The iPhone Is NOT The Best Music Phone

iphone_music
I’ve recently gotten my mitts on a 4GB iPhone for testing and because I’m a geek. I’ve been playing with it for a few days, but the first thing I’ve come to realize is that it’s far from the ultimate music phone.

The problem is not in getting music ON the phone (which is where most other handsets fail miserably). It’s disgustingly simple to get music ONTO the iPhone, and the organization is similar to the iPod, which is well accepted to be dead-easy to use.

The problem lies in attempting to ENJOY that music. You can’t easily do so. There’s three main ways to enjoy music – wired, wireless, and through loudspeakers. The iPhone sucks at all three. It has a 3.5mm jack, so Jobs would say it’s not proprietary. However, that jack was recessed into the handset, so you must use Apple’s specially designed headphones, or purchase a special adapter, which means it might as well be proprietary, for all intents and purposes.

Now let’s look at wireless. The iPhone HAS Bluetooth, but you can’t do much with it. The necessary profiles are missing, namely A2DP. This is something that Apple has routinely NOT put in their iPod line, and it really bothers me. It’s secure, there’s no reason not to include it. Thus, the iPhone cannot be used with any stereo Bluetooth headphones.

Last, the speakers built-in suck. They’re inconveniently located at the bottom of the device, and they’re dual-mono, meaning you get the same sound out of both speakers. They don’t get very loud, and they’re simply sub-par for what seems to be marketed as a ‘music device’. Again, you can’t use external speakers, other than using a proprietary dock.

Coming from the Nokia N95, I’m used to having a bear of a time trying to get music ONTO the device (save for having to suffer through Windows Media Player), but having zero issues enjoying the music in whatever form suits me. WIth the Nokia, I can even pair a regular single-ear Bluetooth headset and listen to music, which is great for podcasts and the like. I have a 3.5mm lead in my truck that I added myself, to use with my iPod, and more recently, my N81 8GB or N95. This lead won’t work on the iPhone, which is frustrating.

It begs the question, though. What is more important to get mass usage? Being able to easily *get* music onto your music phone, or having the ability to enjoy that music in several different ways?

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13 Responses to The iPhone Is NOT The Best Music Phone

  1. Ewan January 2, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    You make a very, very good point Ricky… I think Nokia actually, on reflection, have it working quite well ONCE the music is playing!

  2. Dan Lane January 2, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    The iPhone does come with a dock that has a normal line-out jack on it.. we use it with some spare Dell speakers for tunes in the bedroom (with the new last.fm application this is exceptionally cool).

    Also, the iPhone speakers aren’t dual-mono, it simply has one mono speaker, the other set of holes is for the microphone 🙂

    I agree about the recessed headphone jack, that’s just a case of aesthetics over function and inexcusable!

  3. James @ Nokia Creative January 3, 2008 at 12:15 am #

    Hmm, I going to disagree on this one, but only from my personal perspective…

    I walk to work/train to work, though the N95 comes a very close second, I have to say the the iPhone has it beat as a music player for me.

    Just a couple of points — I don’t have to charge my iPhone headphones – the earbud inline pause/skip button is almost perfect – switching between podcasts, audible audio books, music and music videos takes quite literally 2 seconds. But perhaps the biggest reason why the iPhone is such a good music player… I can write emails, browse the net, reply to text messages, all with incredible ease and my music remains completely uninterrupted.

    Add to this list your point about getting music onto the iPhone, which I believe is a massive boon, and I (personally) think the iPhone beats off all competition.

  4. Ricky January 3, 2008 at 12:39 am #

    I suppose I should clarify the things that would make the ‘ultimate’ music phone, for me:

    1. dead-easy to load music on
    2. dead-easy to navigate said music ON the device
    3. use ANY standard pair of headphones
    4. Have speakers built-in good enough to use in most situations (playing cards with friends, taking a shower, in the car, etc). Not necessarily blast a party by any means, but able to be heard and with decent quality
    5. support stereo Bluetooth

    To be 100% honest, I don’t think there’s a cellphone on the market that completely masters this. The iPhone obviously has the first 2 in the can. The N95 (or any other Nokia with the bottom three) comes nowhere near to the first two.

    No company has successfully married the getting ON with the ENJOY factor. Personally, the bottom three are more important to me, but I’m certainly not everyone.

  5. Jim January 3, 2008 at 2:24 am #

    The comment about the speaker on the iPhone is idiotic. Nobody buys any kind of music phone with the intention of “enjoying” music over the tiny, tinny handset speaker. iPods and other mp3 players don’t even have built-in speakers, are they therefore not “music devices”?

    Also, you’re dead wrong about needing a “proprietary dock” to connect to external speakers. All you need is an 8th inch stereo plug and possibly the $10 adapter so it’ll fit.

    I agree that the special size of the iPhone jack is an annoyance, but I’ll bet you that within a year, most headphone and patch-cord makers will have slimmed down their cords so that they fit. I’ll cry you a river for your extra $10 until then. As for Bluetooth stereo headsets, Apple obviously have their heads up their asses about that, and the stunningly mediocre sales of the iPod line are probably due entirely to this missing feature.

    Jesus.

  6. John January 3, 2008 at 9:55 am #

    “The comment about the speaker on the iPhone is idiotic. Nobody buys any kind of music phone with the intention of “enjoying” music over the tiny, tinny handset speaker”

    I’d suggest you spend more time watching what people under the age of 20 do with their phones. Round here they all walk around playing music on their phones as if it was a mini-ghetto blaster. I’ve used mine as the accompaniment for pass-the-parcel at children’s parties a number of times.

  7. James @ Nokia Creative January 3, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    Okay, I know I’m probably going to get laughed at for saying this but I actually find the iPhone speaker pretty good. It’s certainly not loud enough for many situations, but at low volumes it produces a pleasant warm sound with clear vocals.

  8. Ben Smith January 3, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Actually, I like the recessed connector… As the man from Apple pointed out way back (can’t find the link right now) they made the decision to recess it because the most frequently damaged part of an ipod was the headphone socket getting knocked or damaged when inserting / removing headphones and they expected people to insert and remove headphones much more frequently on the iPhone.

    WRT bluetooth headphones, I’ve not tested any yet, but given the big deal Apple made about selecting 2G over 3G due to battery-life I suspect they were considering that…

  9. Jim January 3, 2008 at 3:14 pm #

    “I’d suggest you spend more time watching what people under the age of 20 do with their phones. Round here they all walk around playing music on their phones as if it was a mini-ghetto blaster. I’ve used mine as the accompaniment for pass-the-parcel at children’s parties a number of times.”

    I’d suggest you explain where “round here” is and what “pass-the-parcel” means. And also check whether you can distinguish between a ringtone and a music track. Round where I am, (Chicago) kids and adults consume from phones and iPods with earbuds and headphones.

  10. Ben Smith January 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm #

    @Jim: Maybe it’s just a UK thing. Get on any bus in London and there’ll be at least one ‘yoof’ with tinny hip-hop blaring from the speaker of their mobile. Some handsets are even sold with free mini clip-on speakers that increase the volume (if not the quality) slightly. The rest of us use earbuds to block it out…

    Having said that, I’ve never witnessed said yoofs discussing audio quality or waving £269 phones around… so I’m not sure the original observation is valid.

  11. Danny February 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm #

    The best music phone by far is the MotoRokr Z6M…that phone is so easy to load….std 3.5mm jack….any bluetooth headphones work….easy to navigate….small simple phone….great speaker…..etc…

    and the recessed connector on the iphone is not a protection feature….its an apple mod to use their 20 buck headphones.

  12. hassan February 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

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  13. hassan February 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    get a sony ericsson w980 ESIA Best music phone award 2008 – 2009

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