I made a prediction a couple months before the original iPhone came out that features would not be the deciding factor in whether or not the device was successful. I also refined that argument here. I think time has shown me to be right on this one. Here’s what I wrote in May of 2007:
My point, which I feel is Apple’s direct strategy with this device, is that you can actually blow away the market without playing the features game. The concept being that it’s possible to actually win with fewer features as long as you do each of them extremely well.
This includes the stuff we normally don’t pay any attention to, such as: the size and shape of the device, the look and feel of it in your hand, how it feels to navigate the interface, and how the system looks and feels when you use the basic functions such as making and receiving phone calls.
In other words, their bet is that doing a few things beautifully is going to be beat out doing many more things in a “regular” way.
I think this is precisely what has happened — both with the original iPhone and with the 3G version. The iPhone is still way behind many phones on the market with respect to features. Not only does it lack key functionality, but many things it does have, e.g. it’s camera, are violently underwhelming compared to the competition.
It doesn’t matter.
When people complain about their iPhone having a crappy camera it’s always in the context of, “I wish my iPhone had a better camera.” In other words, they want their iPhone to have a better one, but the option of going to another device isn’t even on the table. On the other hand, there are many Nokia N9x users (e.g. Scoble) with a 47 megapixel beast on their devices who end up wanting and/or getting an iPhone. That’s the difference.
The thing that got me thinking about this was this “iPhone 3G Killer” article that just hit my feeds. They talk about the latest Samsung, HTC, Sony and Nokia offerings. Here’s a rich piece of comedy:
The HTC Touch Pro is the most powerful and feature packed phone ever on Earth. It sports 288 MB RAM, coupled with a very powerful 528 MHZ processor. It runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro…
Buh bye. All that power — the Mini-Hubble they used for the camera — it’s all pointless if you don’t love using your device. And very few people “love” to use their Windows device. Powerful? Sure. Features? Sure. But do you love to use it? Uh, no.
The iPhone isn’t winning because it’s better at the game that HTC and Windows Mobile are playing. The iPhone is winning because it’s playing a completely different game, within a completely different sport, and it’s the only player on the field.
If you need any more evidence of this, just look to Japan. Their phones and networks make ours look like car phone bricks from the 80’s. You’ve heard the comparisons: “their stuff two years ago is better than our will be next year…” Video conferencing, teleportation, yadda yadda. Well, if that’s the case then why did they go batshit crazy for the iPhone when it’s already so far behind?
Answer: it’s not about the features. It’s about the feel. ::
[ 2010-07-05 : You should seriously read this piece from marco.org as well. ]