Thursday, January 11, 2007

One iPhone or Many?

This morning we awake to the news that Cisco is suing Apple over user of the name "iPhone". I expect this to be a storm in a tea cup and the VOIP iPhone that Cisco markets will have its own niche largely ignored by the cell phone buying public. Most Wall Street analysts seem to agree with me (or am I agreeing with them?)

But this post is more about what sort of range Apple will eventually introduce. Remember that there was only one iPod when it was born. Now there are three families, the iPod with Video, the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. Each has a definite market. So what markets should Apple be filling?

The prototype shown at MacWorld this week pretty much does everything but at a high-ish price (I say high-ish because actually I think it does offer value for money, but only if you value all those options included). So what might I do without for a less rich iPhone experience?

Clearly the touch screen cannot get too small or adult fingers won't be able to operate it, so I don't think we can expect the iPhone "Shuffle" equivalent. But we could do without the video part as this is memory intensive and I can see only one movie at a time being loaded onto a 4Gig iPhone, assuming that music and other stuff will also be synched. Video and hard drives seem to go together, so perhaps the 2nd Generation iPhones will have a video+hard drive model and a non-video+flash memory model? These would mimic the two current iPod configurations.

Next, there is the question of service providers. Here I get a bit woolly over cell phone technology but it is certainly possible to have models that will work with different cell phone systems. So we might expect other systems to be offered along with an unlocked phone that could be used away from the Cingular "embrace". As someone who has several SIM cards for different countries, this might appeal - though the hassle factor would remain.

The beauty of the iPhone is its simple software upgradability and we can expect the appearance of the touch screen to change with the times. This was pointed out by Steve Jobs but few reviewers seem to have caught the significance of being able to add a touch screen button in the future.

Now, what would be my dream iPhone? Simplicity is my hallmark for decent cell phone technology so I would want to ignore the iPod functions completely (I do have an iPod with a hard drive anyway!) and go with the rest of the technology mated to a flash memory device - 4 Gigs would suffice - and with all the connectivity that has been demonstrated so far. The screen could be a bit smaller and this would allow for a slighter smaller phone. Bring it on, Mr. Jobs!