2009 – The Year Of Touchscreen

If the iPhone came of age in 2008, then’s what’s in store for 2009?

In line with releases so far, the successor to the iPhone 3G is likely to be available in the middle of the year. I see more storage on the horizon, with probably a better camera (maybe with a flash), possibly 802.11n wireless. But I’m not going to try and predict any more beyond that. People can judge for themselves whether the hardware specifications of the new iPhone match their personal expectations and requirements, as compared to other devices available on the market.

The real change for the iPhone is that touchscreen phones will go large in 2009. Apple’s flagship device is increasingly going to be one of many shiny touchscreen devices on offer to the mobile customer.

Touchscreen phones that are available now or are coming this year include:

LG’s KP500, the LG GD910 wrist phone, HTC’s leaked Iolite, the Blackberry Storm, and the Android-powered G1 and G2, plus others including Openmoko’s Neofreerunner. Motorola is launching the MotoSurf A3100, and Palm may come back to life with its Nova-based smartphone.

But the big difference I think, is that Nokia – the supertanker of phone manufacturers – is really getting into touchscreens in 2009.

The 5800 XpressMusic is available, and on sale in the UK shortly. The feature-laden flagship N97 is also coming out. Plus, they are not just keeping this to S60-based devices. Touch is moving into the lower-end. The first Series 40 touchscreen has been announced – the 6208 Classic. I also know of another S40-based touchscreen flip phone in development.

Nokia’s CEO has said that they are going after touchscreen competitors “with a vengeance” in 2009, and their impact will be huge. So why do I think Apple will not be too concerned about the iPhone being awash in a sea of touchscreen competitors?

From a standing start they’ve done extremely well so far, in a very competitive industry. As Rui Carmo pointed out:

no-one “…can deny that Apple used the equivalent of a cattle prod on the handset and services industry”.

Key differentiators

The iPhone will remain as a top-selling touchscreen phone because:

  1. the main reason: the iPhone’s excellent software – both the incredibly user-friendly and responsive user interface, and the underlying iPhone OS
  2. also, the ease of synchronisation through iTunes
  3. and, the ecosystem being built up with iTunes Music Store and the App Store

To reinforce my first point about the iPhone’s excellent user interface, I highly recommend you read the latest MEX blog post by Marek Pawlowski – “Touchscreens are no substitute for good user experience“. Marek outlines all the reasons why bolting on a touchscreen to an existing user interface in a “me-too” move does just not cut it.

All the iPhone models – original, 3G and those to come – are going to keep on improving through straightforward software updates. The changes may be incremental or substantial, but the platform will keep getting better. The iPhone platform powers the user satisfaction, and that satisfaction will continue to drive sales in 2009, whatever the competitors come out with.