iWant an iPhone but the iThink the keyboard iSucks...
Megan McCardle has been pondering why the iPhone has been less of a smash hit than expected - she blames the poor quality AT&T/Cingular network and the high cost.
I think that's part of it, but there are a couple other reasons that have hurt it.
I don't own an iPhone, and probably never will - my boss briefly talked about the possibility of getting one for work, but I think the chances of it happening are about as likely as of MadAnthony scoring a date with Kari Byron. I've played with them at the Apple Store, though, and I've also played with one that a coworker of mine owns.
There are a bunch of cool features that the iPhone has - a real web browser, awesome navigation (you pinch in to expand/zoom and pinch out to go out), a great display.
It also has a hell of a camera - this is a pic of me that bsom snapped with my coworker's iPhone at lunch. It's pretty good for a camera phone.
But it has one thing that sucks on it - the keyboard. The iPhone uses an on-screen keyboard, which makes the device look cool and slick. The keyboard is horrible to type on, however. The keys are too small to type with your thumbs - and if you've learned to thumb-type on a blackberry or sidekick or other smartphone with a real keyboard, typing on the iPhone is super frustrating. I have a Blackberry for work, but I seldom use it to send emails, so I'm not a great thumb typer - but I can write an entire email on my blackberry faster than I can type one line on the iPhone.
Email is the killer app for smartphones and other devices. Hell, my blackberry sucks at everything else but email - its a horrible phone, the interface sucks, it's got the ergonomics of a brick, and the display is a step up from a graphing calculator. To be fair, it's also 3 years old, and the newer ones are nicer, and it is incredibly tough - I've dropped it and thrown it more times than I can count and it still works. But the lesson is bad phone + good email works for the corporate world. The inverse doesn't. Since it's people with fat corporate expense accounts who can afford to buy $600 phones, and the iPhone doesn't do a great job of doing what a corporate user wants it to do - compose email - I think the keyboard is a major nail in the coffin. Jane mentions the poor reception of the iPhone - that people want their phone to be, at first a phone - but I think when it comes to smartphones, email might trump phone - and if not, it's definitly a close second.
The other thing that makes the iPhone tough is switching costs. Jane mentions the inferior network, but the other thing to remember about the network is that if you are using another carrier, switching to AT&T means breaking your contract - which means spending several hundred dollars to get out of your contract, since almost every cell phone contract has early termination fees. It will be interesting to see if, in the next year or so as people's contracts for their present carrier end, if iPhone sales hold steady. It may be that there are lots of people who want an iPhone and will put up with the inferior AT&T network, but want to wait until their current contract ends before switching.
When it comes to the corporate market, I also wonder if some other factors are hurting the iPhone. Many, if not most, of the blackberries and other smartphones out there are bought by companies. Some corporate IT departments try to avoid anything Apple. Some try to avoid anything AT&T. Some need features that the iPhone lacks - GPS (very useful for people who travel), push to talk (the nextel direct-connect "chirp" two-way radio, which can be good for communicating with, say PC support technicians), server-side email managment (like RIM/Blackberry's Business EnterpriZe BEZ server). Those are things the iPhone lacks, that will hurt corporate sales.
The other big draw of the iPhone is it's iPod/MP3 capability. I've wondered how much of a feature this is - I use my MP3 player (currently a $50 after rebate creative Zen MicroPhoto)primarily at the gym, where it sometimes takes a beating. I would be apprehensive to use a $600 phone with a huge LCD display in this manner, and I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks this way.
So while the iPhone is cool technology, I think the problem is that phones are sold differently than MP3 players - the expensive ones sell primarily to corporate buyers, who want things the iPhone lacks, and people don't usually buy a new phone until their contract runs out, so you aren't going to have that huge burst of sales, but rather a trickle as people's contracts run out and they can switch carriers and phones without major financial penalty.