Apple are on track for getting near their stated target of 10 million iPhones worldwide by the end of this year, it’s true. But this was always a slightly unambitious target. Consider that Nokia, for example, sells one smartphone every four seconds worldwide, around 20 million smartphones a quarter, up to 80 million smartphones a year. And many times that number of Series 40 ‘smartish’ feature phones, i.e. many hundreds of million.
Of course, Apple’s a startup in the phone world, whereas Nokia’s been doing this since the very beginning, and you can’t just scale up to their level immediately. So Apple’s doing OK. But I’m appalled by two things:
- Now, I’ve ranted on this before, but it bears a brief repetition. The ‘buy with contract’ model [all prices in British pounds below, just adjust them if you live somewhere else!] is really, really hurting Apple’s sales figures for the iPhone. There’s no doubting that it’s an object of lust, but when people find out the price and the length and depth of the contract (18 months at £30-ish), they lose interest. Apple need to move to a new either-or model. Make the iPhone £500 unlocked and SIM-free, no strings attached. (And cut out the current silly grey market for illegally unlocked and resold devices). AND offer the alternative of a free iPhone with 18 month contract at (say) £40 a month [including data]. That would double sales at the very least, in all markets.
- When I played with the very first iPhone firmware, back in August 2007, and when I saw how easy it was for Apple to upgrade the firmware remotely, without losing user data or settings, I reckoned that within 6 months (at the very latest) we’d have most of the bits that were missing: copy/paste, MMS, video recording, third party applications. Apple have some stonkingly good programmers and surely they weren’t going to be hanging around playing frisbee in the park? But no, it’s now seven months since the US launch and only one of the above list even looks vaguely near appearing. Quite appalling. Apple, you’ve got the power to take these millions of iPhones and update them to true smartphone levels of functionality, why is it taking you so LONG? Even today, I read of rumoured delays to the new iPhone SDK, requiring even more patience from thos waiting for proper third party applications on this device.
Am I being too impatient? Or unrealistic? Maybe you think I don’t appreciate the work involved? Or do you agree that Apple are letting a world class platform opportunity start to slip through their hands while rivals (Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, LG, etc.) all catch up, adding iPhone-like usability to their established 3.5G phone platforms.
Think of the phone/smartphone industry as a race. Apple, unencumbered by legacy code or the need for 3G data or 3rd party apps, set off at a rate of knots, arguably catching up some of the incumbents quite quickly. But as they forge on and the realisation hits that in order to actually be allowed to pass the finish line they’re going to have to strap on a lot of bits (mentioned above) as they go along, Apple’s pace has slowed dramatically. And meanwhile those ahead in the race have watched Apple in their rear view mirrors, have checked they themselves qualify for the finish and have started putting into practice the things they’ve learnt from the iPhone, streamlining their UIs and potentially pushing ahead more quickly.
In summary, I’m appalled by how good the iPhone could be. And also appalled at how slow development and stupid price points have harmed both usability and sales in the real world.