Friday 21 August 2009

Enthusiasm is my enemy!

This article was originally published on

Enthusiasm is one of the great intangible powers of the world. It’s attractive, it’s compelling and sometimes it’s dangerous. And – yes, I’m going to try to keep this relevant – it sells mobile phones.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read a Sunday Times piece about Apple’s Steve Jobs. It wasn’t particularly sympathetic to Mr Jobs but it made mention of the “reality distortion field” that people often describe as surrounding him. That’s his enthusiasm – and it’s the enthusiasm that’s transformed Apple from a mere computer manufacturer into the company it is today. The Apple iPhone arrived in 2007, enthusing the so-called fanboy while also enticing millions of others to ditch their smartphones for the new Apple device.

It’s enthusiasm that's made the Apple iPhone – later the iPhone 3G and now the 3GS – a device that’s changing the way the mobile industry works. We may not like this… but we may not have much choice.

Despite the iPhone's popularity, the reasons not to like it are manifold. For example, many of the technical specifications aren’t as high as other current smartphones. Some of the iPhone’s features have lagged years behind other devices.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve not bought one myself. I had a Nokia 2110 back in 1995. I had a Nokia 7650 in 2002. I like cutting-edge – when it’s relevant to me – and I won’t upgrade just for the sake of changing my phone. (I’ve got a HTC TyTN II at the moment, since you ask). And yet I’m thinking about getting an iPhone.

Why?  It’s that darned enthusiasm. It’s not affected me directly – but it’s affected other people. Developing software for different operating systems is expensive, as MoBank’s Steve Townend said in this week’s edition of The Fonecast. That’s why MoBank started with a single OS. If I want to use MoBank at the moment, I need an iPhone.

Now ipadio, which works with pretty much any mobile phone in the world, has created an iPhone application. I can still use ipadio from my current mobile… but if I want the extra features, I need an iPhone. Ocado. Google Earth. Amazon Kindle. All iPhone lovers. Of course, support for other operating systems may well follow, but who wants to wait?

So what’s going to save me from ending up with a mobile device I don’t really want?  What's going to save me from needing a not-really cutting-edge device to run the latest software? (Now THAT'S ironic, Morissette).

Perhaps technology development. Maybe the next iPhone (or the Apple Tablet) will have a higher spec and a better keyboard experience, both of which are important to me. Perhaps we’ll start seeing more apps for Android. Or perhaps commercial reality will come to my rescue.

Strand Consulting has recently published a report that describes the iPhone as a mobile operator's worst friend. It points to Apple’s small market share and the high data usage it encourages on flat-rate tariffs. In fact, it reckons that no mobile operator in the world has increased its overall turnover, profit and market share due to selling the iPhone.

Enthusiasm’s difficult to beat. I’m a big fan – but not when it overwhelms reality. Perhaps it’s the accountants with their Symbian smartphones and their BlackBerry devices that’ll have the last word on the iPhone. Meanwhile, I’ll hang on to my HTC for a little longer… and maybe I’ll take a look at second-hand iPhones on eBay when I have a moment.