.  I haven’t “dialed” a phone number in years on any of the Microsoft, Nokia or RIM smartphones that I’ve owned.

Hyperbole aside, Steve, I fear that the touch screen is going to be a disaster as a phone interface.  Obviously it’s a great UI for the web and music.  Phones are different from music players, though.  People make phone calls from places where they can’t necessarily look at a screen… cars for instance. The physical feel of the dial-pad matters.  You can’t convey that with a touch screen.

The thumboard you so eagerly deride as a cheap plastic keyboard is faster and easier than tapping out numbers and letters on a touch screen.  Microsoft’s first smartphones had no thumboard either.  They do now, and it’s no accident. Thumboards are just a better user experience than going back to one finger typing.  Heck, even you accidently dialed a call to the number 4 onstage, and I know you must have rehearsed that demo a few times.

What’s with the two megapixel camera?  For the price, you ought to be at least competitive to the 3.2 megapixel cameras that Nokia ships standard.

Kudos on the WiFi capabilities. The WiFi / Edge autoswitching capability is something that nobody else really does well today. Will you be doing VoIP on WiFi too? If you can make that work well, you’ll have a winner. And don’t let your partner Cingular prevent you from doing the right thing for the customer, Steve.  If your WiFi is only good for access to the internet, then it’s really not that interesting. You know that though.  You said in your talk that “the killer app is making calls”.

I loved your demo with music, the call from Phil Shiller, and accessing the web while on the phone call.  Could you have done that if you were on the Edge network, or does it only work with WiFi access? If you can do cellular data while on a call, nice job.  Oh, and why couldn’t you have just dragged Phil’s call into the email message to address it?  His address was on screen, so it seems a little redundant to have to go and look it up again.

Steve, the bottom line is that I can’t help feeling just a little let down.  I was expecting to see voice dial, like the Blackberry Pearl supports.  I was expecting a killer presence / meetme app.  I was expecting social networking. I was expecting GPS so it can support location based services.  I was expecting a revolutionary communications appliance.

That’s not what you delivered.

Eric Schmidt really positioned your announcement best.  He said “it’s the first time all of this has come together in one place”.  You haven’t reinvented the phone, but you have built an undeniably more complete device than anything on the market today. For that, customers will no doubt reward you.



P.S.  I’m not the only one thinking this way.  Robert Scoble, Paul Kedrosky and a few others have similar views.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • athir nuaimi January 11, 2007, 4:51 am

    While I agree with all the issues raised about the iPhone, I believe what Apple is trying to do is redefine the market a bit rather than go head to head with blackberry. They want to create a new space that is more consumerish than business. As an example, a mac has never tried to be a PC. Also, the ipod does not match most other mp3 players feature for feature but still it outsells everyone else. As an example, my creaive mp3 player has a FM tuner and a line in jack. These appealed to me, the tech geek, but meant nothing to my daughter who wanted the ipod (and loves it more than any other gadget she has).

    So what we will see is that serious business people will stick to their blackberries and windows phone. That's OK with Apple as that's not where their brand is strong. But the upwardly mobile person who had a prada bag and doesn't care about corporate email or vpn access, will want this phone. And no matter what flaws us tech bloggers find, this will absolutely be the coolest phone to pull out at a bar or a social gathering.

    As Jobs said, the phone market is a 950M+ market. He does not want it all and he probably does not want to go head to head with Moto, Nokia and Samsung. He wants to carve out a new area that plays to Apples strength. Apple's strength is in the consumer side with good design, lots of coolness and decent margin.

  • Alec January 11, 2007, 6:10 am

    Athir, I agree. I only take issue with the rhetoric that says that this is a revolutionary device. This phone is a Prada bag. It's gorgeous, expensive, but not really a whole lot more functional than any other bag. People will lust after it as a status symbol.

  • Dan January 11, 2007, 4:11 pm

    I agree with you as well. The appearance and package is what it is all about, and functionally it has some cool concepts as well. The soft screen dial will be a problem no doubt, my other concern about it is just like the original Treos and iPods is that the battery will not be replaceable. I have yet to see any info on that and as most people know the battery life can get killed very quickly. None the less as much as I don’t need it and it doesn’t make much business sense, I really really want it none the less….American Consumerism at its best!

  • pramod January 16, 2007, 2:46 am

    Alec , I liked the way you expressed your thought .
    There are people who do not know or kinda do not want to say “Kudos” for something good.
    But I found something different in you.
    You have said everything.

    I completly agree with you in some of your points :

    *Only two megapixel camera.
    *Doing VoIP on WiFi too.
    *Cellular data while on a call

    I disagree with :
    *Acessing the phone calls while driving.

    You have not talked about the memory of the iphone.Seems you are least bother about that.
    After all I liked your post.

  • Roger Smith January 16, 2007, 10:48 pm

    iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?
    Well, the only solution I could fine was http://www.Cellswapper.com – they get you out of any cell phone contract!

  • Roger Smith January 17, 2007, 2:48 am

    iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?
    Well, the only solution I could fine was http://www.Cellswapper.com – they get you out of any cell phone contract!

  • iPhone Moderate July 14, 2007, 1:46 pm

    I’ve had my iPhone for several days now, and I have to say it is very cool. I’ve never seen another phone made by Microsoft or any others, that can do all the things this phone can do, so I’m not sure how you can write such an article that tries to downplay what it is.

    No single device has been able to store this much music, sync with PCs AND Macs re: contacts and calendars, display FULL web pages and not the dumb-downed mobile web pages, be as upgradeable as this phone is, or have such a cool, touch-screen interface.

    That said, though – I’m still unhappy about the lack of voice dialing primarily – BUT, that is something that can be handled with a software upgrade – and that’s cool.

    So, it is somewhat revolutionary, but it is also over-hyped. It is more than just a pretty face, definitely – but it isn’t “all that” – not yet anyway :) Apple is always leading and Microsoft is always following – one only has to look at the evolution of the PC to see that. Vista does what Mac Os’s like Tiger have been doing for a few years now. Mac IS innovative :)


  • Alec July 16, 2007, 7:25 am

    Hey Moderate — check out the Nokia N95, for starters. It’s my day to day phone — stores up to 4G of music, syncs with PC’s and Macs, displays full web pages (and Nokia has been doing this for two years), is completely software upgradeable with new apps, has a GPS, 5 megapixel camera… etc. Yeah, it doesn’t have the touch screen, but I am not sure I would want one, as I said.

    The iPhone is cool, but aside from the touchscreen, other devices have had these capabilities for a long long time.

  • Marion Anastas September 11, 2007, 5:55 am

    I am really upset about the price of the iphone. I have saved my money for the phone for at least 6 months, so I could get it. I also only got the 4 because of the price of the 8 was too much for me. I have the phone now and feel like I got an inferior product. The $100 voucher is not enough. I would like to exchange the 4 phone to get the 8, since I paid more than the price now. Also very upset about only using ATT for the service I was with verizon and had to change. I still feel that verizon is a better company and has better service than ATT, and now I am locked into a company for 2 years. You have made me doubt apple as a company and I have an apple computer. It has only been 2 months since I had the phone, and I thought I had the best. I also don't understand why you can't download music for your ring tone that is not rocket science and every other phone does it. If it was so far advanced why is it not possible? I am sad that I paid $500 for a phone and it is not state of the art. I guess I didn't think about it long enough. I hope that the future iphones don't have more features that mine because I have to wait 2 years before I can change my phone and get a updated verson. I also want to say that the speaker phone has terrible reception is is difficult to hear. I hope my comments have been heard . Thanks for listening

  • coom May 5, 2010, 9:12 am

    Iphone = Razr…soon few will even care.

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