The iPhone could only come from Apple. And I’m not talking about the elegant design or the technology.
Handset manufacturers routinely cripple phone features for the U.S. market to make sure that customers use their phones in exactly the way the carrier wants. If the iPhone were built by Nokia, Motorola or Samsung, here’s some of what would be different:
- No computer-based sync of audio, photos and videos. The carriers want you to pay them every time you want to add a song, ringtone, photo or video.
- No WiFi. Some phones that are available in European markets have WiFi disabled when they jump across the pond because the carriers want to force you into their data networks.
- No free IMAP email. It’s another service the carriers can charge $10-$20 a month for.
- It would be $100-$200 cheaper. The tradeoff for getting a crippled phone is heavy subsidies from the carriers. With iPhone, there’s another consideration — the steep pricing of the iPhone protects lucrative iPod sales.
Who was at the presentation was as important as what was said. Yahoo! and Google — not Cingular — provide the sexy applications. Instead of being relegated to yet another link buried deep on a carrier-branded home page, they were star performers. Cingular was relegated to the role that carriers despise – the dumb pipe.
Why would Cingular do this? Three big reasons:
- Apple’s fan base. Now that there’s a true Apple phone, they’ll get an army of evangelists.
- Apple’s marketing savvy. From the CEO to the sales material, not many companies can generate the buzz that Apple can. How many people know who the CEO of Nokia is? Compare Apple’s Web site for the iPhone to Samsung’s for the Blackjack.
- Apple’s retail stores. This deal wouldn’t have happened without Apple’s strong retail presence. More than 170 Apple stores, which tend to be in the most affluent neighborhoods, suddenly become Cingular stores.
If iPhone is succesful, it may make dramatically change the way wireless service and devices are sold in the U.S. Other handset makers may be more inclined to step up their retail presence and provide full-featured handsets at premium prices.