Thursday, June 28, 2007

Camping Out for iPhone

Will their be a million people seeking to buy on the first day? It looks that way. People started camping out to get an iPhone at bigger stores on Monday. First in line, apparently no surprise to some New Yorkers, was Greg Packer.

Why would they camp out for a cell phone? Concert tickets, sure, but a cell phone?

Steven Levy (At last, [the] iPhone) describes his own experience with iPhone this way:

"I was able to keep up with my e-mail, negotiate my way around the downtown, get tips on the city from an old friend whose number I don’t normally have handy, check the weather conditions in New York and D.C., monitor baseball scores and blogs, listen to an early Neil Young concert and amuse myself with silly YouTube videos and an episode of “Weeds,” all on a single charge before the battery ran down. Now, just about all those things could have been done by devices that are already out on the market. But considering I’d had the iPhone for just a day, and never taken a glance at a manual, it was an impressive introduction. In contrast, I’ve had a Motorola handset for two years and am still baffled at its weird approach to Web browsing and messaging."

Many of the reviews are saying similar things. No need to read a manual to do all this cool stuff with iPhone.

The Commercial is the Instruction Manual

If you've seen the iPhone commercials, or maybe the iPhone Guided Tour at the Apple web site, you pretty much know how to do all those things with iPhone.

This is the product of two and a half years of interface design and polish at Apple. The interface is so well designed that the commercial which sells the product is also the instruction manual. That is truly ground breaking.

Ending the Paradigm of Customer Abuse

Contrast this with the experience of the typical Verizon customer. They bear as a cross phones that feature bluetooth for example, but don't let them copy pictures to their bluetooth-enabled laptop or sound files to be used as ringtones from their laptop to their phone. They are tormented by things that they should be able to do with their phone, things possibly fun or even useful, but things so difficult to do that they don't actually do them. Verizon does this to them on purpose. The company is so scared by iPhone that they actually issued talking points (which include a few outright lies in addition to the half-truths and innuendo normally associated with the practice). They are not the only competing wireless carrier to do so, either.

The wireless carriers are all terrified of what will happen when there are a million people running around, just using their iPhone. The gulf betwixt iPhone and everything else on the market is pretty wide.

A friend of mine with a Verizon phone, just the other day and entirely unprompted (we had been talking about artificially enhanced breasts, and then moved on to air pollution), mentioned his new phone, saying, "This phone has a camera. It does all kinds of other stuff, too, but I can't figure it out. The manual is three hundred and eighty seven (387) pages long, and it's so poorly written that I can't understand it. It's like it was translated by a machine from the original Chinese and not edited by a native speaker."

He was probably exaggerating by only a hundred pages or so. I've seen those manuals. Most cell phones have them. Most people don't use most features of their phone, for lots of reasons that iPhone fixes.

That changes, tomorrow.

Hype is overrated

That's why people are camping out to be one of the first to get an iPhone. The level of consumer interest in iPhone, unprecedented in the cell phone industry and perhaps even exceeding the interest in the most popular gaming consoles ever, has nothing to do with "hype". It has everything to do with pent up consumer demand, to be unleashed by Apple on Friday at six in the evening.

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