iPhone Eavesdropping

By Richard Menta 1/16/07

I always like to hear the layman's view of all the technology toys we eagerly consume these days simply because it reflects what the average consumer is thinking. It also keeps me honest in my self-appointed role of "expert" on all things digital media. During a recent trip to the physical therapist to work on an injured shoulder I was privy to their insights on Apple's upcoming iPhone.

As my therapist Judy worked on the muscles around my collar bone she conversed with the other therapists on the pros and cons of the device. Listening to them I was pleasantly surprised how savvy they were on it. It sounded more like the banter of astute pundits than everyday working stiffs.

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Judy questioned the need for an all-in-one device, a challenge to the perception that convergence is the way future media devices must go. Judy owns an iPod presently and she told me how she and her boyfriend regularly download episodes of Lost and other television programs from iTunes. That makes her an avid digital consumer. Despite the fact she found the iPhone's features compelling, particularly the larger screen and touch controls, her big concern was battery consumption. This was a point the other therapists agreed with.

"If I listen to music or watch a movie on this thing I'm only going to drain the battery", mused Judy. "I'll have no power when I'm ready to make a call". Looking at the iPhone's battery specs Judy's concerns are quite valid. Apple says the iPhone will have a battery life of up to five hours of mixed use, though they didn't say if that included stand by time. Also, the battery is not replaceable so users don't have the option of keeping a charged backup battery.

Everyone agreed the iPhone looked cool, but they see mobile phones as an essential daily device as opposed to an entertainment gadget. This kicked in the pragmatic side of Judy and her cohorts and it is this side that Apple will have to satisfy if they are going to sell 10 million units by the end of 2008. Of course, the average mobile phone today has plenty of room for improvement and as a straight phone the iPhone offers some persuasive innovations.

But, as good as these innovations look on paper they will need to prove themselves in the real world if they hope draw the digitally plugged in. I found that evening's therapy quite eye opening, mostly because this group proved to be more knowledgeable and current than I would have otherwise assumed.

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