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iPhone 2.0: The difficult second album

Jonathan Mulholland knows a thing or three about the mobile industry and I always enjoy his perspective. This weekend I’m pleased to bring you his thoughts on iPhone 2.0.

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I think there are remote Amazonian tribes, isolated from western civilization deep in the jungle, who have heard that the 3G iPhone is coming on June 9th.

I’m not sure that speculation is any longer the right term for it; pretty realistic looking predicitons have been circulating the web for months now. 3G HSDPA, GPS, AppStore – I’m sure you’ve heard the list. I remember speculation back before MacWorld 2007, the rumours were flying then to be sure but none that I can remember came close to the final spec or even the look and feel of the device. When Steve Jobs finally whipped the first iPhone out on stage it was to genuine awe. Do you remember that wow factor? Do you remember scouring Flickr and the web that night trying to track down as many ‘real’ pictures of the device as possible? No? Just me then…

I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that it’s getting harder and harder for the 2nd generation iPhone to launch with the same buzz. 3G…’meh!’ Better camera…’and?’ Download applications…’so what else is new?’ It’s going to be harder to impress this time. Added to this competition in the device market is hotting up – Blackberry, Nokia, LG, Google Android each have devices ariving or on the scene already that are real iPhone competitors. And all of these are ready to compete with the presumed future specification of the 2nd generation iPhone, not the current version.

Has the iPhone had it’s moment? Will the event next week be an anticlimax? I don’t think so. I think Apple will use a few of the tricks learnt in building the iPods market dominance to also unveil a real surprise. I’m betting Steve’s famous ‘one more thing’ next week will be the announcement of an iPhone mini / nano / air – a smaller, sexier ‘fashion accessory’ device that will take the iPhone truly towards mass market adoption.

Sceptical? I was explaining my train of thought on this to a friend the other day…

Apple launch the 1st generation iPod. Whilst the specs aren’t that impressive by themselves Apple’s design approach and innovation in bringing these pieces together creates an interesting (if overpriced for what it is) product. The user interface in particular is pretty revolutionary. Early adopting geeks like me buy it, but it doesn’t immediatley take off in every market. Sound familiar? This is where we’ve been for the past year with the iPhone. The mobile industry is alerted, but not quite sure to what extent or how they should compete, and starts to build devices that mimic the specs and functionality.

A couple of years later Apple launch the iPod mini. Specification wise it appears to be a step backwards – it even has a smaller hard drive, but it looks cute and crucially it comes in pink. People like my wife start to buy it. Incremental changes are made to the user interface as the Click Wheel is introduced. It may be inferior technically to most other offerings in the market (including Apples now 2nd and 3rd Generation iPod’s) but the iPod Mini is now cheap enough to become a fashion accessory, mass adoption starts quietly. A repeat of this is what I’m expecting from the key note next week. Lots of players in the mobile industry will misread the move and start to think that Apple has lost the plot, but a cheaper smaller device with a spec that doesn’t push the boundaries could really spark mass market appeal.

Fast forward one more year, and Apple launch the iPod nano. It’s a really bold move – replacing the now best selling mini only one year into its product life and it wrong foots most of the competition who are now scrambling to bring out small hard drive iPod mini competitors (remember the Creative Zen Micro?). The nano introduces significant innovation into the market place (flash memory, dramatically reduced form factor, colour screen). The iPod line as a whole is now well on the way into mass adoption, and has reached a price point sweetspot. Won over by the design, and at a price which is now more reasonable the iPod line starts to cement long term dominance of the market place. This is what I think will happen next year, by which time Apple will have caused a major shift in the handset market place.

It really wouldn’t be difficult for Apple’s engineers to take the hardware feature set of last years 1st Generation iPhone and put it into a smaller, sexier reduced form factor case. For sure the specification of such a device wouldn’t be impressive – but isn’t this the exact same trick played with the iPod Mini, and more recently the MacBook Air?

Only 9 days to go to find out…

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Republished with permission from Jonathan’s personal site.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “iPhone 2.0: The difficult second album”

Agree 100% Jonathan.

GPS is a complete distraction. Hardly anyone uses it on the N95, and even with the new Nokia Maps Walking release, GPS is still just too slow/battery-hungry to be a mass-market, often-used feature. Apple/Google nailed it with the Skyhook Wireless system that gives 'good enough' location.

Better camera? It doesn't need to be 5MP with a Zeiss lens to be Good Enough. Apple don't need the >=5MP cachet to shift units the way Samsung do. Better low-light/moving subject performance is all most people will want. I have some moderately stunning images taken in good light, captured on the iPhone, and Flickr is full of what a pro can do with one.

The iPhone is now the most popular cameraphone on Flickr, beating out the N95, with its 5MP and Zeiss lense. If the rumours are true, iP2.0 will include Google-based geotagging…now THIS is something I want, and the masses will use in spades. It will be set-and-forget, and will just work (where you can get a GMaps lock that is, which is still a much nicer experience than GPS, in both Time To First Fix and battery life). Combined with Flickr Maps it will be downright addictive, with no excuse not to geotag all of your images. I'm confident it will be this easy because It Has To Be To Be Appealing.

Some say the Flip now has 13% of the camcorder market. Regardless, the high-end camcorder market is in freefall as people wake up to Youtube/Flickr/embedding video in blogs etc as means of sharing snippets of Good Enough video with family & friends. It is now much less about quality and more about timeliness. I have 3 years of baby footage languishing on MiniDV tape, and will sadly, probably, never get around to iMovie/iDVD-ing it into an easily accessible format. But any future child will be Flickr video'd on a weekly if not daily basis – just as the current offspring are.

So I expect Good Enough video capability, with auto upload to Flickr / post to .Mac via Mac sync built right in.

The tech press and analysts will fret themselves silly doing shortfall tables against the N95 8GB / N96 / Secret, but they will again miss the point. Only the geeks care about spec pissing contests, and they will buy an iPhone anyway for the cachet.

/m

Yeah – sharing online will be a big part of iPhone 2.

I'm going to Japan for a holiday in a couple of months. I want to set up a blog that will feed photos, videos, Twitter posts etc so that people back home can follow what I'm doing there. iPhone 2 will be the ideal device providing it does indeed do all of that. Apple's 'it just works' functionality will mean that I should be able to hop onto wifi whenever it's available and just get on with it.

Not long to wait to find out!

Your argument seems logical. But, if an iphone nano (or whatever they call it) is to succeed its gotta have 3G. So the analogy doesn't totally parallel the ipod. I suppose they could fit an iphone into a smaller unit with 3G if they reduced the size of the flash drive along with not putting in GPS.
Its really going to be interesting to see what Steve Jobs does on June 9th.

My gut feeling is that there are many, many normobs who care very little about 3G. Amongst my friends and family I can think of quite a few who would buy an iPhone if it were cheaper regardless of the connectivity speed it provided. Doesn't O2's recent price cut and the subsequent boost in sales reflect this?

Back to the iPod mini analogy

Agreed about 3G as a feature in it's own right, except that if this is the handset you plan to introduce normobs to mobile browsing on – and all the indicators are that it is – it better be as fast as the desktop and that really means 3G (even with the iPhone's excellent and speedy presentation).

Possibly, but I'd see 'iPhone nano' as being more about being an accessible combination of iPod and phone rather than being a serious web device – a 'cheap and cheerful' way of getting normobs on the iPhone bandwagon.

I'd say to most of the public, the iPhone brand is first and formost about status and good looks. If they can buy into that by forgoing some of the online capabilities (and getting better battery life to boot) they will.

Possibly, but I'd see 'iPhone nano' as being more about being an accessible combination of iPod and phone rather than being a serious web device – a 'cheap and cheerful' way of getting normobs on the iPhone bandwagon.

I'd say to most of the public, the iPhone brand is first and formost about status and good looks. If they can buy into that by forgoing some of the online capabilities (and getting better battery life to boot) they will.

Possibly, but I'd see 'iPhone nano' as being more about being an accessible combination of iPod and phone rather than being a serious web device – a 'cheap and cheerful' way of getting normobs on the iPhone bandwagon.

I'd say to most of the public, the iPhone brand is first and formost about status and good looks. If they can buy into that by forgoing some of the online capabilities (and getting better battery life to boot) they will.

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