November 9, 2008

Why the iPhone 3G is STILL innovative

On paper you'd see that the features you get on the iPhone 3G are sparse compared to even the most basic of cellphones. Come on, who doesn't think that omitting MMS and video recording are embarrassing for a company well-known to be the cutting-edge? Why does the iPhone lack so many features yet receive so much acclaim and praise?

Well, think about this: how often do you use your cellphone's E-Mail features? Did you know your cellphone probably had one (if it was made after 2003 or so)? How about your music player? Compare how much you used to listen to it when you first got it to the frequency of your music listening now. Do you even bother to surf the internet with your phone despite having 3G? Statistically, only 10% of users are able to actually use all of their cellphone's features to their advantages (especially multimedia ones) while the rest ignore them altogether or use them rarely and just stick to texting and calling. However, the iPhone changed all this.

Let a newbie take an iPhone for a spin, and chances are that most of the features it has actually get put to use. That's because most of these features aren't secluded into some stupid folder; they're just staring at the user. You want E-Mail? Press E-Mail and set up your Yahoo! mail account credentials! Music? Ha! It's right there unmistakably in the iPod! It's all driven by one-click (or in this case, one-touch) access, because people become tired of having to slog through various menus and stuff like that just to access this one little feature (-cough- Nokia! -cough-). It's convenient and an extremely quick way to access features, and it's surprising that no other touch-screen phones before it have done stuff this way. This kind of reminds me of the old Nokia phones of lore, or even current Sony Ericsson models. You only had to push Menu and there the features were. Now, you have to go through hell to find where the Address Book is (-cough- Nokia! -cough-).

That's primarily the driving force behind my dad's batchmate (the same batchmate I mentioned in my CEL '08 post) preference of the iPhone to the significantly more feature-packed E61i- the menus weren't convoluted and the features were staring at you in the face.

Oh, and here's another game-changer that Apple put: an accelerometer. Some phones have already been using the accelerometer for other gimmicks even before the original iPhone came out, but the accelerometer in the iPhone wasn't a gimmick- it was a legitimate function. Gone were the days when you had to click a button and search a menu to make a video adopt a landscape orientation in the screen. All you had to do was flip the phone sidewards, and voila! Same goes for the music navigation. If you find having to flick your finger tiresome just to find a specific song, why don't you flip the iPhone sidewards to access Cover Flow? And how about surfing the web? If you feel that the web is more justified with a widescreen view of things, why not flip the iPhone sidewards as well? See? Legitimate feature and less gimmicks.

Speaking of which, multimedia also plays a big part in the iPhone. Once you've loaded up your iPhone's music library, you can immediately plug any ordinary headphones (in the 3G iPhone, that is) to replace those crappy Apple ones and enjoy. Or if you're on a plane, get your iPhone on Airplane mode and watch your favorite movie. This thing could replace a dedicated music player if not for the lackluster battery (my dad's iPhone 3G's battery has even become defective!) and for the refusal of Apple to let users put music manually in it.

And how about a mention of Visual Voicemail? Voicemail may not be popular in the Philippines, but this killer feature has been tremendously helpful to the Caucasians out there. Normally, voicemail could be heard only through the order of which the mail was received. In the iPhone, you could access the voice message you want in a menu. It doesn't matter in the Philippines, but it still matters that the iPhone is actually the mobile that pioneered such a feature.

Lastly, the App Store. Yes, the Palm has apps, Windows Mobile has apps, Google Android has apps and your phone probably has apps too, but the rapidity of popularity the stuff in Apple's App Store has is astounding, thus the quantity of apps that get hosted there are also rapidly increasing moreso than the competition if claims are to be believed. Whatever the case, getting an app is easy after you make an iTunes Store account- and most of them extend what the capabilities of the iPhone and make up for most of the lacking features.

All of these elements combined with a stylish and extremely nice presentation make for an unmatched user experience, and they are what make the iPhone the innovator despite having some of the thinnest feature sets in any smartphone. 

Now it has sparked competition between other companies, and they're trying to match the experience on other platforms. And this competition attests to the power of Apple's innovation. But has the competition been beneficial? Well, it has also caused some brands to drop features they normally would have, and the physical keyboard is sometimes non-existent as well. Whether you like the touch keyboard is up to you, but I think the competition for touch-screen phones is beneficial to those looking for alternatives like the Omnia or the Xperia X1. But for those looking for beefy featured phones should look elsewhere. That is, unless the right one comes along.

So how much more proof can you get to see if the iPhone is truly a fad or something revolutionary? Bugs don't mean anything when you're actually talking about something like this, mind you, and security issues are significantly different affairs. So even if, on paper, the iPhone 3G is lackluster in features, it more than makes up for the experience.

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