iPhone 2.0 Lesson: Good Marketing Can Lead to Bad Decisions


This morning I got an e-mail from Alex, the husband of a clearly upset woman who bought the first-generation iPhone. Evidently she has been complaining about two major shortcomings in the 1.0 version of the phone for some time and now is particularly upset that she has to buy the new iPhone to address these shortcomings. The complaint to AT&T was forwarded to me.


Her husband, who uses a Samsung BlackJack, appears to share her belief that AT&T should "make her whole" and replace her iPhone with the new version. This showcases the problems with being an early adopter of new technology and getting excited about the hype, but not really matching features with your needs. (By the way, until good third-party reviews are up, TG Daily has a nice wrap-up of the early "packaged" iPhone 2.0 reviews).


Let's talk about this today.


The 1.0 Mistake And Apple in General


Apple is the strongest marketing company I follow. It probably could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, products they probably don't want or need.


There lies the problem: People buy products that they probably shouldn't, then are disappointed in the results. And that raises questions about judgment and none of us, and I include myself, like to have folks question our judgment.


The first-generation iPhone had a number of shortcomings, some from being a generation 1.0 phone and others designed in. Those vexing Alex's wife fall into the latter category. For her job, she needs the high bandwidth of a 3G phone like the Blackjack and she needs strong GPS to get where she needs to go.


The Samsung Blackjack was designed to compete with the RIM BlackBerry and has a smaller screen, keyboard, and a removable battery that can easily be replaced. It's designed as an e-mail/texting platform with a focus on business and has 3G and GPS. The iPhone was designed as more of a fashion statement/consumer device for video and music. It needed longer battery life, yet due to the large, bright screen, consumed a lot of power. To make the phone meet its primary function, 3G and GPS were left out of the iPhone. So if she wanted GPS and 3G, she should have bought a phone that had those.


The 2.0 iPhone: New Tradeoffs


A lot of folks complained about the first-generation iPhone, so Apple added GPS and the 3G support she wants and cut the price. But the phone services are substantially more expensive, the battery life is substantially less (lasting less than a day, according to the early reviews) and the phone isn't, to my eye, as stylish. It looks kind of pregnant from the back and some 1.0 accessories, such as the now-more-critical third-party extended batteries, don't fit.


For me, a phone with a built-in, short-lived, non-replaceable battery is a non-starter. While I'm not an iPhone fan, were I to choose between the now fully patched first-generation iPhone with good battery life and the new one, I'd favor the old one because a dead phone is worthless. If you use all the features, the second-generation phone will be dead a lot. I also prefer metal over plastic and want all the software upgrades on the old phone.


Making Smart Choices


In the end, this is simply a lesson in making well-thought-out choices. Marketing can get you excited about features you don't need and products that, if you thought about it, aren't better than the ones you already have.


Sometimes, whether it is relationships -- the "Today Show" has a nice piece this morning on a similar process to pick a spouse -- or products, it really helps to think through what you want and then look dispassionately at your choice. Sometimes the right thing to do is not buy until the product meets your needs. It seems obvious, but we all seem to forget this way too often. Money is tight. folks. Spend yours, or your company's, wisely.


Getting too excited by the hype can reward you with months of feeling really, and appropriately, stupid. Been there, suggest we all try harder not to do that.