Iâ€™ve made some comments regarding ABI researchâ€™s position on why the Apple iPhone should not be called a smartphone. Personally, I could care less what category itâ€™s in, simply because itâ€™s redefining the mobile industry. The way I see it, itâ€™s the remote control for my life. How about you? At the end of the day, it allows me to make phone calls, listen to music, watch videos, surf the web, chat with friends and family, provides a full QWERTY keyboard for me to type emails and last but not least keep track of events and tasks. So in a sense, ABI research is correct in saying that the iPhone isnâ€™t a smartphone: itâ€™s much more.
[Schechner] Stuart Carlaw adds, “Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate cell phone just to have superior music. Apple must get the phone engineering part of the equation right, and it is difficult to see how they will accomplish that with no track record in the industry. Even though they are working with some prominent suppliers, the task of putting all of the building blocks together cannot be underestimated.”
[Nguyen] Iâ€™m not sure if Carlaw is merely saying that consumers wonâ€™t settle for a second-rate cell phone or heâ€™s actually saying that the iPhone is one. I think itâ€™s the latter since heâ€™s obviously finding it difficult to see how Apple will accomplish getting the phone engineering part of the equation right. Letâ€™s put it this way, given what I know of the cell phone market, as well as the Cupertino companyâ€™s track record of bringing out well-rounded and thought-through products, I along with many others welcome Appleâ€™s entry into this space with open arms. So let me ask you this, what makes a phone second-rate? Would making conference call so easy that a cave man (sorry I couldnâ€™t resist) can use it, or have visual voice mail on a handset for the first time qualify the iPhone as second-rate? Forgive me for sounding like a fanboy, but Iâ€™m screaming â€œno!â€
[Schechner] Apple’s iPhone was the talk of the town after its January 9 launch. Industry observers were by and large impressed with the new device, praising its user interface, innovation, and seamless integration. But two senior ABI Research analysts â€” wireless research director Stuart Carlaw, and principal mobile broadband analyst Philip Solis â€” point out that while the iPhone is undoubtedly clever and capable, it is not correct to call it a smartphone, as much of the media has done.
[Nguyen] For the sake of the argument, why shouldnâ€™t the Apple iPhone be called a smartphone just because Apple wants a much tighter control on the kind of software thatâ€™s being installed on it? If you need brain surgery, would you trust a family practitioner to work on you? No. Youâ€™d probably want someone whoâ€™s had years of experience in that field. Apple is no different. Poorly developed applications can and will ruin the experience of using the handset. The end users wonâ€™t know better and ultimately blame the phone for not working as advertised. This results in higher tech support cost and a much higher rate of customers returning the handset. I may be in the minority on this but I believe Apple is smart to keep a tight leash on the kind of applications that will run; as long as there are sufficient pre-installed apps that allow me to perform the tasks of the third-party applications that I would need to get later on if using, say, a Windows Mobile-based smartphone, I’ll be content. These applications can be anything from a universal reader that opens an image from Photoshop, an Adobe document or a Word document sent to me in an email.
[Nguyen] Whoâ€™s to say there wonâ€™t be a certification program for programmers to be certified to develop applications for the iPhone down the road? Iâ€™ll take a phone that works when I need it to over a bloated device with third-party applications.
[Schechner] ABI Research defines a smartphone as a cellular handset using an open, commercial operating system that supports third party applications. The iPhone runs the Apple Macintosh computer operating system, OS X, so at first glance it would seem to fall into the smartphone category, which might help justify its announced $500+ pricetag. But, says Solis, “It turns out that this device will be closed to third party applications. Therefore we must conclude at this point that, based on our current definition, the iPhone is not a smartphone: it is a very high-end feature phone.”
[Schechner] Feature phones’ functionality (dictated by the software which controls the hardware) is closed and controlled by an operator or the device manufacturer, whereas smartphones are supported by a third-party ecosystem, where competition in the software space creates applications that add value. “Sure,” concedes Solis, “feature phones have third party applications too â€” but these are relatively weak and limited applications that work with the middleware such as Java and BREW. Applications designed for smartphones can be written to access core functionality from the OS itself, and are therefore usually more powerful and efficient. The competition in an open environment also yields more cutting edge, rich applications.”
[Nguyen] There’s no arguing with Schechner’s classification logic, if you also buy into her definitions. However, my argument would be that it presumes a level of first-boot experience more akin to a fresh OS install than the feature-packed environment Apple are promising. “Feature phones”, as ABI Research would have it, rely on third-party Java or BREW applets because the initial out-of-box functionality is lacking; most non-WM5 phones have rudimentary and carrier-specific IM clients, if they have them at all, and messaging systems crippled by lacking Exchange or IMAP support and limited to only one POP account. Users turn to the aftermarket because the options aren’t there; Apple has recognized that, and developed a suite of programs that make the best of the interface and the hardware. Ironically it brings to mind the Microsoft monopoly rulings – their argument that browser, message client (in their case email) and the like were all part of the core OS functionality, not external to it. Perhaps it’s simply time that ABI Research re-examined their categories; the iPhone has already rewritten a whole load of mobile technology preconceptions, it’ll just be another for the list.
The iPhone is No Smartphone [ABI research]