Tag Archives: Cloud computing

iPhone 3G: 2 months on, post-hype

iPHONE 3.0: 2 MONTHS ON, POST-HYPE

I recently bought my son a new iPhone 3G, a month after they first went on sale, and buying it then was a bit less painful than buying it the first day. The first day was like attending the premier of Batman: The Dark Knight. And as the Dark Knight has made $500M as of this writing, Apple is still selling a lot of iPhones.

So, what is the experience of the iPhone 3G, now 8 weeks later, after the initial thrill of excitement, post-hype, after the reality distortion sphere has dissipated?

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good

This launch has been very good for Apple in terms of revenue and market share growth. “iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in a statement.

  • iPhone sales statistics:

1M first weekend

3M in the first month

8M iPhones? At this time, Apple had manufactured at least 5,649,000 iPhone 3Gs. Added to the 2.4 million first-generation iPhones the company reported it had sold in the first six months of 2008, that means that Apple has manufactured more than 8 million iPhones this year. In 2007, Apple sold 3.71 million iPhones.

Overall, the experience of buying an iPhone 3G, while in high demand initially, was pleasant and made easier by Apple’s convenient iPhone availability widget.

  • AppStore:

There were 60 million downloads in the first 30 days, admittedly mostly for free apps, but with about $30 million in revenue, and a runway of 3 million more new iPhones out there to run them on.

The iPhone is a small part of Apple’s business — only 5% of its overall sales in the latest quarter. Macintosh computers and iPods typically generate 75% of Apple’s revenue. But iPhones are hugely profitable. By some estimates, Apple stands to make between $100 and $400 on each new iPhone sold, depending on the model (8 or 16GB) and wireless carrier.

Although Apple has less than 1 percent of the overall cell phone market, it has 19.2 percent share in U.S. smart phones, which pack more functions. That put it ahead of Palm, which had 13.4 percent, but far behind RIM’s 44.5 percent, according to research firm IDC. And the less than successful launch of Apple’s MobileMe “cloud” offering has made predictions of the demise of RIM’s BlackBerry seem rather premature.

iPhone 3G imageThe Bad

  • iPhone 2.0 software

While there are many new features in the long awaited 2.0 firmware update, available on the first generation iPhone as well, there seem to be a number of steps backward as well. Some of the iPhone core applications are less stable, with the Mobile Safari crashing regularly when it didn’t do that with the 1.0 software. There are still some persistent and vexing features missing: copy and paste within and across applications or global search — it’s available only in Phone/Contacts.

Additionally, core applications have shown sluggish performance, slow typing, as well as clunky scrolling and Safari rotation. The 2.0.2 version update of software has addressed some problems, but not all.

  • 1.0 Apps

While there are many fine 3rd party applications available in the AppStore, they are by definition 1.0 versions. Because there is no Apple-supported universal beta or try-and-by program in the AppStore, these apps don’t have the testing that most usual applications enjoy. Some are quite immature. Many of them are unstable and crash regularly. And when they do, they can lock up the entire iPhone. Steve Jobs said he’s look into it.

  • Where are the AppStore “killer apps?”

Applications that one would expect, that are common on other platforms like Palm’s Treo or Windows Mobile phones are still missing in action on the iPhone. Here are the two most obvious:

Office documents: while you can view Microsoft Office and Mac iWork documents, you can neither edit nor create them on the iPhone.

Turn-by-turn navigation: the GPS feature on the iPhone 3G is very nice — though a battery killer — and on the iPhone’s native Google Maps is wonderful to behold. But Google Maps directions are not known for their accuracy. And while it works in a pinch, it is not the same as turn-by-turn navigation. While a number of popular vendors have mentioned intentions or successful porting to the iPhone, there have been no release announcements or available products at this time.

  • Suggested Apps

Here are a couple of potential Apps that I know would be immensely popular:

Typing shortcuts: the iPhone keyboard does not allow one to type as fast as on a physical keyboard like the “thumb boards” on the Treo, BlackBerry, or other smartphones. And while it does have an auto-correction feature called “keyboard dictionary”, I’d like to see the availability of an app that does either predictive typing (T9) or “macro” shortcuts — think “.sig” for your signature.

Speed navigation: moving around the iPhones apps mean a trip through the “Home” button before moving to the next app. And drilling through menus even within an application can take a lot of time. Changing email accounts takes 4 “clicks”, toggling BlueTooth or 3G on/off also takes 4, email account modifications take more. Either a gesturing system or an imaginative use of the “hard buttons” would be greatly welcomed.

The Ugly

Here are a couple of things that detracted from the huge media event of 8 weeks ago, both of which persist.

  • MobileMe

This long awaited enhancement to the dusty .Mac service got off to a rocky start the first day, lifted off, crashed, was rumored to be fixed, but alas, no. Apple has as much as admitted it wasn’t ready, and no longer promotes it as it was originally stated “Exchange for the rest of us.”

Steve Jobs said in an Apple internal memo in August:

It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

This appeared to be a back-end infrastructure problem, at least on the first day during what has been called the iPocalypse. Why Apple did not take advantage of VMware Fusion technology to avoid the server meltdown earlier, is hard to understand. But MobileMe still isn’t performing as expected. iPhone updates “to the cloud” is occasionally near instantaneous, if you have “Push” turned on in Settings — another real battery killer — but synchronization with iCal/Address Book is at best 15 minutes out.

To that end, Apple has twice offered extensions to users’ annual contract, first one month, the second time two months.

  • Battery Life

My personal biggest complaint is the battery life. While Steve Job’s launch said the battery in the 3G is superior to the 1st generation, that has not been my experience, nor that of most of the people I know and correspond with. While it may be the case that the battery is better than the 1st Gen when both devices are in standby mode, the new iPhone 3G has capabilities that the 1st doesn’t, and one or more of those may be the culprit. Here are some examples:

GPS radio: I’ve seen this feature run a device dry, even when plugged into a car lighter charger. I now usually leave “Location Services” off.

3G radio: AT&T’s coverage maps is, shall we say, wildly optimistic. I live in the coverage area, but only get one 1 bar. Not all locations in the country get coverage, I usually leave this off.

“Push” email: Microsoft Exchange, and even MobileMe support pushing email to the iPhone, but this can run down the battery faster. I only push Exchange.

3rd party apps: some of these are location-aware — which turns on the GPS to find your location — others apps connect to Web servers. I suspect some buggy versions are a battery culprit.

Bottom line: is it a keeper? Sure. I trust that upcoming firmware upgrades address some of these issues, more stable apps are less sloppy in their use of memory and battery, and that some killer apps do come over the horizon.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

iPhone 3G: the Second Coming

iPhone 3G: the Second Coming

Last week, after an eagerly waited and much speculated upon announcement from Steve Jobs at the World Wide Developer Conference, we finally got the story on the 2.0 version of the iPhone, known as iPhone 3G. While it’s really iPhone 2.0, we get the appearance of a 3.0 product with the new name. The event was a combination of Woodstock love fest, fan boy rally, and reality distortion field generation par excellence. But Steve Jobs announced what most people were expecting, and then some.

In the past, when people have asked me what I have thought about the first generation iPhone, I told them “Excellent as a media device: music, movies, YouTube, email/web browsing are all seamless.” But the flip side was this: as a data device is was sorely lacking. Specifically:

  • No 3rd party applications could be (safely) installed
  • No data, including Office files, could be transferred to the iPhone for editing
  • The PIM (Personal Information Management) tools were immature: Address Book had no searching, Calendar had no colors for sub-calendars, Mail was weak

These will change with the iPhone 3G and the updated iPhone 2.0 software expected on July 11. Here are the highlights:

  • Apple’s App Store will permit and distribute 3rd party applications for the phone, in some cases over-the-air
  • Integration of Microsoft Office and Apple iWorks documents. (Though we don’t know yet about “editability”)
  • PIM upgrades: Address Book will allow searching (though not any “cut & paste” yet?), Calendar will support different  sub-calendars with different colors, Mail will allow push technology from Exchange via ActiveSync.

Game Changers

There are several things both explicit and implicit in the announcement that could change the way people use mobile devices like smart phones. While 3G and GPS are not a new item in cell phones, the combination of a number of elements in the iPhone ecosystem could change the game.

  • Location Based Services: while there are other phones with both 3G and GPS, the iPhone holds out the promise of an easy-to-use, high resolution mobile device that can support services that rely on knowing where you are. One was demoed at the announcement, Loopt is a social networking tool that would tell you where your friends are and vice-versa. Adaptive GPS (A-GPS) will take advantage of the closest satellite as well as WiFi and cellphone tower triangulation to identify a users location. Will this serve as the communicator locator from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or introduce a privacy concern?
  • 3rd party applications: The Macintosh has some of the most innovative developers, several apps previewed at the announcement could have a profound impact on productivity, enterprise connectivity and gaming. 250,000 iPhone software development kits have been downloaded and an analysts at Piper Jaffray believes it could be the start of a billion dollar ecosystem. The previously existing Web-based-only applications are trivially easy to “install” (use), but can be slow to start up and don’t work without a connection to the Web.
  • Enterprise connectivity: Access to the corporate Exchange server, previously only available for  the BlackBerry with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, could have an impact on how corporate users access their email, calendar and contacts. Could they turn their BlackBerry back in?
  • Wide availability: Presently, the iPhone is only (legitimately) available in 6 countries. Of course, unlocked versions have appeared everywhere, not tied to the official carrier of the country. When I was in Hong Kong last December, I saw iPhones available many places for sale, despite the fact there is no carrier there. By July 11 this year, it will be available in 22 countries, and 70 are expected by some time next year. Notably missing on the map are China and Russia, but confirmed contracts with carriers there seem to have simply missed the announcement date, work continues apace.
  • Cloud computing: Apple plans their own over-the-air updating system, “Exchange for the rest of us” as it were. The rebranded .Mac, aka MobileMe will allow near real time synchronization of email, calendar and contacts between the iPhone, Macintosh, and web-based PCs. More on this in a subsequent article.

TCO vs. ROI?

Although the new iPhone 3G will have a lower initial purchase price of $199 vs. the previous $399 for the 8GB device, the Total Cost of Ownership is measured by the initial cost plus the ongoing monthly service fees over the 2 year commitment to the carrier. Announced by AT&T on the same day as the iPhone 3G, but not as part of the Apple announcement, was the new pricing service for the device. The monthly data plan and SMS plans will cost more, making the device more expensive to own over 2 years by as much as $160. But perhaps the more valuable analysis would be the Return On Investment. The incremental value of being able to pull data down faster over a 3G connection, or the added value of GPS functionality… all add up over a 2 year period and may be compelling enough for a new purchase, or upgrade.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com