What’s missing from iPhone

Despite all the hype over the last few days, the iPhone seems to be missing some of the key technologies and applications that are included in high-end phones these days. Three of the most important:

  • 3G. Even though much of the emphasis during Steve Jobs’ keynote was on data applications, iPhone is using Cingular’s slower data network. That makes it impractical to do things like stream video over the Web.
  • GPS. This will become increasingly important as applications incorporate location data. GPS would have been a great fit with the Google Maps application that Jobs presented.
  • Instant messaging. Jobs demoed an SMS application whose UI looked very much like iChat. But there was no mention of a true IM application that would interface with AIM or Yahoo! or MSN Messengers.

I’m fairly certain the first two will be part of the second rev of iPhone. I have to wonder whether the lack of IM integration is a concession to Cingular to protect its SMS revenues.

There are still a number of open questions that affect the desirability and total cost of the iPhone:

  • Will users be able to add their own applications? Carriers typically frown on that because it can increase support costs. But at this price, customizability is going to be important to a large percentage of customers.
  • Will users be forced to buy a data plan? Many of the really interesting uses of iPhone require data services to function. But for many users, the primary value of the iPhone (iPod + phone) can technically be had without paying a monthly fee for a data plan. Cingular can force these users into a data plan in order to buy the phone. And there’s nothing to stop Cingular from requiring a “special” (read “more expensive”) data plan to buy the iPhone.
  • Will the touch screen work as well as Apple claims? I’ve yet to see a touchscreen perform well. I specifically bought a Harmony universal remote over the Philips Pronto because it has hard buttons; I like being able to operate it without looking at the screen. When you’re driving, not having a physical send/end button may be problematic.
  • Can users select their own music for ringtones? Ringtones were glossed over in the presentation. Carriers like Cingular make a lot of money on ringtones and have been eager to hold on to that revenue. In one especially greedy case, if you buy a song from Sprint’s online music store (for $2.50!), you can’t use the song as a ringtone. You have to buy the same song again as a ringtone.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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2 Responses to What’s missing from iPhone

  1. Renato says:

    Living in Europe, where GPS is more popular than iPods, I agree with you, nobody here would spend such a considerable amount of money for a device without GPS.

  2. mukesh says:

    Latest rumor is that MP3s won’t be usable as ringtones. See Macwelt gets more iPhone details out of Apple

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