12 June 2008

Point/Counter-Point: The iPhone 3G

Point/Counter-Point is a new segment that I hope will be a joint effort set forth with AJ and his blog where we can discuss the highlights and pitfalls of forthcoming techno-gadgets (or even currently available ones), helping consumers make informed decisions before they buy.


The iPhone. For more than a year, we've heard, used, and for many, even owned the device that is being hearalded as the "Best Invention of 2007." With its slim design, sleek interface, space for countless hours of videos and music, and Internet access using Safari, many critics believed that it was the best smartphone ever. Then the counter-critics, like myself, chimed in, saying that the phone was no different than many other music phones available, merging music and video with WiFi and cellular Internet access in a touchscreen device, something that's been around for quite some time in the form of many popular Windows Mobile phones. After many purchased the product and loved its interface for its simplicity, they began to realize that their beloved device fell short in the wireless Internet access realm on many fronts - particularly using the EDGE GSM networks for Internet access when other competing devices were already being released with full 3G AND HSDPA support, or being able to purchase music over-the-air (OTA).So what was Apple to do? If they were to keep up with the times and ensure that their stranglehold on consumers' pocketbooks remained as strong, if not stronger, than ever, they would definitely have to do something for their iPhone, and do it quick.

Alas, 2008 is here, and the Apple has unveiled the successor to their original iPhone in the form of the iPhone 3G. Looking almost exactly like its predecessor, the new iPhone implements a new 3G GSM radio and GPS support. Other than this, not much else has been improved except for the 2.0 firmware that it will sporting features that make use of these two hardware improvements. So, is it really worth its merit? Possibly, and here's why (like I wasn't going to give you my reasoning):


  1. Still lagging behind in the "innovative tech" sector, the iPhone does not introduce anything new to the world other than it is employing these new technologies in a device that is dumbfoundedly popular amongst consumers. Why is it so popular? Because it has a flashy, easy-to-use interface. That's about it. The introduction of GPS and 3G into the iPhone is nothing new to me, as I've been using 3G for the last 2 phones that I've had, and integrated GPS for my current phone (the HTC TyTN/Hermes and HTC TyTN II/Kaiser). In fact, functionality like LBS (location-based services) aren't new either, as I've been able to use a conglomeration of GPS and cell tower-based LBSs for 2 years now. And I've also had Push services ever since my FIRST HTC based device, the Qtek 9100/HTC Wizard - though Apple does bring one small, but still quite useful improvement in this in the form of push file sync. And on the Bluetooth technology front, there still is no word on whether or not you will be able to use wireless Bluetooth stereo headsets with the device, something I'm sure some people want so that they can keep the device in their pockets and not be tethered to it with a silly cable (another feature that I've been able to do since the release of the first iPhone). So, technology-wise, the iPhone is pretty much the same as any other Windows Mobile-based device - except for its iPhone interface, which us Windows Mobile-users are slowly getting better versions of, even our own unique styles. For techno-buffs like myself, this is a definite turn-off from the iPhone, as buying it would still put you behind in the realm of the latest-and-greatest.


  2. 3rd-party software support: The initial iPhone was tauted as a smartphone device, but was only as smart as the software it had already installed. Without jailbreaking and hacking the phone, native 3rd-party software support was impossible. The closest you could get to 3rd-party software was a web-based system, which required Internet access. No signal? No dice. Now, Apple has finally wisened up and introduced the iPhone SDK for developers to allow native 3rd-party apps to be written and run on the iPhone. From the WWDC '08 keynote that I watched, the SDK tools were quite impressive, though still not fully integrated. Unfortunately, you still can only buy your stuff directly from the Apple Store, which means that you may be paying a lot more than you would on a Windows Mobile device since companies will attempt to offset the 30% revenue expense Apple places on paid software downloads by raising prices. The "you have to go to the Apple online store to buy and download your stuff" still bothers me since it shows that they are monopolizing on the fact that anything you pay for they will get a chunk of the revenue, whereas with Windows Mobile, though you still have the option to go to an online software store, you can also purchase applications directly from vendors, if they have the option. And not to mention the fact that the haunting 3-letter acronym quickly flittered past the numerous slides they had at the WWDC keynote: DRM. Nobody hates more than me, since I get new devices quite often and in some cases have them only for a short time before switching back, in a trial-sense. I would hate to have to re-purchase my software at $9+ a pop each time I want to have the software on my device. And, though yes there are some softwares for Windows Mobile devices which are device-specific, many of the useful apps that I have are not, but rather license-specific, allowing me to move my software from device-to-device.

  3. The only advantage that the new iPhone will have over its bigger-brother Windows Mobile-based devices is its price tag. At $199 with a 2-year service contract for the 8GB model, it is one of the most affordable smartphones on the market. And apparently, for a bit more, the 16GB model, dressed in white, can also be had when purchased with a 2-year service contract. The downside: like the original iPhone, the new iPhone requires the phone to be put on a plan of at least $39.99 with a data plan, but unlike the original, the new iPhone data plan is $10 more expensive. Why? I have no idea, but I think it has something to do with the fact that the iPhone will be cheaper and thus the subsidies are greater and they need to offset it, and the fact that it will be using the new 3G infrastructure more than before, thus a need for more revenue for the upkeep on the network will be needed.

Besides having been horribly misnamed as the "iPhone 3G" (the 3G stands for 3rd-Generation, by the way), the second generation iPhone horribly disappoints me for their lack of ingenuity, which Apple is known for and I have to agree. Nothing is ground-breaking for the device, except that, like the iPod, it will probably be seen everywhere, as fad aficionados try to keep up with the jones's. Oh gawd, not another RAZR...

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