Category: Business Development

What Apple did “wrong” with the iPhone

Apple is now the largest mobile phone device manufacturer in the world based on value. When the first iPhone was released, I worked for one of their competitors and it’s striking how much Apple did “wrong” according to the practices in the industry in 2006-2007. This list can probably get much longer.

The name. You’re not supposed to give your phone a name. It’s supposed to be called a letter and a number. Yeah, the RAZR was cool, but that was it.

One device. You’re not supposed to have only one device. That’s madness! You should cover every possible segment of the market with various flavours of the same platform. In fact, you should use many platforms and OSes just to be “safe”.

No buttons. Users don’t understand a phone without buttons. You have to have buttons. If you have a touch screen it has to use a tiny pencil. But the phone should still have buttons.

No MMS. When the iPhone was released I worked for a competitor with operator requirements for Java ME. The end user never sees this, but each major operator sends thousands of pages of requirements that the device manufacturer is supposed to live up to. MMS is one of the most important ones. The iPhone didn’t have it. It seemed to be not based on operator requirements at all. Insane!

No video calls. How can you make an expensive smartphone and not include the coolest mobile technology of them all: video calling? You’re not supposed to do that. What? No one uses it? Don’t care, it’s cool, OK? And the industry spent billions developing it.

Lousy camera. The mega-pixel race was on but the first iPhone contained a 2MP camera. You’re supposed to max out the mega-pixels. That’s how you do it.

Poor bluetooth support. Another telecom favourite technology that you’re supposed to implement in a smartphone but that the first iPhone didn’t do very well.

No 3G (first generation). Now this is truly insane! The first iPhone didn’t even have 3G.

The price. The iPhone was too expensive. Everyone in the business knows that in order to get volume you have to handle the price pressure. You have to have volume or else the operators don’t want you in their deck (they sell subscriptions and want your phone to be as cheap as possible so the customer can buy an expensive subscription instead). You also have to prepare for being able to sell your phones in Africa and then they have to be super cheap. Remember the key word: VOLUME!

The size. Too big. Phones are small, OK? Small with lots of features!

The AT&T deal. The device manufacturer is supposed to do what the operator tells them to. The operator is supposed to be in command. Not the other way around.

Installable apps. This one’s a favourite. As I mentioned, I worked with Java ME and we (as in “our team”) could clearly see where the market was heading: the phone you buy in the store is only a starting point. The buyer should be able to customize it and install new features developed by third party developers (aka “apps”). There were some attempts to go in this direction but when we tried to push this harder everyone said the same thing “there are no operator requirements for this”. Oh well.

Yeah, the first iPhone didn’t have this either but when they finally did it they did it exactly right and created a whole new ecosystem. So this is actually two “wrongs”: first, not having downloadable apps at all and then when they did add it they added it completely outside the control of the operators. They even implemented their own payment mechanism.

Insane…