Don’t Buy an iPhone on Friday

Yes, it’s the coolest phone yet designed, but smart techies are going to wait on this one. It’s a little expensive at $599 and $60 a month for service other companies charge $40 a month for, but that’s not why you shouldn’t buy one. The two-year lock-in to a poor network is an even bigger reason to stay away, but that’s still not why you shouldn’t buy one. The real reason is that the iPhone won’t be ready.

Do you remember the first iPod? the first Newton? the first Mac? These were also very cool Apple devices that leapt beyond what anyone else had done, and consequently didn’t work quite right. It took a few iterations not only to work out the bugs, but more importantly to work out the design flaws that inevitably arose when inventing radically new product categories and user interfaces. The iPhone is no exception.

The phone that Apple releases tomorrow will be cool. It will be the best combined phone/PDA/music player that has yet hit the streets. It will certainly be the best keyboardless PDA ever designed. It will actually legitimize the whole category, much as the iPod legitimized MP3 players, the Palm Pilot legitimized PDAs, and the Mac legitimized GUIs. However, just like those products, version 1 won’t actually work all that well.

I don’t know what the problem will be, but I guarantee you there’ll be at least one. At worst, the iPhone will be like the original 128K Mac: a cool toy with lots of promise but too little power to get any real work done. At best it will be like the first iPod: a product so good that won’t even notice the problems until we see the version 2 that fixes them. But either way, I’m sure you’re much better off waiting for version 2 than buying one now.

There will be an iPhone 2 in six months, and an iPhone 3 six months after that, and an iPhone 4 six months after that. By the time the contract is up, maybe there’ll be an iPhone that really delivers the smooth experience Apple is known for. However, version 1 Apple products are just never that smooth. (Mac OS X 10.0 anyone?) It takes some real experience in the market, before you can smooth out all the rough edges in a product. The iPhone doesn’t have that yet. The iPod and the Mac do, but that’s because they’ve been through many, many iterations. When the iPhone has had a little time to mature, it will likely be a great product too, but until then it’s going to be an annoying, overpriced chic toy.

13 Responses to “Don’t Buy an iPhone on Friday”

  1. David Magda Says:

    […] $60 a month for service other companies charge $40 a month for […]

    What provider gives you “unlimited” data for $60/month? (Of course at this point we still don’t know if “unlimited” means unlimited or the tradition 1-200 MB/month.) You’re paying an extra $20 for that, which in Canada would get you a data plan with less than 10 MB/month.

    There are certainly many valid reasons not to get an iPhone this time around, but I don’t think the monthly cost is one of them.

  2. CoreyG Says:

    I disagree about the $60 plan being way more expensive than any other provider. I have a Blackberry on Verizon and I pay almost $90 a month for voice and data. Sure it’s got evdo, but it’s slow and the network isn’t that good, and the web browser is horrible. Maybe he doesn’t know that the $60 includes voice and data?

  3. Aaron Says:

    Thanks for the advice Elliotte and my left brain cannot disagree, but the right side that appreciates beauty and sexiness, is overruling. I’ll post later how much I like/dislike iPhone 1.0 along with actual usefulness. [note, i bought US Robotics Pilot 1.0 and was very pleased…original Treo Communicator (flip style), less so].

  4. Rick DeNatale Says:

    I’d probably buy one if I could afford one. David Pogue gave it a pretty good (p)review yesterday in the NYT, with a FAQ follow up today.

    As for waiting for iPhone v2, as I understand it since the device is pretty much defined by the software, future upgrades will be just that, upgrades, at least that’s the impression I got from the NYT article.

    As for the value of the unlimited data for $60/month, I wouldn’t expect to get that much data over the ATT/Cingular edge network anyway. The performance of the network is the real achilles heel of the iPhone. It’s just too slow, so I suspect that most iPhones are going to be getting most of their data through wiFi at home, the office or at hotspots, NOT via ATT, and the real data cost will be the cost of those services if any. The ATT data plan is just a tax to get the iPhone to work.

  5. Mark Hughes Says:

    Sprint has unlimited data for $15/mo on top of your voice plan (in my case, the $35 “Fair and Flexible”), with a faster network. As far as I can tell, there’s no upper limit on bandwidth. I’ve used it as a bluetooth modem for my laptop and had no extra charges.

    But while I love the expandability of my Treo 650p, it’s a painfully inferior device to the iPhone.

    My finances won’t let me buy one *today*, and in any case I was wary of the first-shipment bugs, but it’s still a device I must have as soon as it’s practical.

    I do remember the first-generation iPod. While limited, it was vastly superior to every other mp3 player.

  6. Aaron Says:

    Using the iPhone now (but not to post this)…the keyboard is weird…you do need to trust its error correction abilities which are pretty amazing but I’m still faster with my Treo’s KB. The speed and smoothness is incredible though! Must be tried to be belived. YouTube over WiFi flawless and the internet truly is in your pocket. Weather and Google Maps very slick. POP mail nice and easy to setup, but the test will be with corporate push (someday)…until then, CrackBerry addicts will stay away unless they just want to be entertained. The most amazing thing is the responsive touchscreen on such a tiny device. Noticed that it’s getting a little warm playing back video under the apple icon on the back, cpu must be underneath.

    If you like gadgets, you owe yourself a hands on test drive…then see if you can resist. Any other phone or even laptop will feel like last century’s tech.

  7. iMac Pr0n Says:

    I have a policy to never pay for sex, but in the iPhone’s case, I’ve made an exception. And I’m glad I did. You’re right. There will be two or three better iPhones before my contract with AT&T is up. That’s always the case with the computer industry. It won’t make me appreciate my sexy toy one bit less. And even my first gen iPhone will get better, every time Apple releases a software update.

    See for my vision of one future for the iPhone, possible with today’s hardware.

  8. Don Park Says:

    Unless you are a developer, that is.

    Heck, I got my hands full but I can’t resist dreaming up new apps for iPhone just so I’ll have a reason to get one. So far, a mountain of work is successfully keeping the dang phone at bay.

  9. pauldwaite Says:

    I’m not grown-up enough to remember the first Mac, but what was wrong with the first iPod? No wireless and less space than a Nomad, granted, but a friend at university had one and it seemed to work just dandy.

    I was so very jealous. Then so very smug about 8 months later when I got a 20 GB one for the same price he paid for his. Then less smug when the lighter, slicker 3rd generation came out about a month later. I hadn’t quite cottoned on to Macworld in January back then.

  10. platinum batt Says:

    well. you do make a good point with price but as you say the main reason most people are not commiting them selves to the iphone is because of the 2 year contract. well do you really think that is a problem right now. i just bought an iphone and unlocked it. NOt sim unlock, just activate unlock. which means i don’t need to sign up for a 2 year contract.. now i am sure you wrote this before the iphone launch. but this is what you failed to realised. the amount of hype surrounding the iphone has generated a lot of mobile phone hackers to take interest in apples new toy. Granted it’s the first phone by apple. but as you know in the real world no one cares. No one really cares about the difference b/n a mac and a pc. They want something that works. and which ever system gets them there fastest and cheapest then so be it. the iphone has generated so much hype that hackers are having a field day with it. and this is where apple might crumble by it’s own creation. Apple has never in the history had so many hacks on just one product. if apple is to fix these by realsing a new firmware every time a new loop hole is found then they might survive. but since apple has one of the worse track records for fixing bugs in their products from time announced this will cause lots of problems for them. basically this is is how is going to work. the iphone is and will be the most hacked phone on the planet and from what i am seeing only iphone customers will benefit from this. regardless of how stubborn apple tends to fight it.

  11. Ajeet Says:

    You know, by the x = x + 1 logic that you are proposing, we should never buy anything as a much better version will soon be coming. I strongly dislike that the iPhone is tied in to AT & T, but that is a smal price to pay to get the opportunity to fondle such a cool device.

  12. Eric Says:

    I have money to burn and want to look cool so I’m getting one.

    Not really…but that is what I see a lot of…buying for the sake of buying and being “hip”.

    Steve Jobs needs more money, he’s jealous of Bill Gates, so go buy 2 iPhones y’all!

    I agree with your view completely; buyers will be beta testers for Apple and AT&T (now the most dropped calls of any provider).


  13. Chere Ferguson Says:

    My ipod touch 1G is my primary iPod, Personal digital assistant and even more, and even has also been day that I found it. It continues to work on the recent iPod system software program, and also any app I need it to run. I’m using it to leave this remark at the moment. I would point out it can be a lot more compared with only an “excellent hobbyist system” — it is an outstanding iPod