Monday, December 8, 2008

iPhone Under Attack

Apple’s recent product launch of a cell phone has, to the surprise of many, come under serious criticism. Detractors charge the phone is not functional for businessmen, lacks a target audience and is severely overpriced, leading these critics to question what Apple was thinking when it decided to venture into the cell phone market.

I, on the other hand, wonder what the critics are thinking because I have fallen in love with the iPhone and am again amazed at Apple’s brilliance. Here’s my analysis of what the iPhone is, what makes it unique, and why Apple’s business strategy is close to flawless.

First, what exactly is an iPhone? It is a device with which you can, among other things, listen to music, watch videos, view photos, make conference calls, check e-mail, browse the web, and view maps.

If you’ve purchased a cell phone in the last two years, you’ll realize that this list of features is nothing special. Even free cell phones that are given away with service plans have most of these features, and there are several phones costing around two hundred dollars that will allow you to do all of the above.

So what makes the iPhone unique and worth six-hundred dollars? For starters, it has perhaps the largest, most gorgeous screen I’ve ever seen on a phone. With a width of 3.5 inches, the screen is even larger than the one for the iPod video. But perhaps most important is the sheer brilliance of the iPhone’s design.

While other products offer the same features as the iPod or the Macbook at a significantly reduced cost, people willingly pay extra because Apple provides the smoothest-running applications and the most intuitive and easiest to use products.

What the iPhone’s critics don’t understand but what most Apple customers realize is that product design is what sets Apple apart from its competition. While other products offer the same features as the iPod or the Macbook at a significantly reduced cost, people willingly pay extra because Apple provides the smoothest-running applications and the most intuitive and easiest to use products.

For example, before the iPod was released many mp3 players with similar song and memory capacity were already on the market. Four years ago, I begged my father for an iPod, but he insisted I buy the Nomad Zen 2.0, which carried the same number of songs and was a hundred dollars cheaper. What did we get? A mp3 player whose hard drive crashed after I endured a frustrating year of weird play lists, a lagging interface and a difficult to use file transfer software. Now my father uses my iPod more than I do, and I don’t think he could ever switch back.

I expect that customers will come to realize that the iPhone is another iPod. Yes, the iPhone may cost four or even five hundred dollars more than some competing phones, but the iPhone’s design and usability will attract customers. The cell phone has become an essential resource for everyone from eight to eighty. Everyone has a cell phone. But everyone I know has a problem with their cell phone too, from broken antennas, buttons that respond four seconds after they are pressed, impossibly complex interfaces, or other problems that grow to frustrate people over time.

Given Apple’s standard and commitment to design, I am confident this won’t happen with the iPhone, and I am certain there is a large market for people willing to pay a premium for a product that they will actually enjoy using. While the features of the iPhone may not differ from its competitors, the iPhone delivers in a fun way. The new visual voice mail system allows users to see on a very simple screen who has left a voice mail and to pick which messages to listen to—brilliant. Perhaps the most significant feature is the huge, incredibly intuitive touch screen. While most cell phone users pay for many features that they have no idea how to use, iPhone owners pay for features that can access easily.

Yes, compared to its competitors, the iPhone seems expensive, but Apple always prices its products based on what people will pay. Apple sells the black Macbook at a more expensive price than the white Macbook simply because of its color. Why? Because people are willing to pay more for a black Macbook than a white one! The iPhone is so vastly superior to its competitors, people will buy it. There are those who say the iPhone lacks a target audience, but that’s because the iPhone wasn’t made just for college students or just for businessmen but for every cell phone user who wants a quality product.

Last year, one billion cell phones were sold. Cell phones are a trillion dollar industry that dominates the mp3 player industry in terms of size. Apple understands the problems users have with their cell phones - more so than even cell phone users do, and Apple is entering with perhaps the best cell phone anyone’s even seen.

While other companies have turned to open-sourcing, sharing information, and providing products as cheap as possible, Apple marches to its own drummer. Apple will continue to lead not by being the first, but by being the best. Ladies and gentlemen, if I can’t persuade you to buy an iPhone, I hope I can convince you to buy your Apple shares now.