The Five Biggest Issues with iPhone

In the midst of all the hosannas for Apple’s new iPhone — and there is definitely lots to like about it, among the most important being the first significant advancement in mobile browsing in a decade — here are the five biggest issues with the thing:

  1. The touchpad. How do you operate a touchphone in your pocket, or under a table by feel at a meeting? You scoff, but you’d be amazed how often that is how business emailing happens. Early users, like Pogue at the Times, are already pointing how slow the thing is for email usage.
  2. The closed system. Is Apple serious that it won’t let third-party developers build software for the thing? If so, and put simply, the device will fail. A closed-box consumer electronics mentality will work in music players, but the future of mobile devices is as a platform, and that requires developers.
  3. The Cingular relationship. While every wireless carrier has its haters, Cingular has more than most (both for its service and for its Edge network). Tying up exclusively to Cingular forces some of the loudest among the digerati to wait for an unlocked iPhone before they can begin touting the device for Apple.
  4. Its vaporware status. The iPhone won’t ship until June, at the earliest. That is going to cause (more) volatility in Apple’s share price, as well as create oodles of market uncertainty. Why did Apple decide it had to announce so far in front of the ship date? My guess: Apple knows that something similar is coming from another vendor very soon.
  5. The price. To be honest, I’m not as hung up about the price than most people, and I think the $599++ price is less important than the preceding four factors. Then again, it’s leaving a very large pricing umbrella for other smart(-ish) phone vendors, so this is going to be a confusing ride this year in that market. Certainly, I don’t echo other analysts in feeling like Apple’s 10-million unit figure is lowside, as some insist.


  1. riskybusiness says:

    Add EDGE to that downside. People forget (well high end users forget) how slow this is. At the conference they were using the Wifi apparently. I don’t think that will get solved quickly because battery usage for 3G is worse (or at least seems that way).
    And the other problem is that the price won’t drop presumably. Apple will add to it and keep the price up like they do with other prducts.
    But the 10m seems crazy. Cingular has 58m subs right? So one sixth of Cingular users are going to switch to this high end phone in one year? I just can’t believe that’s going to happen.

  2. This kind of fits into the “closed system” problem, but the one I’m on the edge of my seat about it whether or not it can open up Microsoft Office documents. It’s also unclear whether or not it can work with an Exchange server, which will make or break it as a Blackberry competitor.

  3. Paul:
    #1. I agree with you about 3rd party development. Many of the common apps I use on the BB are developed by other companies, especially the games. Many developers are pushing very specific apps to very specific vertical markets. I also think the multi-year exclusivity deal with Cingular shows some weakness as well as being a questionable strategy. How many people who live in Cingular dead zones will be prevented from buying an iPhone?
    #2. The long wait is definitely strange. Maybe this is to deflate the announcement of the Blackberry 8800 expected in Spring? The new BB OS now supports more media capabilities. RIMM seems like the big dog in the smartphone arena now.
    #3. This phone is thin but big. I think the iPhone is less a smart phone and more of a smallish tablet PC. This I’m skeptical about.
    Other than that, I think they’ve definitely thrown down the gauntlet in terms of user interface advancement. It will appeal to those who like the Fisher-Price interface simplicity of the Mac, but who also just want to take photos and SMS.
    riskybusiness: I agree on the EDGE comment.

  4. – wasn’t the 10 million in 2008 meant worldwide? given the large european gsm market that could make sense.
    – exchange can be used via imap (mails, but i don’t know if exchange’s imap has push capabilities). don’t know about the calendar etc part

  5. A closed platform from Apple is 10x may 20x better than the current state of affairs. I’ve been begging for “visual voice mail” on my desk phone for years.
    The existing phone manufacturers and carriers richly deserve to be taken out behind the woodshed for not innovating and focusing on usability.
    I don’t think 10M users is an unreasonable projection. I’m going to drop my Slackberry (slack because its software stinks and it’s a lousy phone) at earliest possible moment.

  6. The wait, if you believe Apple, is because they didn’t want people to find out about it via public FCC records.

  7. beep beep beep says:

    I have zero interest in this cell phone. But I would love some version of this phone on my business desktop. Current business phones are atrocious. How to do conference calling, holding, transferring is just impossible to remember. Voicemail is a disaster. If they built something to work with PBX and the ability input contacts from Exchange then a $600 business desktop phone is probably cheap. I could see them making a lot more money in that space.

  8. the long wait increases the initial market since a contract is required and will put people in the market in a holding pattern instead of buying other products.
    10m is conservative worldwide
    this will be a platform for games and more
    why is it vaporware? it’s not
    3rd party developers will be in a year

  9. How do we know that the iPhone will be a closed system? I’ve seen this reported on other sites as well and yet I haven’t seen any confirmation from Apple.

  10. So it’s not perfect. And I don’t really think that it’s targeted at business users. Seems more consumer-grade to me. The bigger question to me is – how did Apple do it so quickly, in comparison with something like Windows Mobile? Windows Mobile has taken so many years to get to the point that it’s usable – and I think the iPhone is really going to hit-the-ground running so-to-speak. I did a short post on my blog about this…

  11. Good overview of the technical issues. Click my name for my post yesterday about why this phone wont be a superstar from the business perspective.

  12. I agree with Alex that I don’t think this is targeted at business users. Gadget geeks will of course snap one up as will Apple fanboys and fangirls. As Jobs said, he’s just interested in 1% of the market share initially, so that tells me why bother dealing with multiple providers when you can achieve that with just one, Cingular. He can always negotiate with other providers at a later date. Overall I’d say this seems like a good product for a first attempt (pricey, but what isn’t when it comes to Apple?) and if there’s one thing Apple has proven good at it’s improving existing product lines.

  13. This won’t be the perfect device for everyone but I strongly disagree regarding 3rd party software. It’s like complaining that your toaster won’t heat pizza even though it has the technology to do it. If you want to heat pizza buy a toaster oven. Meanwhile, a HUGE majority of America only EVER makes toast (or maybe a bagel) so they could care less about the limitations. The toaster DOES everything they need it to.
    And frankly, people aren’t buying software for phones or even converged PDAs (ie: smartphones). Look at the sales figures for the past couple years. Why allow 3rd party apps when a) they could affect device performance and b) no one is buying them anyhow?

  14. I couldn’t agree more with your skepticism, Paul. I was left scratching my head about who the target customer is for this product. I posted a similar piece to my own blog:

  15. As Alex mentions, I don’t think the iPhone is targeted at (standard) business users. Why should iPhone care about exchange? Do you really think it’s trying to replace Blackberries and Treos? The iPhone is a paradigm shift to the way we compute in the future, the browser as a desktop replacement. This all in one device doesn’t need to open it’s platform to development, there’s nothing you’d put on the phone that couldn’t be developed as a web app. This is a good thing…device independence.

  16. There can’t envision replacing blackberry for business users. I could not even go from the full keyboard on my bberry to the 3-letter-per-key ‘smart’ bberry, let alone trying to type on a screen. Based on a quick read of the NYT article it sounds like typing on the iPhone ‘keys’ is less efficient. Nothing is as fast for typing as the bberry full keyboard imho and speed is of the essence. I am a big Apple fan but this phone is not for me, the business user.

  17. The wait is a function of Jobs wanting to control the news rather than have it leak. If they’d submitted the phone for FCC approval (which can take months) then details would have dribbled out from public records and they couldn’t have made such a splash.

  18. The target user? I thought it was obvious: The millions who already have iPods, Macbooks, etc…plus the people they convert.
    This is far from a Blackberry/WM5.0 competitor.
    “Enterprise” is not in Apple’s vocabulary. They’re a maker of consumer products.
    It’s kind of amusing to hear industry people say things like, “I don’t get it. Who is the target for this?”
    Umm, everybody NOT in “The Enterprise”? Millions of students, people at small companies, creative types, and on and on…

  19. I thought it ran OS X? Who said anything about a closed system?
    In fact, my understanding was that it specifically was NOT a closed system, but would rather run normal versions of OS X apps. If so, not only will it open Word and Excel documents, it will run Word and Excel!

  20. I’m a business person not a Mac fanatic but, I’m gonna snag one as soon as they go on the market. Closed system? Who said so. Even if it were true, I’d take 100% Apple over the “platforms” available today. You can get Yahoo Mail and Google Maps on your highend Nokia or Treo but, their so clunky as to be useless. At least this looks like it will do some of the basic things the rest of the industry has been telling us they solved already…but didn’t. Can’t type in your pocket? Please, that’s just silly – couldn’t care less. And while I wish it wasn’t locked to Cingular, I think it is a small issue and not a deal breaker. Nice work by Apple IMHO.

  21. Forget the iPhone working with Exchange Server. Exchange will be the exclusive territory of Zune 2.0
    That’s what all the suits will be using in 2008. The iPhone is for the rest of us. The 1%.

  22. 1. The touchpad. The death of the keyboard was inevitable…a poor input interface to say the least for a phone device. As a first cut at a touchscreen, the iPhone sports pretty damn impressive functionality. It is a pretty small subset of business users that need to be able to type one handed with the device in their pocket.
    2. Who said closed? This is the platform for everything from a universal remote to a home security system interface. The tiles on the home screen are just begging for company and clearly that is part of the roadmap.
    3. Exclusive to Cingular. Yeah not great, but that won’t make or break it as a product.
    4. Vaporware. I saw a functioning phone. Clearly they are pre-seeding to keep Cingular customers from upgrading between now and then. Count me as one of them.
    And on the Edge front, I find Edge to be fine for 95% of the internet tasks I do on my phone (BlackBerry). I had a Blackjack for a week and with 3G and it polling the Exchange server I was lucky to get a couple of hours of use on it. And don’t get me started about Window Mobile.
    When battery life goes up they will switch to 3G I ahve no doubt. Storage will go up, and direct donwloads of video and audio from the iTunes store will be enabled.
    As a first cut, this is a very impressive device. If you don’t think it is transformative then you are just looking at this as a phone and not as a portable computer that can interface with your digital life.

  23. alpha24seven says:

    This thing rocks. It will be used by business. I have no doubts because third party applications will be developed. It is erroneous to believe it will be closed. In fact, I’ll bet some of the applications that will be developed will open up entire new ways for business to use handset technology. I currently subscribe to Cingular but will look for an unlock code so that I can use it while in Europe with a cheap local sim card.

  24. “I thought it ran OS X? Who said anything about a closed system?”
    This was actually a subtle Steve-ism which I thought was kind of funny.
    You’ll note that Steve said it ran OS X. Apple’s documentation says it runs OS X. And I have no doubts that it runs OS X.
    What it doesn’t run is Mac OS X.
    In other words, Mac OS X is now considered a superset of OS X. For example, does iPhone OS X support ColorSync like Mac OS X? Does it support OpenGL like Mac OS X? What pieces are missing? Also, consider that Apple had a slide with some of the components of OS X flying around. Carbon was missing. Thus, you can figure that there’s no way you’ll ever be running Photoshop or Microsoft Word on the thing…
    I’m now waiting for WWDC to get more information on whether developers will be able to do stuff with iPhone. The rumor mill currently says no.

  25. apple eater says:

    Slow Edge network (crippled at the start bad user experiance)
    Coupled to locked phone and bad availability of service “edge” included will cause 2 year contract signers to be up in arms and Apple willl be the fall guy.
    This is not what we expected from Steve who stood up to the record companies “no you cant copy the CD DVD you bought from us”. To be stuck with a locked phone to a ma bell owned provider is inexcuseable!
    So add up the negatives against the new features don’t really seem to give groundbreaking market share needed here.
    Steve blew it not not selling a unlocked phone and sticking it to customers with cingular.

  26. Make sense. Steve Blew it in a number of ways. The target market for this is going to be disappointed.

  27. I am certain the phone will eventually be opened up for application developers. That’s where the maket is going. It’s too big to ignore. It may take a few iterations of iPhone for this happen, but it will happen. Cingular and Apple will first have to work out the security policies. Other companies are going to be tripping all over the shoelaces trying to catch up with Apple now.
    I thought Wozniak’s comments about the iPhone summed it up the best:
    Outside the building, BBC News Online happened upon Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, who was leaving the keynote on his Segway transportation device.
    Wozniak conceded that the exclusive deal with Cingular might delay the product’s uptake in the market.
    “But I don’t think too much. In the long run, it’s not that big an issue,” he said.
    Mr Wozniak said he was in tears at the announcement.
    “I like products that are really designed the way that people want them and because of that I just am sick of every PDA device I ever try,” he told BBC News Online.
    “I’ve tried all the smartphones [and] every time I am just so disgusted with using them. It’s not the enjoyable experience that my laptop is. It’s largely just [things like] email looking right, the web looking right, simple human things.”
    Wozniak said he agreed with Jobs’ description of this announcement as a revolution.
    “I think this product will do as much for the phone of the future as the iPod has for the music device of now,” he said.

  28. ummm, no its NOT going to be used by big business. its going to be used by the ACOLytes and the Cuhl bloggers who already buy *anything* and everything that this company sells. businesses are much too smart and savvy to be roped into a deal like this.

  29. According to Jobs, the target market for this is a mere 1% of the total phone market.
    It doesn’t NEED to meet YOUR expectations, or match YOUR perfect feature set. It ONLY needs to meet the expectations of 1% of the total mobile phone market. Looked at from that angle, it’s a clear slam dunk.
    This is true even at the price–look at how many people were willing to pay $400 for just a dumb MP3 player when Apple first introduced the iPod! (That first $400 iPod only held 5GB, BTW, so 4GB and 8GB capacities for the iPhone aren’t unreasonable.)
    With the iPhone for $100 more you lose 1 GB of storage but gain a mobile phone that’s half as thick, a color screen with nine times the resolution that can play videos and show photos, and full web connectivity with a real browser. (Yeah, the data rate isn’t the best, but: Does 1% of the mobile phone market live in areas where they can get a WiFi connection…? Data rate problem solved.)
    The iPhone is going to do JUST FINE, thankyouverymuch.

  30. Add to the missing list: GPS/LBS.
    Notice that Steve had to define a location in the demo. More and more of the newer handsets have GPS built in.
    It may seem like a minor thing, but GPS/LBS will be a key driver for local apps like Google Maps.

  31. Also, the industry has evolved from just having a touch screen interface to a touch screen + keyboard. See my blog post at:

  32. This phone is still partially under wraps. Noticeably absent was any mention of VoIP.
    Apple’s iChat is a quality voice and video on IP application. It seems like a no-brainer to add VoIP to this device – even to seamlessly auto switch to VoIP when on an 802.11 network.
    It would have to be done in such a way as not to burn Cingular. Cingular, however, might be totally cool with offloading some calls to 802.11. After all, they get their $$ regardless of wether or not their service is used.
    Cingular might even provide the VoIP termination. This is really interesting when considering the role of cell providers in the future. WiMax is coming like a freight train. Who has the towers for WiMax gateways? Cell phone companies. When this happens, all cell phones will be VoIP phones. This is Cingular’s chance to get a jump on VoIP technology, apply for some patents, and start the transition into the wonderful world of WiMax.
    Steve Jobs is not a dumbass. Remember: naysayers poo poo’d the iPod when it was announced. Too expensive. Too geeky. But once the iTunes music store was in place, Apple had a complete vertical solution for buying music, organizing it, playing it, and taking it on the go.
    I hear a lot of iPhone naysayers predicting the same doom and gloom, but they don’t see the big picture. I don’t claim to see the big picture either, just bits and pieces, but I can GUARANTEE that there is more to the iPhone than was shown yesterday.
    Can’t wait until June to find out!

  33. The biggest draw back for me that dawned on me today is that along with the touchpad issue, it doesn’t lend itself to one-hand navigation. You pretty much have to hold in one hand and navigate with the other. That makes it less attractive to me but I can see a number of others not having that problem.

  34. Roughly Drafted has excellent counter arguments to your post. I agree with them.

  35. Too bad for you, guys living in USA. Your country is not ready for the iPhone. Still strugling with multiple “unstandard” cellular phone systems.
    But then, why is it that Steve Jobs wants us in Europe to wait until T4 to get our iPhone? Whe are ready, we have our GSM/GPRS/EDGE/G3 networks working perfectly quite all over Europe from London to Oslo to Athens. G3 not everywhere, but certainly in most big cities and growing fast.
    On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the first iPhone I’ll buy will be G3…

  36. You type emails under the table without looking at the keys? Amazing.
    @shawn maccollum: “it doesn’t lend itself to one-hand navigation.”
    I’m not sure how you come to this conclusion. The form factor of the iPhone is about the same as the iPod, which can be operated with one hand easily. Also, I’ve used both the Blackberry and Treo and it is next to impossible to dial with one hand using the keypad especially if you’re right-handed because of the size of the keys and the fact that the numbers are on the left side of the keyboard.

  37. The answer to 4 was answered for attentive listeners in the keynote – it was a choice between doing the announcement now and letting the FCC do it, as Palm does with all the Treo and etc. devices.
    Thumb typing is not a natural human state, and people will adjust quickly to any of the crappy, small input modes they are presented.
    The screen should not be the place to input text anyway – voice recognition is coming along, and is already good enough for simple commands sets like a phone app would use. For serious composition, a separate keyboard/thumbboard can easily connect via Bluetooth.
    The reason there is lock-in right now is that Apple needed coordination with the provider to enable advanced features – the visual voicemail is the principal example. There are surely ways to get around carrier limitations (auto-load and store the voicemails for random access), but that gets you into the game of implementing compatibility for every bit player’s system. This is classic Apple – get a strong control on the infrastructure to make the user experience consistently good. Mac hardware, .mac web services, iTunes, and now Cingular. More players will be begging to come in at the end of the multiyear contract, but for now, this will be pushing Cingular to be more Apple-like – a benny for all the disgruntled customers I hear on the web.

  38. Exchange over IMAP–hmm, outside companies deploying the IMAP tunneling support in Exchange 2007, I’m not sure many companies will expose IMAP outside their firewalls without VPN access (and I’m doubting the phone has a VPN client). Seems like that bit of salesmanship is exactly that.

  39. I’m not convinced the ‘closed’ system will be much of an issue. Won’t OSX still be able to run open browsers like Firefox? If that’s the case, then maybe we’ll see more browser-centric design and perhaps web-based ‘software’ will become more ubiquitous – much as you have called for in past posts. Maybe it’s a GOOD thing that third parties won’t be able to create slow and distracting applications that force frequent application switching. Isn’t that a problem right now?

  40. Apple VPs confirmed: there will be no Apple-sanctioned apps for the iPhone. Any 3rd-party apps will be just like the iPod.

  41. Exchange over IMAP is not exchange at all. It’s just the email part of it.
    Either it has PIM applications that support Exchange ActiveSync / BES or it doesn’t.
    It doesn’t, therefore no corporate users will care.
    I look forward to chastising a mid level manager noobie who rushes out to get this thing when it first comes out and brings it to me to setup with exchange.

  42. 1) pierre: it -is- a gsm phone, and it will be
    deployed in the USA .. so go eat a few more
    croissants and slam a couple of espressos
    and WAKE UP!
    2) why wouldn’t the iphone support VPN ?
    if it runs os/x, it’s going to have ipsec,
    and you can filter out non-authenticated
    packets at the firewall.. throw a CA cert
    in the web browser, and presto – key updating
    on-demand as well.. if it doesn’t work,
    just use the phone and call the helpdesk.
    3) edge isn’t the fastest, but 20kbits
    for static web pages, email, chat, etc.
    is enough .. no-one is used to wireless
    anything, plus the wifi support will
    work when your at the home/office/etc.
    4) enterprise-schmenterprise – this is about
    rich free-agent types that don’t sue you
    over an SLA and want it to hook up to
    their new hipster iHouse

  43. If it’s a phone, give me just the phone. There is one universal problem with combo devices: faster hardware degredation.
    Human Made: Depreciates
    Nature Made: Evolves
    A phone should just be a phone, nothing else.
    Let us wait and see how long it takes to scratch and crack the thouch screen.

  44. Let’s examine your points.
    1. Hard to use under the fucking table? What in the flying fuck? Yea, it’s hard to use when you’re brushing your teeth too. Why don’t you add that to your list?
    2. If it was open to developers, there would just be an influx of crap and shitty widgets polluting the software library.
    3. Like most people give a rat’s ass which carrier they use.
    4. The product is not here now. Yea, I agree, that’s a big issue.
    5. You’re not hung up on #5.
    OK. Thanks for the analysis there. Moron.

  45. Looks like no BlueTooth A2DP/AVRCP for the iPhone either (like OSX Tiger) — the proposed Apple headset is obviously a HS/HF device only too. It’s pretty lame to have a BlueTooth enabled device, that plays stereo music, but doesn’t support stereo BlueTooth. Apple could have had a real design coup if they created a functional BlueTooth A2DP/AVRCP/HS/HF capable iPhone and a matching (elegant) A2DP/AVRCP/HS/HF capable headset.

  46. Seriously, point 1… please.
    Who “writes” from under a table? Maybe Copperfield. If you can see the phone, then you can see the multitouch screen and write. If you can’t see, you won’t write a word with any keyboard…
    I don’t even wanna comment on “operate a touchphone in your pocket”

  47. KeithDaddy says:

    Any other ‘mad texter’ like myself will have to re-learn the NON-KEYBOARD approach of texting. I, as well as a lot of people, can text someone without looking the keys… even with an older 1-9*# keypad. I guess I won’t be texting while I’m having sex anymore…

  48. The touchpad.
    – I imagine Apple will put some voice dial ability into such a ‘smart’ phone.
    The closed system.
    – If closed it will soon be hacked, modded, overwritten with Linux.
    Why ? Well – because!
    The Cingular relationship.
    – Hacked, chip modded, works on Verizon, etc.
    Its vaporware status.
    – Long time for competition to make better.
    Long time for APPLE to make it better.
    iTV had 0.0 GB of storage. Apple-tv has 40 GB of storage and more features. Keep an eye open for a heftier iPod-iPhone, 100 GB of storage, more RAM, more abilities.
    The price.
    – Variable at Apple’s will – PRICE will be dropping,
    all component costs (RAM/LCD, etc) prices dropping, so
    as time goes on, with fixed specs, Apples margin actually Increases – one of the little secrets that keeps Apples pockets stuffed full of Cash.
    It’s an executive toy (first) – not a Computer for Every Child.
    I personally would rather have 5 $100 laptops.

  49. To point #5 if it wasn’t addressed above …
    “In the end, Apple decided to reveal the iPhone several months ahead of its official June launch because it could not keep the secret any more. Apple has to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the permits needed to operate the iPhone, and once those public filings are made, Apple has no control over the release of that information. So, Jobs said, he made the decision to have Apple tell the world about its new phone, rather than the FCC. ”

  50. Steve Jobs: “These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,” he said.
    How dumb is that?
    A PC is a device that you need to work, but it’s not a closed ecosystem.

  51. I was running out of things to write about iPhone and thanks for the fodder for the last post on iphone for a while! (I hope the “while” will be long) Cingular will be no more and will be absorbed into AT&T. I think they are hoping that people will forget about how bad Cingular was. I have thrown phones (physically) while on Cingular service! 😉

  52. I was looking forward to porting my games to this
    device. So it is disappointing to learn that
    there are no plans for an open developers kit.
    I was particularly interested in porting
    our Wham-O Frisbee® Golf title and taking
    advantage of multi-tap and the accelerometer.
    ah well…

  53. Roger Smith says:

    iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?
    Well, the only solution I could fine was – they get you out of any cell phone contract!

  54. Roger Smith says:

    iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?
    Well, the only solution I could fine was – they get you out of any cell phone contract!

  55. james h jackson jr says:

    aol has whats called aim express on their home page its a way to use aim with out having to download the software basically u go to the aol express web site type in your screen name and password and your buddy list comes up on the screen

  56. I think the iPhone is just a novelty for the iPod fans. If you’re serious in an all-in-one phone, I’m sure other companies are working on it. The phones in Asian, especially Japan, are already far superior to the iPhone.
    Nationwide Long Distance

  57. These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

  58. iPhone is available with Cingular ONLY!? And what if I am stuck under contract with a carrier OTHER than Cingular but still want a iPhone?

  59. I LOVE my iPhone!

  60. You do have a point with the iphone. But this is the best cell phone on the market. It has way more upside than downside. The price has also went down. The only problem that i have is that the internet is a bit slow, it doesnt have cingulars new network on it=(

  61. I LOVE my iPhone!