The iPhone is sadly one Apple product that I simply don’t lust after. The Apple TV is of course a very close second. I’m coming off as a Luddite but I think a phone is first and foremost a phone and in this day and age the cell phone is the modern day version of a little black book. It’s also my portable email client when I’m away from the computer.
Still, there are a couple things that would make me want to buy an iPhone and I’m sure at some point in the future they’ll make one that I really want or spur a cheap imitation to take their best features. Seriously, I would buy a Sony Vaio with an officially licensed copy of OS X in a heartbeat. It would probably be smaller, lighter and not burn my legs if I used it as a laptop.
Put a Keyboard on It
This is one of the things that boggle me about the decision to have “Multi-touch” input. Not only is there no keyboard but there’s no stylus either. Using stylus input on the Nintendo DS or even a Palm is still a challenge with lots of words rendered wrong (yes my handwriting is bad but it’s also bad in a consistent way). Keyboards and number pads are still the most natural and error-free input method for the average user unless you are going to exclusively use it as a phone and email reader.
If going the touch screen route a stylus is essential. The fact is without any tactile feedback (the little bounce we get from the keyboard) we end up hurting our fingers no matter how gentle we touch the screen. Try pretend typing on the nearest hard surface and you’ll see what I mean. Eventually all the grease from your hands makes input more error prone and the screen starts looking ugly with scratches. If the iPod clear finish is any indication we don’t have any hopes for a scratch-free surface.
Voice Input Perhaps?
This is definitely related to the first point but not quite the same. I think voice input is the future for inputting text not only for phones but even computers. We can not only type faster but also avoid any kind of stress injuries from typing. There is always the debate about privacy and nuisance of people speaking to their devices but I think these are things that can eventually be overcome. Many busy business executives rely on dictation to crank out more work and eventually technology will bring this to the masses.
If the iPhone had good voice input it would definitely make the touch screen-only input less of a handicap. I hate typing messages into a phone regardless of how it’s done because it simply doesn’t compare to having a full-size keyboard. Voice input would be nice. If I have to write a long reply on the phone I usually call the person up.
Don’t let Steve’s distortion field fool you. This iPhone is huge. Check out the iPhone size comparisons. I know it doesn’t seem like much on a glance but remember that you have to carry this around with you everywhere you go. I only have limited space in my pockets and I prefer to travel bag-free to the point of simply walking around with a bare book in hand at times. I use one of those waterproof G-shock phones which I love because it can take a punishment but even that is borderline bulky. They’re cramming TVs, radios, music players into our phones but I simply long for the day when they run out of things to cram and focus on shrinking it and durability.
The iPhone’s no exception. Once the novelty wears off and your friends refuse to bat an eyelash when you whip out your iPhone, you’re stuck with a bulky, over-priced device. Luck you.
If the iPhone was opened to third party developers I’m sure we’d see a lot of interesting applications that might make someone want to buy one. It would be like the Firefox of phones (only hopefully less bloated and more stable). Apple and whatever carrier they license it to can’t know what every user wants.
Maybe Next Time
I simply don’t trust Apple when it comes to their track record with hardware. Especially when they first release something. I can guarantee you that we’ll see lots of indignant user reports about a variety of defects and software bugs. Apple is also known to drag their feet on these matters so it’s always better to avoid buying anything newly released.
Take Out the Phone
I’d be tempted to buy an iPhone more if it wasn’t a phone. It looks like a great PDA. I suspect that some users will buy a phone and cancel their contract if the iPhone’s other functionalities continue to work (not sure it will). All my adventures using a Palm PDA have been miserable failures but for some magical reason I’d be willing to give it another try if it was an Apple PDA. Taking out the phone functionality means less bulk and less cost. It sure would make a great iPod replacement if it came with a bigger hard-drive.
And no, I’m not an iPhone hater or detractor. I think it has potential.