Archive for July, 2009

How to Kill the iPhone

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

There have been many supposed iPhone-killers. Each with their own “feature” that will trump Apple. Open source OS, “real” keyboard, fancy camera, multi-tasking, etc.

But they all miss the mark. And I’m sure they must realise. The iPhone has the X-Factor.

The original iPhone was very feature-poor. No app store. No GPS. So many missing “bits” that we have now. Yet it was wildly successful.

Pick up an iPhone and push any button. The screen comes alive and tells you how to begin - slide. Now the screen has 20 or so colourful rounded icons with simple short labels. It’s obvious how to select one. But where are the rest of the icons? Well, I probably slide my finger again. Yep. And already you are falling for the iPhone. It’s so tactile, intuitive, easy.

So, how do you kill the iPhone? What will make millions of people want to dump their current phone and switch? I think it’s essentially a matter of improving this user experience. A device that can make an iPhone user think ‘I wish my iPhone understood me like this gadget does’.

So, what do I want in my iPhone replacement?

  1. Customisation - A large benefit of jailbreaking your iPhone (so I hear). And something unlikely ever to be supported by Apple. Different colors, icons, sounds, backgrounds, lock screen displays, sleep displays, etc. I want my device to be a reflection of the things I like, not just be a clone.
  2. No restrictions - Apple forces you to use iTunes for basically everything. No simple drag and drop to a removable hard drive. And no applications on your iPhone unless they have been approved by Apple. I want my device to be flexible and let me do as I please.
  3. iPhone useability - Or better. Three year olds can instinctively use the iPhone. It is that easy. A new device must meet this no-instructions-necessary requirement.
  4. Tactile - It really feels like you are physically moving the pages to one side when swiping the iPhone screen. It’s not a swipe - wait - then the screen changes - scenario. This is a must have, for me. The accelerometer adds to this immediate feedback sensation. How to make this better? Haptic response will be a good start.
  5. Uber-device potential - This is a key advantage of the touch screen only approach. The device becomes a blank slate that can transform into almost any hand held device imaginable. A few well placed generic buttons really helps, but no device defining keypad/keyboard please. Note this interesting link I found while Googling uber-device.
  6. In hand feel - The iPhone does look nice but really isn’t natural to hold. The river rock approach of the Palm Pre is an excellent attempt.

What about tens of thousands of applications? That part of the iPhone world is hard to replicate or better. The existing iTunes payment system is another huge Apple advantage. Maybe some method using PayPal or even Amazon could rival this. Imagine for a moment that your extra apps disappeared. Would you want to switch back to a Nokia? I’m doubting it. The iPhone App Store is a big hurdle, but not impossible to overcome.

So bring on the iPhone killers. Competition is great for me, the consumer. And keep adding fancy features. A TV remote control would be nice.. But for now, my rapidly ageing device is looking destined to break out of jail.