The iPhone 3g is upon us, and it’s the only thing the Interwebs will be able to talk about for the next week or two. I’m not a fan of OSX, or an Apple fanboy, so it might surprise some people that I will be waiting in line on Friday to get one of these things. Sure, there are plenty of valid criticisms of the iPhone. It’s not anywhere close to being perfect, but I still think it’s the best thing out there.
When you want to understand why I’m buying the iPhone, you have to understand my past phone experience. I’ve got the LG VX8600 from Verizon right now. My parents pay for it on a family plan. It’s the third phone I’ve owned, and the two phones I had before it were only really capable of making calls. This phone can actually do quite a bit, especially when it comes to playing music. However, it does all those things poorly. When I first got the phone, I played with all of the features extensively. After a few days, I went back to just using it to make calls, and not much else. I even had a Blackberry at my last job. I installed a bunch of fancy apps on it, but the only thing I ever really used was the company e-mail. Even an old Treo is better than any device I have ever had.
Since I’m a software engineer by profession, it’s really pretty sad that I have been completely out of the loop when it comes to mobile computing. The reason is that every device I have had has a crappy user interface. You could have a phone with all the features in the universe, completely open source, but if the UI sucks, it is useless. This is why mobile Safari has so much market share compared to the market share of the iPhone. Even though plenty of phones have browsers, people actually use the one on the iPhone. Many people have phones with music players built in, but they use a separate iPod. The bad user interface makes the feature worthless. I would argue that the iPhone actually has more features than any other phone based on the fact that other devices with more features have bad interfaces that make those features effectively nonexistent.
The biggest reason to get the iPhone is because it will reduce the number of devices I carry every day. Right now I carry a separate phone and iPod. I also don’t have a GPS. Now I can have all three of those, and more, in a single package. This is such an unbelievably huge benefit to the iPhone that is not emphasized nearly enough. Sure, there are other devices that encompass all these features, but like I said, if the UI is bad, the feature effectively doesn’t exist. The iPhone is a usable phone, usable portable media player, and usable GPS in one single device. Only having to carry one thing, instead of three, that alone is worth a lot more money than Apple is charging.
There is some competition for the iPhone that has good arguments going for it, but none of them win. The Nokia N95 is great, but it really can’t compete with the iPhone when it comes to media playing. I would still need an iPod if I got an N95. The Nokia N810 would be almost perfect, but it isn’t a phone. Put a 3G radio in it, and I’m sold. Android is looking like it might be the best for me, as I am a heavy user of Google Apps. However, that also doesn’t look like it will have adequate media playing capabilities. The Android phones have perfect Google integration, but nothing else. The iPhone wins on all other fronts, except it has relatively poor, but satisfactory, interaction with Google’s apps.
There is an issue with the providers. I really would much rather have Verizon than AT&T. But does it really matter that much? We’re complaining that we don’t have our choice of which of the evil carriers to go with. If there were a good carrier, I could see complaining, but there is not. Every carrier sucks. No matter what you do, you have to suffer with one of them. If it’s AT&T instead of Verizon getting your money, does it really mean anything? I live in NY, so I have decent coverage at my house and job. That’s really all that matters.
Lastly, the iPhone is the most popular platform. The most popular platform gets all the goodies. The app store will be loaded with everything we want that Apple allows. There will be a lot more software for iPhone than for any other mobile platform, I guarantee it. There will also be more accessories made for the iPhone, more web sites specifically designed to look good on iPhone, and the list goes on. The world will bend itself to accomodate iPhone users. Being an iPhone user will be a lot easier and lot more convenient than using anything else.
The iPhone isn’t perfect by any means, but what device is? Sure, we would all love it if it had a bigger removable battery, physical keyboard, wifi podcatcher, turn by turn GPS, etc. They are all valid criticisms, but on the same token, many people have unrealistically high expectations. If you only ever bought electronic devices when they were absolutely perfect in every way, people would mistake you for a Luddite.
The reason I’m buying the iPhone is that it has enough features that it crosses the line. Those features have a decent enough interface that I will actually use them, instead of just paying extra money for a device I only use to make calls. The popularity of the iPhone will gaurantee that there is a large amount of support for the device. It’s a huge step up from where I am now. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best I can get right now, and it will definitely be able to hold me over for two years. At that point in time, there will definitely be a far superior device to switch to. For now, the iPhone is the winner.