Spoutin' Off: What makes the iPhones worth $600?
By Michael Rau
July 2, 2007
I hadnt planned on writing about the new Apple iPhone this week I really hadnt. I figured that there were more than enough tech writers providing endless copy about the device and its sundry ramifications to satisfy everyone.
Still, being more than curious myself, and not being amongst the top pantheon of writers provided with a device in advance to test and review, I went Web surfing just to see what others out here are saying.
As I perused, what I really found to be rather stunning was the sheer volume of hype surrounding the introduction of this little gizmo. All I could think was: Jeez, people
Its a cell phone, for gosh sakes!
Im a bit of a dinosaur in that I use my cell phone as a phone, and not much else. Im rarely away from one of my computers for so long that I need to check email, or do something else requiring me to go online.
Still, I know many people addicted to their crackberries. They tell me they dont know how they ever got along without it.
So is it the crackberry addicts looking for a stronger dose driving the hype? Maybe partially, but a lot of it is coming from Apple aficionados who probably wouldnt be interested if it didnt carry that little fruit logo on it.
I ran a search in Google News using the term iPhone and came back with 13,946 hits. Thats a lot of coverage for a consumer electronics device, which brings up the classic chicken or egg conundrum. Is all the media due to the fact that its worth the hype, or is the hype just a product of all the media?
I guess that remains to be seen. If youre one of those whove gone out and bought one since their official launch at 6 p.m. last Friday, perhaps youd be so kind as to write me and tell me why you bought one and how you like it, so far.
But all the hype and subsequent prognostication about the iPhones potential for success also made me realize something else. Im not the only person who is reconsidering just what the iPhone is.
As news of the coming iPhone launch started coming out, this idea started coalescing in my mind, but never quite became clear until now. It seems so obvious.
As a cell phone, the iPhone is utterly irrelevant.
Anyone can make a cell phone, these days. And as has become evident due to a recent upsurge in advertising from Apples and AT&Ts competitors, there are lots of cool and novel configurations already available.
Lets face it a cell phone is a cell phone. Whatever else it is has little relevance to that basic function. Whether you use it to listen to music, surf the Web, watch streaming video, none of those functions has anything to do with the phone function, except insofar as you use the cellular function to connect to the Internet.
All these other functions are those commonly found on a personal computer. Which brings me to my point.
I personally think what youre seeing in the iPhone may represent the future of portable computing, more than cell phones. It was as much a means of introducing their touch-screen technology as anything.
Youve probably seen one of the TV ads for the iPhone by now, and no one who has can deny how phenomenally elegant the touch sensitive interface is.
Its also quite obvious that the software native on the iPhone really does make the stripped down operating systems running on Palms and Blackberrys and their ilk look like something from a previous era.
Apples competitors, which in this case are the major cell phone manufacturers, say they have cellular devices in the pipeline to directly challenge the iPhone in this regard, but I have a sneaky suspicion theyre at least a couple of years away from catching up with this technological breakthrough.
In fact, its likely that Apple will utilize this new technology in devices of their own maybe even by integrating it into a new iMac computer - before the other guys can produce a comparable interface system.
The big clue to me is actually something that has reviewers taking pot shots at the device. It utilizes second-generation, rather than third-generation cellular technology. 3G cell systems have vastly expanded multimedia capabilities when compared to 2G systems.
However, if your device is running a full-featured browser with integrated multimedia systems, the need for the advanced cell network represented by 3G becomes much less of a consideration.
Walt Mossberg called the iPhone a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer, and thats precisely what makes the iPhone special. Dont think about it as paying $600 for a cell phone. What youre actually buying is the most unique and functional Internet appliance yet created one thats just a step or two away from being a fully functional personal computer that fits it the palm of your hand.
From that perspective, $600 aint bad.
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
Copyright © 2007, Daily Press