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  • They Know Not What They Do

    June 25th, 2007

    Years ago, a famous old-time comedian said, “Everybody wants to get into the act!” Well, you’d have to add a strong New York accent and his trademark gravely voice to get the picture, but the words should be sufficient even if you’re too young to remember that classic phrase.

    We’re just a few days away from the arrival of iPhone, so talk show hosts have decided that they have had enough of Paris Hilton or the political issue of the day, so why not talk about Apple’s much-anticipated gadget?

    The problem is that some of those talking heads have no clue about the product whatever, beyond, say, the small form factor, touch screen and other things you’d catch in one of those increasingly ubiquitous TV ads. So not having any information, and not having enough incentive to spend a minute or so to check Apple’s site for some substance, they decide to wing it.

    Take the conversation I heard recently on an XM satellite radio station. The host was commiserating with a caller over the perceived lack of adequate battery life of the iPhone. They cited other phones as an example, and the listener said she had one of the first generation iPods, and complained about its lack of adequate battery life. The assumption, based on no evidence whatever, was that the iPhone would fare no better.

    Now it is true that some people reported premature failure of the batteries of those early iPods, or rapidly declining battery life. However, replacements are easy to come by, and if you aren’t inclined to do it yourself, you can have the battery replaced by any one of several online repair shops for a modest fee. So this was an issue that had no traction whatever. In fact, test reports show that most iPods tend to meet or exceed Apple’s battery life claims in nearly every case.

    So what has that to do with the iPhone anyway? Did the talking head bother to check what the battery life is actually supposed to be? If he did, he’d realize that Apple has improved the spec to eight hours talk time. That’s more than twice what you get with even the best of those traditional mobile phones. Some won’t even touch three hours, and if you have a Bluetooth headset running, feel lucky to get two hours or even less.

    Now it is perfectly true that the iPhone hasn’t actually been tested yet by any independent reviewer. So nobody really knows whether or not Apple’s claims will be confirmed or not. But if the iPod is any example, it’s sure to come pretty close, give or talk a few minutes or so.

    However, having a heavily promoted product actually meet any of its advertised claims is nothing worth talking about, I suppose, on a show that doesn’t cater to tech fans. So maybe that’s why the talking head went off on a rant without knowing what he was talking about.

    Of course, he’s not alone, and ignorance of this sort isn’t just the province of mainstream talk radio and cable TV news outlets. There are online and print tech writers and analysts who pounced upon the iPhone even before it was even announced, saying that it was Apple’s time to confront an abject failure.

    Naturally, I can see where Microsoft, Motorola, Palm and the other companies who make so-called “smart” phones would just love to see the iPhone crash and burn. It would surely justify their investments in existing product lines and current marketing strategy.

    But not all these companies are assuming the worst. Competing wireless carriers, for example, are even now reportedly developing talking points to use as ammunition against perceived shortcomings of the iPhone. You can imagine their arguments, such as the fact that it’s too expensive, doesn’t support AT&T’s fastest network, doesn’t have an easily-replaceable battery, has inadequate storage capacity and so forth and so on.

    Some of these criticisms might even be true, to some degree. Clearly Apple made a few trade-offs, and having a design reminiscent of the iPod also means that certain features are a given. Maybe it would be nice to have a built-in hard drive with which to store your stuff, but wireless phones are subject to far more abuse than the typical MP3 player. That makes Flash memory a given.

    The battery? Well, eight hours talk time ought to be sufficient, and if not, I’m sure there will be add-on battery packs for special circumstances. If the battery craps out prematurely, you’ll probably be able to have it replaced for a small sum just as you can now with the iPod.

    Oh yes, there’s the price. Why pay $499 or $599 for a phone when you can get one with the obligatory two-year plan for just a few dollars? Why indeed! Well, they once said the iPod was too expensive, and you all know how that turned out.

    Indeed, a lot of the complaints about the iPhone, aside from ignorance of course, come from companies who are scared to death that it might succeed. My message to them is this: If you think you can do better, let’s see your product! Then we’ll have something real to talk about.



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