Why the Apple iPhone?

August 16th, 2008

Yellow or Warm?
Creative Commons License photo: Mat Honan

I love playing with gadgets but it’s rare that something will capture my imagination in the same way that the Apple iPhone 3G has. I’m one of those who held out on buying an iPod because it seemed like an overpriced gadget just to play music when my Sony Ericsson phone did the exact same job for no additional cost.

Even the original iPhone wasn’t that exciting: the one thing it did better was that it had a better web browser than my Sony Ericsson. But the internet wasn’t any faster and a £45/mo. 18-month subscription plus £250 for the gadget was way too expensive.

I can’t say the trademark design of Apple products at all bothers me. The sole reason I want the iPhone is because it’s a fantastic platform. With faster connectivity, unlimited data usage and a decent web browser, the iPhone 3G makes browsing the internet on the move a much less painful experience. On my GSM Sony Ericsson phone, it’s not even worth bothering.

I used to have a phone on the “Three” network in the early days of 3G in the UK. Back in those days, Three operated a walled garden. You could browse “3 today” for free: watch the news on your video for 25p, buy wallpapers and song clips for £1.50 and so on. Presumbly the idea was that because customers couldn’t access any other sites, they’d have to buy content from Three. Needless to say, I didn’t buy a single thing and the brand-spanking 3G phone hit the dustbin after a week.

But on the iPhone App Store is the main attraction. It was rather amusing to read about an iPhone application which cost $1000 and did absolutely nothing but display a red glowing gem (modern art it would seem). Although a ridiculously stupid application, it highlighted the range of applications and enhancements which can be downloaded for the iPhone.

Creative Commons License photo: justinluey

I don’t want an iPhone because it’s cool or because it’s got great features. I want the iPhone because it’s an open platform and will allow me to access the information that I want and to run the programmes that I want to, when I want. It’s been rumoured that the iPhone will cost £300 on Pay As You Go. That’s probably at least three times the cost of any other decent phone on the market. But it’s a premium I’m willing to pay. By breaking with the standard practice of restricting choice of software on mobile phones, Apple might have lost a few software sales (though if it was good software, I’d probably buy it anyway). But for me, it’s added at least £200 to the value of the iPhone.

I don’t think there could be a clearer example of how opening your product up adds to its value and profitability, rather than takes away from it. Success stories such as Google, Facebook and Mozilla have all opened up their development and allowed people to build products on top of their platform. And they’re reaping the rewards. It’s time we all learnt to do the same.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Tim said:

    Talk of walled-gardens is rather beside the point. One2one (*spit*!) had that years ago too. Buy a phone saying “internet” and spend the rest of the night reading TFM wondering exactly what bit of it purports to have anything to do with even HTTP outside the telco’s own network, let alone anything else.

    Interestingly, last December I chose the Nokia N95 on 3 because it has everything I wanted: working bluetooth, reasonable browser, lots of third-party apps thanks to a development platform, 5MPel camera, GPS, maps, skype and various other IM protocols, media player, etc etc. All this on an 18-month tariff from 3 that gave me “all the internet you can eat for a fiver”, bringing it to £30/month and the phone unit itself was free.

    I am seriously amazed at how fast it’s integrated itself into my driving life – blasting noise over the radio whilst tracing where I’ve got to on the map. It was a complete sanity-saver on holiday this summer – sitting on the beach in northern ireland watching people surfing in the sun, tapping away in fring to skype and yahoo IM contacts. Raaarrrr.

    Oh, and 3 can’t delete applications I’ve paid for & installed remotely, unlike with the iphone, either.

  2. Paul said:

    I quite agree with you concerning the iPhone. Actually, what is great with the iPhone is that it is doing exactly the same with other phones as new MacBooks did with other computers: it brings a huge amount of innovations, it changes our ways to user our cell phones… What other brands (Nokia, Samsung, Sony…) couldn’t do! Indeed, it is quite hard to change so quickly its business model… So, such a sudden change could only be done by a new builder!

    Apple did great. The iPhone is far from being perfect of course, but its attempt to bring a revolution to the cell phones world… succeeded!

  3. Constable Odo said:

    I didn’t think that everyone believes the iPhone platform is exactly open. I believe it’s said to have far too many restrictions to be of any use and that’s why so many developers are up in arms.

    The thing that really puzzles me is that the Palm platform which has been around for ages and is said to be totally open doesn’t seem to be doing all that well. The company itself seems to be going down and so do the number of people purchasing Palm handsets. I don’t think the Palm Pro is going to change many minds, either.

  4. neonDragon said:

    I have bought a Nokia E71 which will be arriving on Monday. I have had an E90, N80 all with Symbian Series 60.

    I’ve used the iPhone a little in Apple stores, and the interface is leaps and bounds above ‘old style’ Symbian interfaces. I love using SIP, internet radio, voice commands on Symbian, and T-Mobile’s unlimited data tarriff is very nice.

    What I hate about Symbian is that the interface is slow and non-intuitive (I know my way around now, but from a human interfaces point of view it’s poor). The web browser on N80 was horrible, very slow, hard to navigate, hard to type in… many pages didn’t work properly. On E90 it was faster and websites generally seemed to work better. Apparently the E71 browser is comparable to E90 but unfortunately it’s still nowhere near the iPhone’s browser.

    Currently I go on websites on a mobile phone to find information when I have no reasonable alternative, like, searching cinema times when I’m out but not at the cinema. It’s something I avoid doing if at all possible, but it doesn’t have to be like that in this day and age.

    3rd party applications are my main reason for not going the iPhone route at the moment. I like to put IRC, radio, jabber client on my phone. Apple have encouraged developers to create apps for their platform far better than Nokia, so with a fast expanding library of applications, my next phone after I tire of my E71 may well be an iPhone. But then again, I’m really looking forward to using the E71’s blackberry-style QWERTY keypad. We’ll see. 🙂

    As a footnote… PocketPC… don’t bother O.o

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