From newspapers to magazines, from the internet to the television, all attention is on Obama – the undeclared winner of the race before it is even over. Oops! I meant the Apple iPhone. Then there is McCain struggling to get attention, despite having all the experience in the world – kind of like Nokia.
The parallels don’t stop here. Message of change with not much talk of substance is what defines Obama and the iPhone. Of course, Obama’s message is sexy and attracts a lot of attention from the youth market and many foreigners – even the ones that can’t vote. It’s the same story with the iPhone, a riveting sex appeal and deafening attention from the world over, including from the ones that can neither buy nor afford it. McCain, on the other hand, keeps talking of his experience, like Nokia, vocalizing their extensive knowledge and experience of the mobile industry.
Let’s now turn our attention to the mobile industry and look beyond the hype at an attempt to uncover the real deal behind the Nokia/iPhone war. Nokia makes phones for the masses and so, for comparison purposes, Nokia’s higher-end ‘N series’ phones, like the N82, N95, should be compared with the iPhone.
What is the basic purpose of a phone? To make calls anywhere, anyplace. If you call someone from your address book, probably both phones provide a similar experience. However, my test of a phone is to make calls with one hand while driving and when I put both of these phones to test, the iPhone failed me while most phones with keypads like Nokia worked well. Having a standard RCA phone jack gives us the flexibility to buy headphones of any type – Apple does a good job by equipping the iPhone with the jack, and finally Nokia is learning and standardizing on it. Wearing headphones in both ears has been deemed illegal in many states before the current cell phone laws came into effect. In the case of the iPhone, the way in which headsets are packaged, most users tend to wear headphones in both ears which may be illegal in many states. Nokia, and many others, who had this advantage are giving it up by packaging stereo headsets. Voice quality, although subjective, is surely somewhat better with Nokia’s headset than with the iPhone. Now, on to using the iPhone away from your home network – Yes, you can use AT&T and pay as much as two dollars per minute, but if you want to unlock your iPhone and use the local SIM of the country that you are visiting, don’t expect help from AT&T, which it seems to provide for other phones.
Web browsing is a new purpose introduced by iPhone, with all previous attempts being sub-optimal. There is no doubt that Apple wins here, hands down from every other vendor. Needless to say, with iTunes and iPod’s success, the iPhone offers a much superior experience. Unfortunately, with the limited memory on the iPhone, I wouldn’t use the iPhone any more than I’d use my iPod Shuffle.
Email is another function that the Blackberry streamlined, and just like the iPhone excelled at Web browsing. Needless to say, the Blackberry is the king of the email functionality hill, and the iPhone has a long way to go to catch up. In addition, the absence of a real keypad ensures the sad fact that the iPhone may never be able to catch up on email functionality. Nokia did well on its E Series, although its N Series experience can only be termed sub-optimal.
Five mega pixel cameras and great branded lenses are the hallmark of Nokia’s new phones, including the N95. The iPhone, however, has a long way to get there, but more pictures are being taken per phone by iPhone users because of the bigger screen size and the pictures just look better on the iPhone screen. However, don’t try shooting a video with the iPhone yet, since it doesn’t support that feature, while many low end phones already come equipped with that capability.
The part that really surprised me was the attention that the Apple developer kit and other third party software got from the media. Hello! Symbian (and hence Nokia) has had one of the best developer kits in the industry for a long time and have applications in the thousands available. True, Nokia and Symbian failed in hyping it up, but the fact is that Apple came fashionably late to this party and simply stole the show. Apple has created a revenue model for its software developers, and Nokia needs to learn while it fruitlessly tries to be Google rather than making money for its developers, and hence, for itself.
Extensibility is another area where the iPhone gets zero marks. I’m shocked at how little has been written about it in the press. You can’t replace the battery yourself and the memory is not extendable either since that’s how Apple chose to differentiate its models. On the other hand, most other phones come with a removable battery that you can buy anywhere. Memory is also pretty much standardized in the form of MicroSD cards for most phones. Oh yes, if you want to charge your iPhone without a PC/Mac, be ready to shell out another $20 for the charger, since Apple chose not to supply one.
R. Paul Singh
President & CEO