Apple Buyers' Guide: Apple's Amazing iPhone

The phenomenal success of Apple's iPhone doesn't mean that everyone should immediately go out and buy one. Does it?

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

August 27, 2007

3 Min Read

Overall, I'm very happy with the iPhone. So why am I advising against buying one? Well, the iPhone has shortcomings:

  • It's expensive. It's priced at $399. You also have to pay a $36 activation fee. Monthly telco fees start at $60, and you have to make a minimum two-year commitment.

For everything it does, that's actually a pretty good value. But let's face it, the iPhone costs a lot of clams. In other words, it's a luxury device.

  • The text input method is not for everyone. While most smartphones use a hardware thumb-keyboard, the iPhone uses an onscreen QWERTY keyboard that pops up when you need it, but disappears when you don't. I like it myself -- I find it intuitive and fast enough, especially when you take advantage of the iPhone's type-ahead and auto-correct capabilities. (The iPhone has a pretty good idea what you meant to type, and if you miss a couple of letters, it'll correct them for you.) But at least one study shows the iPhone keyboard is slower than competitors'.

  • The EDGE network is slow. I mainly use it on Wi-Fi networks, where it flies, and I haven't noticed many problems when I'm on the EDGE network. But there have been complaints.

  • You're locked into AT&T. Although some enterprising hackers have found a way around this, you're basically stuck with one service company.

  • There is little support for the enterprise.The iPhone doesn't have native support for synching with enterprise applications like Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, although third-party services are available to bridge the gap.

  • Third-party apps are officially unsupported. The iPhone doesn't have native support for third-party applications, although there are a myriad third-party Web apps that run in the Web browser. Hackers have put together toolsets for installing third-party apps on your iPhone, but they're not supported by Apple.

  • The iPhone needs GPS. The Maps application is great, but it would be so much better if the iPhone knew your precise location without your having to tell it.

  • It's still a first-generation device. In other words, the bugs are still being shaken out of it (although there really are very few bugs). By next summer, I expect to see Apple come out with iPhones that are more powerful and attractive, while dropping the price precipitously on existing models. Indeed, they already dropped prices once, by $200, on September 5th.

And that's why I'm advising against buying the iPhones. If you're in doubt about whether to buy one, wait. You'll have more attractive options soon enough. And if you're not in doubt, if you're an early adopter, if you have to have an iPhone -- you've bought your iPhone already.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

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