Why the iPhone 4 Sucks (and why Apple is in trouble)

In Gadgets, Mobile Phone, Technology on June 8, 2010 by Peekahso Tagged: , , ,

I’m going to be really fair here.  Let’s go over the pluses (+s) of the iPhone 4 that was announced this morning, as expected.  Then, let’s talk about why it screws Apple.

iPhone 4-Specific +s

1. Battery life: the battery is clocking 7 hours of talktime, or 420 minutes, approximately 100 minutes longer than many other comparable smartphones (which is substantial).
2. Sleek hardware: the industrial-chic design combines a strong stainless steel frame with a newly-developed glass encasing. While I’m not a fan of the front facade (or miniscule 3.5 inch screen), it’s still a thing of beauty, regardless the beholder.
3. Editing photos and movies (iMovie): this is really strong. While some hardcore Ansel Adams won’t find what they’re looking for, iMovie’s user-friendly interface will appease the majority of iPhone users.
3.1 Gyroscope: UHHHHSD:FJSLKFJERJ:ER. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of gamers orgasming around the world. (“…..”) Did you hear that? That’s the majority of folks who won’t know what to do with a gyroscope/have any practical uses for it. It’s a small nice and not a need, which is why it gets a 3.1.

Non-iPhone 4-Unique +s

1. The App Store: despite a slew of controversy recently, the Store still stands pretty tall above the pack. That said, Android is dramatically creeping up on iPhone’s 200K.
2. Accessory ecosystem (and compatible hardware): This goes without saying. The Apple army comes fully loaded with a plush arsenal ranging from stereo systems to casing—and it’s not going to stop anytime soon with Apple’s current Halo Effect.
3. Loyal evangelists: Last week, the veritable Nielsen published that 80% of iPhone users want their next device to run the iPhone OS (i.e. to be an iPhone). With the exception of Android’s loyalty base at 70%, Apple’s was by far the highest (so long, RIM and Windows Mobile!). While rubbing loyal fans the right way is important, the most critical elbows are Disney (Job sits on the Board and has a 25% stakeholder share—more than any other single stakeholder); Sam Mendes of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road fame directed their newest commercial; Hollywood adores Apple products; the list of Who’s Whos goes on and on.

Other features (that other phones already have but Apple finds “magical”)

1. Face Time video chatting is being promoted as a flagship feature. Too bad the EVO already announced it weeks ago and can actually run on carrier networks—the iPhone’s is limited to WiFi (for now).  This is an old-news feature; it’s all marketing smoke and mirrors.
2. A4 Processor: The iPhone’s A4 processor is 10-30% faster than Qualcomm’s 1 GHz processor, formerly the fastest on the market (that’s in the Droid Incredible)—for now.  While a processor’s speed and value is contingent on its entire hardware environment (i.e. a 1 GHz processor in one phone can be faster in another if it speaks more effectively to its surroundings), your A4 processor is going to be met with a 2 GHz processor, by winter.  Good luck with that one.

3. An improved display: While the Retina 940×640-pixel display is impressive, it’s definitely not lasting.

4. A better camera: I’m no camera expert, so all you experts out there–chime in here.  Subjectively, Jobs’ argument that the hype over pixels is over-hyped sounds like sour grapes that he can’t put an 8-ball in his babies.  It’s too bad that that’s the standard for every other phone (Incredible, X)…some are even going to 12.

5. Other blah blah that means nothing to most people (I say that 20% in jest, but am fairly serious.  These are all the value that the average consumer is going to find)

Why Apple Is In Trouble

Apple: be very, very careful, because there’s an (Android) Army that’s ready to take your place in the market, and they’re deploying now (Droid Incredible, Motorola Xtreme, etc.).  And there’s a little thing coming from Redmond that some believe is pretty special.  Oh, and there’s the rest of them.  This is hardly a revolutionary or “magical” product; this is Apple playing catch-up (and I swear—if you drop that word one more time, I’ll show you something truly magical).  All of the marketing in the world and the loyal fan base will buy you time, not insurance.  Unless Apple plans on unveiling something for the holiday season (highly questionable and currently unlikely), they’re a small fish in a big pond that gets more and more crowded every day.

That said, is the iPhone 4 going to sell insanely well? No doubt about it. But just because it sells, doesn’t mean it’s a strong piece of technology. The fact of the matter is that these short-term gains are just that, and Apple will need to pull a lot more out of its hat to compete with its competitors in the long-term. Oh, and did I mention? Long-term = a few months. It’s the grand paradox: strength is in longevity, but innovation is about speed. While the accumulation of resources, mindshare, etc. reward in the short-term, the product/company only benefits if it that can constantly innovate beyond an annual timetable. We’ll call it the More Paradox. RIP, Moore.  This is a really serious problem. Apple may enjoy its Eden-like Halo right now, but angel’s wings can be cut—especially in a world that is more multi-dimensional and more connected than ever before (and becoming increasingly so at a light-speed).

And forgive me; AT&T’s offer is “generous,” Jobs?  Try “desperate.” Verizon Wireless already has a host of contenders with many more in the pipeline (Droid Incredible, Motorola’s follow up to the Droid, etc.)—oh, and stronger management that knows what’s at stake when media consumption, internet browsing, and now video calling stretch a network’s bandwidth.  AT&T needs to keep its customers reined in so that they don’t switch over.  After all, that iPhone exclusivity contract expiration is fast-approaching.
And a few of you might think I’m crazy.  Well, let it be known that I’m not the only Voice of Reason.

In closing, I’ll end on a high note: the iPhone 4 ad is absolutely stunning. There were at least three times when my eyes started lactating. But given that the now-annual WWDC iPhone launch is arguably the summertime Superbowl ad season, I have to say that this ad takes the cake.

Till next time,

P.S.: So should you buy the iPhone 4?  No–it’s that easy.


4 Responses to “Why the iPhone 4 Sucks (and why Apple is in trouble)”

  1. Wow this is really insightful. I’m an iPhone user myself but I do agree with you. I think people will still buy it but I see what you’re saying.

  2. Question–when you say that Apple is in trouble, are you talking specifically about iPhone / mobile? Or are you making an evaluation of Apple (and its strategic direction) as a whole?

    • Great question–to make it simple, I said “Apple,” but was referring to the “iPhone.” Evaluating Apple would take a much broader narrative. That said, as I alluded to in my post, this is the second commercial win but also second objective disappointment for Apple this year (iPad, now iPhone 4). That’s not a trend that they can maintain with the pace of innovation today. Let’s hope that their interesting recent patent requests and acquisitions speak to more rapid and truly “magical” innovation that’s dawning in Cupertino.

  3. Murdoch, we’ve already spoken a little bit about your post up top, but I want to bring up the anew the one thing that’s probably keeping me back from going Android for sure: I don’t want to get left in the dust in a year. A few quick points:

    1) Android 2.2 looks awesome but phone manufacturers are gonna take forever to release their skinned version of the update. This will happen for subsequent Android updates, which will annoy the hell out of me because c’mon, I want new and cool things. At least with iOS I get it when it comes out, but possibly more importantly I know that all iOS updates in the next 2 years will work with iPhone 4, and work WELL. No slowdowns, no glitches, high performance. That’s what you get from a completely integrated platform. Google, get that under control. Let me upgrade when I want if I go Android.

    2) The iPhone 4 looks awesome, and is gonna continue to look awesome 2 years later. I’m stuck with this phone for 2 years. The hardware will still be sleek, the OS will still run smooth. Apple won’t release anything for another year so they know they have an obligation to their customers to make their phones last (I mean technologically. those glass screens however make me nervous, see here: Manufacturers release an Android phone a minute nowadays. I don’t have the same sense of care and intense R&D from a generic Android manufacturer that I get from Apple. As I said the Incredible is still plastic.

    3) A 1.5 ghz Snapdragon isn’t the answer to the A4. Not only do iPhone 4 speed tests show it to be a lot faster than Android phones, but it also has a huge battery life advantage (a claimed twice the claimed standby of the Incredible, whaaaaat?). Yes take those numbers with a grain of salt, but in the end increasing the clock speed of the Snapdragon is only going to consume more wattage. The A4 has a wholly different architecture that allows it to be just as fast while conserving energy. I want my phone to last man, that’s why a Blackberry’s still on my list of phones to consider!

    But yeah, closed app system may drive me nuts. Also the lack of Flash? Wtf Apple get over yourself. And those two pieces of glass really make me nervous. Kickstands on phones are sexy (okay that was a complete lie). Android 2.2 looks awesome, and I’m sure 2.3’s gonna be awesome-er.

    Anyway, in other news, why are you on WordPress!?

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