Why It’s Okay to Loathe the iPhone

by Chris Seibold Oct 23, 2009

If you own stock in Apple the iPhone is all good: a wildly popular product, a consistent revenue stream, a grabber of headlines, and the standard to which all smartphones are compared. Even if you don't own stock, the iPhone is equally fantastic. The slick hardware and intuitive software, not to mention the public acceptance of the device finally gives you something to shove in the face of the Microsoft apologist in the next cubicle. Finally, if you're associated with AT&T you love the iPhone. Not for the immediate profits or the demands of Apple but for the long-term user lock in. Toss in the fact that AT&T subscribers' base is growing and you can imagine the kind of warm and fuzzy feelings AT&T holds for the iPhone deep in the companies black corporate heart. 

So far we have Apple shareholders, Apple fans and AT&T all solidly in the "I heart the iPhone" camp. But not everyone loves the iPhone. As expected, there are those with obvious reasons to hate the iPhone. Verizon detests the thing until the company can sell one. Microsoft hates the iPhone because you can't dismiss the iPhone's market share as a rounding error and the iPhone illustrates just how badly Microsoft missed on yet another growing trend. RIM hates the iPhone for usurping the smartphone leader spot and cell phone makers find the iPhone to be a special kind of hell, easy to copy but impossible to best.

What if you don't fit into either group? Most people aren't particularly in love with Apple and most people don't work for a cell phone maker. If you aren't intimately tied to the success or failure of the iPhone one way or another should you be merely apathetic towards the future of Apple?

While apathy is the easy way to go, that route is a mistake. if you're just an average consumer, someone who wants the best stuff possible at the best price, you should loathe the iPhone. That's right, even if you don't have a dog in the fight, you should still despise the iPhone.  You should hate every pixel on the 3.5 inch display, you should detest the multitouch interface and a passing mention of the App store should cause bile to rise in your throat. In short you should hate every single thing about the iPhone.

Why? Because the iPhone has stifled innovation by cell phone companies and providers. That idea seems weird, if you are a fan of the free market that is the antithesis of what you would expect. In a perfect free-market world the iPhone's success should force other cell phone makers to compete by coming up with something better than the iPhone. 

That isn't what has happened. Instead of cell phone makers cranking out something better, a reimangined cell phone, what is happening is a race to see who can make a phone with more iPhone in it than the iPhone. You know this intuitively if you have spent any time in a place that sells cellular phones. What you see when you browse the shelves is crappy clamshells for kids and seniors, tiny plastic keyboard deals for the business folks of yesteryear and wanna be iPhones. The typical lineup looks something like: 3 free clamshell phones, three iPhone all screen, all the time models from 29.99 and up, and a few big screen tiny keyboard models.

There's nothing new, nothing innovative in any of that and what is worse is the phone that is usually pushed is the iPhone all-screen knockoff. That means that the cell phone makers are spending their design dollars to design another iPhone. When cell phone companies put their best and brightest to work on copying the iPhone they are hoping to grab the lion's share of the iPhone knockoff market.Sure, there is money to be made in aping the market leader but it isn't innovative or refreshing. For example, there is some cash to be made by producing high-quality reproductions of works of art but a lithograph of the Mona Lisa is never going to be worth more than the original even if the lithograph is nominally  "better" because it uses archival quality pigments and has brighter colors. People will always value the real thing more than a high quality copy.

It's not your fault as a consumer that all the major players in the cell phone world are going all iPhone knock off all the time. But, and it is nothing new, you do get the shaft. When all manufacturers want to do is race to be the most iPhone-like device innovation is stifled, greatness is postponed and you are stuck with a phone that isn't all it should be. 

Perhaps this will change if and when the iPhone is available on more carriers or maybe the urge to copy Apple will be so ingrained by then that cell phone makers won't know how to do anything else. Whatever the case, until you see something new from cell makers, even if it is a spectacular failure, you can hate the iPhone. And you should because the iPhone is holding every other phone back.





  • And without the iPhone would there have been more innovation or just ‘more of the same’.
    Silly argument and not correct.
    Is Android not innovative?

    Parky had this to say on Oct 23, 2009 Posts: 51
  • The same lame argument can be made for the computer GUI (Graphical User Interface). Apple came out with the Mac in 1984. All the PC users thought it was just a toy. Microsoft worked their butts off for nine years to produce a PC version called Windows 95. They are now releasing Windows 7 which looks just like poor PC copy of Snow Leopard. One could easily say that Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop market has completely stifled any innovation in personal computing.

    Flyboybob had this to say on Oct 23, 2009 Posts: 33
  • “Is Android not innovative?”
    Not yet. I like the easy hackability but so far, well, it seems like another iPhone knock off. But Android has a chance.

    Of course, this was written in jest. I’m sure engineers are busting it to try to come up with something better but they can’t. If the iPhone weren’t around you probably would’ve have seen five phones hailed as revolutionary in the last few years and the revolutions would’ve been lame in comparison to what the iPhone as added to the mix.

    But that’s just me, I’m in the paragraph a group, Apple fan, stockholder, Apple author so I think it is all good. What’s the old saying? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Or am I thinking of: Lead, follow or release Windows mobile 6.5 and become irrelevant? One of those must be it.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Oct 23, 2009 Posts: 354
  • I think the relative homogeneity in mobile device form factors can be forgiven by the great new software and UI innovations coming out of Apple’s competitors. Customized Android builds like MotoBLUR and HTC Sense (as well as Palm’s webOS), while perhaps not up to par with the iPhone’s level of polish, certainly qualify for the “something new” you discuss above - at least from my own point of view.

    Josh Rubenoff had this to say on Oct 24, 2009 Posts: 10
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