Unless you've been living under a rock for a few years, you've probably noticed one or two stories about the rumored Apple iPhone. We've largely avoided them, because really, nothing's changed, and despite what anybody says, or reads into patent applications, there's no hard information. But the rumors continue to gather pace, with many people now believing the iPhone will be announced at Macworld in January. The common thinking appears to be, basically, that the iPhone will be the greatest mobile phone ever made, and will totally dominate the industry, leaving established vendors in its wake. But here's a thought -- what if the iPhone sucks? An interesting story over at CNET takes the contrarian view, and makes a number of salient points, in particular the widespread assumption that Apple will simply be able to waltz into this market and instantly get things right. It argues this perception is based largely on Apple's success with the iPod, but the mobile-phone market and the MP3 player market are radically different. MP3 players are relatively simple and straightforward devices, while mobile phones are technically much more complex. The simplicity of an MP3 player allowed Apple to focus on product design and the user interface; in addition to those areas -- where handset vendors already provide significant competition -- Apple will have to work on the technical underpinnings just to make the phone work, and that's an area where it could have some significant issues. There's little doubt that any iPhone would enjoy a significant initial sales pop, but it wouldn't be surprising to see it not be a long-term success, particularly in the mass market. One more significant reason: price. In the US, and many other countries, consumers are conditioned to paying very little for their handsets, thanks to subsidies from mobile operators. Unless Apple can get the iPhone into operators' distribution networks (with most indications that it won't, and will sell the device itself), relatively few consumers will line up to pay a few -- or several -- hundred dollars for it.
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