Written by Melissa J. Perenson
Now may be the time to become an Apple iPhone owner at last.
When the iPhone was introduced, I found it tempting … very, very tempting. But just enough features and capabilities were missing from Apple’s initial cell phone offering that I held off on buying one.
I wasn’t alone in waiting, but that doesn’t mean the first-generation iPhone didn’t sell well. In fact, the iPhone moved 6 million units worldwide, well enough to make Apple extremely competitive in the smart-phone market.
Regardless of whether you stood in line on launch day or you chose to sit the first round out, today’s announcement probably got your attention. It certainly has tongues wagging everywhere. Apple is once again in the spotlight, and that has everything to do with the iPhone 3G features the company revealed today. Should you queue up when the iPhone 3G becomes available on July 11? Read on.
The original iPhone was innovative and groundbreaking. It also was an expensive toy. Sure, around the country both technophiles and the masses lined up to procure the original iPhone, but at $599 and $699 for the 8GB and 16GB models, respectively, the audience remained somewhat limited. As time passed, as the models’ prices dropped, and as the device’s reputation spread, the iPhone picked up more steam. But even Jobs himself admitted that about 50 percent of people surveyed who didn’t buy an iPhone said that they didn’t because of price.
With Apple’s iPhone price drop, announced today, you pay significantly less money up front at the time of purchase: The 8GB iPhone will sell for $199, just one-third the price that the 4GB iPhone sold for at launch a year ago. The 16GB model will sell for $299.
Those prices put Apple’s smart phone into the reach of more consumers than ever before. Only four handsets on our current Top 10 smart phones chart—Palm’s Centro ($100 with a Sprint contract, $200 with an AT&T contract), T-Mobile’s Shadow ($200 with contract) and Dash ($150 with contract), and RIM’s BlackBerry Pearl ($150 with a T-Mobile contract)–cost less than the least expensive iPhone. And the iPhone 3G, with its integrated audio and video player, Web browsing, and GPS, offers far more versatility than any of those competing phones.
2. 3G Browsing Speed
One of the biggest drawbacks of using a mobile phone for Web activities is the lag time. Much as point-and-shoot digital cameras frustrate their users with seemingly interminable shutter lag, cell phone users roll their eyes at how long it can take for a Web page to load.
The first-gen iPhone notably omitted 3G wireless in favor of the more widely available–and significantly slower–EDGE connectivity. A year later, 3G seems even more necessary than before, as Web pages grow more graphically intensive.
Now that a 3G-capable iPhone has been unveiled, it’s hard to imagine going back to not having 3G. According to Apple, Web pages will load up to 2.8 times faster. That’s a compelling argument: I’ve waited for what felt like hours for a PC World Shopping price-comparison page to load on my old EDGE-based Treo when I’ve been shopping in a store, for example. I’d much rather get the information I want sooner, rather than twiddling my thumbs and reaching for a cup of coffee.
Unfortunately, 3G wireless service on AT&T has one catch: AT&T Wireless’s service plans for the iPhone 3G will follow the company’s standard pricing structure, which means that you’ll be paying for whatever pricing plan you choose plus AT&T’s unlimited 3G data services ($30 a month for personal use, $45 a month for business use). Individual users will see their iPhone bill jump by $10.
3. Greater International Support
From a multilingual keyboard that you can change out on the fly to a user-removable SIM card (a SIM-card ejector comes with the iPhone 3G), new features in this model make it much more viable for international use. Whether you need to access the Web while overseas, or you want to swap out your SIM card (presumably, after an unspecified period of time, AT&T will let its customers unlock the phone for international use, as the company has allowed with its more standard phones), this model is better than the original.
4. Applications Galore
Based on what I saw at the WWDC Keynote, Apple’s approach to application development may pay off in spades. Developing applications appears simple, limited only by the constraints of developers’ imaginations. Distributing the software through iTunes is genius–turning to a single repository to procure content is far easier than scouring the Web for random Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, or BlackBerry apps you may want to download.
I see tremendous potential for useful–and downright fun–applications to come out of the development process now that the iPhone software developer’s kit is available. The potential for future apps, coupled with the iPhone’s existing programs–its iPod video and audio capabilities, its photo album, its easy e-mail, its Google Maps and YouTube apps–makes the iPhone 3G a unique offering in the mobile arena.
5. iPhone: Still at the Head of the Class
A funny thing happened in the past year: For all the hoopla, for all the assertions that the iPhone was a game-changer, the truth is, not much has changed in the landscape of the cell phone universe in the past year. It’s almost as if Apple is so far ahead in its innovation and thinking that it has a seemingly insurmountable lead over its competitors, and is in a realm of its own as a result.
The reality is, none of the so-called iPhone killers have come close to challenging the iPhone’s media handling and ease of use. That could change in the coming months as more cell phone vendors introduce updates to their lines (RIM, for example, is rumored to be working on a touch-screen interface, though its next flagship model, the BlackBerry Bold, does not have a touch screen). In the meantime, however, Apple will just be building on its solid head start.
Admittedly, not everyone will want–or need–to buy an iPhone 3G. For one thing, the much-anticipated iPhone 2.0 software upgrade that will enable the App Store for downloading applications, announced earlier this year, will be free to all first-generation-iPhone owners.
Furthermore, some people may want to hold out for a more substantial hardware upgrade, such as additional storage, a better camera, or other heretofore unimagined hardware bonuses.
I may queue up for an iPhone 3G. Or I may be patient and wait for the next big thing–which for me would be inclusion of features like 32GB of memory.