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It’s The Interface Stupid! - Part 2

by Sachin Balagopalan on July 14, 2007 · 3 comments

iphone_tour_1.jpg

This week a couple of JP Morgan analysts on opposite ends of the world were giving conflicting information to their clients about the iPhone’s future. A JPM analyst in Taiwan suggested (based on sources and recent patent filings) that Apple will be coming out with a $300 version of the iPhone that will replace the iPod Nano possibly in the fourth quarter. His colleague in New York on the other hand totally disagreed saying that it would be foolish for Apple to discontinue one of its most successful product lines with a carrier-centric low-end phone, instead suggesting that Apple’s top priority for the iPhone would be the faster 3G network.

So what exactly is in store for the Jesus Phone? In part 1 of this post I raised the point that if you stripped down the user interface there is really not much of a phone there - as the JPM analyst in New York said “a carrier-centric low-end phone”, running on the slower EDGE network to boot. On the other hand does the average user really care about what’s underneath the hood? In my opinion I don’t think your “average user” (who has around $600 to spend) is really too concerned about throughput and bit rates. The slick UI is all they care about and the fact that they own one of the hottest devices on the planet right now. A report filed by the American Technology Research firm states, approximately 25% of all new iPhone users were considering or willing to defect from their current carriers so they can own an iPhone. If this holds true then Apple’s strategy to “use” a second tier network to lure customers away from the likes of Verizon and Sprint and in the process shift the power nucleus to the device rather than the carrier seems to be working. It would be interesting to find out what percent of the 25% defectors are “high end users” i.e they owned $300+ phones from their previous carriers (my haunch is probably a significant percent of them did).

I think it’s a no-brainer - Apple needs to eventually come out with a scaled down $300 or less version of the Jesus phone if they want to tap the “low end” user base. It is pretty apparent by now that the slick user interface is the dangling carrot that’s backing up all the initial marketing hype. Replacing the Nano or not remains to be seen although allowing the user the option to use all non-phone features without requiring an active AT&T service plan will render that a non-issue. There is no technical reason why they can’t allow that. It’s pretty clear that Steve Jobs and Apple want to wrestle away the power and control from the carriers and that’s the only logical reason as to why the service plan is mandatory. A scaled down version will enable the folks who can’t afford the $600 device to dump their existing carriers and switch over to AT&T.

I think we are watching the beginning of the end of these cellular carriers dictating the type of devices we can own. Its about time the customer or the user be allowed to buy a cell phone of their choice and have it enabled on any network they choose.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

teliczan 07.15.07 at 2:11 pm

The user interface and styling back up the marketing and public relations that make this phone so desirable. If any of these components were missing, the excitement over the iPhone would be a fraction of what we are seeing.

eibrahim 07.15.07 at 4:59 pm

The interface is great but I have some issues with it that I blogged about at http://emad.blogstogo.com/2007/07/11/28-things-i-hate-about-my-iphone-and-yours/

It really bugs me that there is no back/forward navigation between running apps… Also #28 really bothers me :)

Kevin 07.16.07 at 5:01 pm

This is an interesting issue, as Apple is really competing against itself with a “low-end iPhone” option. It they release it, they canabalize one of their primary revenue streams (Nano). However, if they don’t release it, Motorola and gang will copy the interface and sell iPhone-type devices on the cheap. And of course you’ve got the MS Zune Phone speculation that’s out there, too.

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