iPhone 3G Plays Catch Up

It was the big Apple iPhone 3G/2.0 announcement on Monday, with everyone hanging by their bare fingernails waiting for Steve Jobs to proclaim the next iPhone goodies from Apple. Rumors ranged from colored iPhone models to video chat. The biggest news was a price reduction, offering the current iPhone model at $199, and the sale of iPhones in 70-some international markets. Here's my take on Apple's iPhone 3G phone and iPhone 2.0 software announcements.

Category: Playing Catch Up, or Welcome to 2007, iPhone

  • Exchange Active Sync / Push Email - A fundamental must for business, technical and everyday users who want an iPhone that works with their company's Microsoft Exchange server. No new news here. Everybody knew it was a big limitation of the iPhone, and we knew it would be part of this announcement based on Jobs' preview.
  • 3G network. 2.8x faster than EDGE on the iPhone. Now users won't hesitate bringing out their iPhones around other smartphone users for fear of being subject to yet another web page download speed test. Nuf' said.
  • GPS - And GPS wasn't in the original iPhone, because? Another must have feature for every mobile device that wants to claim it's more than a phone.
  • Microsoft Office and iWork document viewing: Now, look at those attachments, like you wanted to in 2007.
  • Remote wipe capability. That's another must have for any business user, and should be for every other user for that matter who cares about not having their personal or business data stolen on a lost iPhone.

  • Cisco VPN and WPA security WiFi support.
  • Talk on the phone concurrent with using the data network. This was a limitation on many older PDA/SmartPhones. I remember interrupting my data connection to my laptop when a phone call comes in. While iPhone users still can't tether, at least they can use the data and voice features at the same time.

Category: Fixing What Needed Fixing, or again, Welcome to 2007, iPhone

  • Contact Search - Finding contacts when you had a large number of contacts was difficult. Nice to have that fixed as this was another gotcha for business users with lots of contacts.
  • Photo Saving - Now save photo attachments sent via email to the photo library. Nice.
  • Email bulk move and delete.
  • Redesigned headphone jack. No more clunky adapter.
  • Improved battery life. The iPhone's first battery design was uncharacteristically decent. iPhone 3G's battery supports 300 hrs of standby time, 10 hrs of 2G talk time, and 5 hrs of 3G talk time.

Category: Raising The Bar, Today and In The Future

  • Location based apps and services. Jobs hinted that the future is about location, location, location. I happen to believe this as well, though I believe voice interface is also the future of mobile applications (something the iPhone still very much lacks.)
  • Becoming the "platform": iPhone SDK. Location & social mapping apps like Loop. Easy blogging apps like the TypePad client. eBay app.

Category: What's Still Missing

  • Copy and Paste, from the people who brought you copy and paste. Wasn't it the Mac and Lisa that brought the concept of cut/copy/paste out of the Xerox labs and into the hands of computer users all over the world? Thought so. How'd that get left off the iPhone 1.0 and 2.0 software versions. That one's hard to fathom.
  • Voice command interface. As much as Apple has raised the bar in the visual department, it's severely lacking a voice command and voice record app interface. I happen to believe that voice interface is just as important or more so than visual interfaces for mobile devices. Try looking up a contact on the iPhone while driving down the highway at 75mph. On second thought, save several lives, and don't. Wait until you have voice command and record interface for the iPhone.
  • iPhone used as a tethered broadband data modem. All that data capacity makes my laptop salivate, but with no way to tether the iPhone as a modem, paying ATT all that money for unlimited broadband data access seems like a crime. Shouldn't we get carbon credits or something?
  • ATT is still the only US authorized carrier. And ATT's taking steps to help keep it that way (see below.) That's like having a new pair of Nike shoes with the laces inseparably tied together. A limitation in Apple's quest to sell 10m iPhones units this year. Bummer.
  • A 32GB iPhone. When 16GBs just isn't not enough. Can you say, memory hungry apps waiting gobble up your phone's storage memory? Expect a repeat of what happened when the iPods supported video content - whoosh, where'd all that memory go? Time to shell out more dough to the Apple Store when our iPhone's 8 and 16GB capacity isn't enough. How's that for planned obsolescence and more revenue for Apple.
  • Bluetooth

Category: Big Brother Apple, ATT Death Star

  • Hand over the 2-year contract, then we'll hand over the iPhone. That's ATT's new policy to prevent unlocked iPhones from showing up on other carriers' networks. I guess that's why they call the ATT globe logo, the "death star".
  • Will we see more iBricks? Will Apple penalize customers who download and install applications not approved through the iStore (a.k.a. AppStore)? Can I get an amen for a user replaceable battery? Amen! Might we have expandable memory (SD, flash, etc., etc.)? There's no sign of relief from the "no upgrades allowed", big brother ways of Apple.
  • More closed, locked in hardware from Apple. Now there's a guaranteed upgrade revenue stream for Jobs and more money out of our pockets for ya. And people complain about Microsoft soaking it to their customers. More reasons why Apple really is like 1984.

Category: And we needed that because?

  • Scientific Calculator - For the pocket protector scientist in all of us. Dang, now I really am going to have to pack up my slide rule and nifty holster. Balancing our checkbooks will now be infinitely easier. This one was a real puzzler to most. I suspect this was enhanced because of Apple's deep roots in education.

Apple's sold 2.8 million devices so far this year. With the stated goal of 10 million by years end, and the delay until July for shipping units, it could be a stretch for Apple to meet its own stated goals. Maybe the iPhone price cuts will give Apple that needed boost to make their numbers.

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