Archive for August, 2007

iPhone Buyer’s Remorse – Where is My Mobile Content?

If you had told me a year ago that a high-end mobile phone would launch in 2007 with no picture messaging, no built-in or downloadable games, and no ability to set real music ringtones, I would have laughed. If you had told me that the device would cost $600, I would have known you were joking. Either that, or I would have concluded that Microsoft Windows “SmartPhone-2010” devices had arrived a couple of years early and needed a few gigabytes of memory to run. But on June 29 of this year, I joined half a million people to be among the first to unwrap a shiny, new Apple iPhone. It’s been nearly two months since that day, and this iPhone user is left wondering about the world of mobile content.

iphone.jpg

Innovation
Yes, the hardware is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but also very durable and practical. Despite day-to-day use and carrying it in my jeans pocket, the iPhone is unblemished and has survived the real life drop test (at least for the several times I’ve dropped it so far). Hardware usability is “best of class” – the buttons are just, well, obvious. A simple slide switch puts the phone in silent mode while I’m in a meeting or at a movie, and there’s a sensible button to turn the phone on and off, making it virtually impossible to waste the battery and make random calls in your pocket. All tablet phones should be this way.

But the real differentiation is in the software. It’s the hidden 1’s and 0’s that enable the breakthrough user experience on the iPhone. The iPhone has a secure, proven, desktop operating system at its heart, and that’s what sets it apart from other phones. Other companies can and will try to emulate the look of the iPhone, but engineering the software to make the phone’s features easy to use is another matter – as picking up almost any other handset on the market today can easily demonstrate.

Where is My Content?
OK – it’s very cool being able to use this device as an amazing video-enabled iPod as well as a phone. For third-party applications developers, the only access to the handset is through the Safari web browser, so scores of developers are hard at work creating some very interesting iPhone web-based applications (see the iPhone directory at Mobicious). However, the iPhone is currently a nightmare for the much larger and open world of third-party content – downloadable ringtones, wallpapers, games and applications – the large number of purveyors of this content are largely shut out of the iPhone. Interestingly, this didn’t stop the folks at playboy.com, who were remarkably quick off the mark and created a compilation of content that you can load into iTunes and from there to your iPhone. I wonder why others haven’t followed this example.

Unlike other handsets, the good news is that with the iPhone, new features can be delivered literally by a software update that is as easy as loading a song onto your iPod. This is where I am hopeful that Apple will soon bring the iPhone into the world of third-party content providers…

My iPhone Content Wishlist

  • Ringtones – At a minimum, let me use my iTunes music as ringtones. In the ideal world, let me download an mp3 from a third-party site through the browser, add it to my music, and then use that as a ringtone too.
  • Pictures – I’d like to download a picture directly from a web link or from a web page. Yes, I know I can import an image into iPhoto and then sync it to the iPhone, but that’s not a great way of getting a cool wallpaper on the spur of the moment.
  • Games & Applications – Give me some third-party games and applications that don’t require a network connection…

So is the iPhone Going Back?
Well, to be honest – absolutely not. You know how certain products just make you feel good every time you use them? In the technical world, think of your first Walkman (if you’re as old as I am) or your first flat panel TV, or even your first iPod. This is the first phone I’ve owned that is just fun to use every time I pick it up, whether to receive a call, play some music, browse the web or check email. Using an iMAP email server (as good as Blackberry mail for me), it’s also the first phone that I can take on vacation without a laptop and still feel completely in touch while I listen to my music all day at the beach. I have to admit I would never go back to “an ordinary phone.” I’ll continue to enjoy using it, and I know it’ll get even better with the next software update….

In the meantime at Mobicious we will continue to catalog all those useful web pages and applications designed specifically for the iPhone, as well as for everyone else who is less fortunate, including you SmartPhone and Blackberry holdouts!

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Getting Back in Touch

Way too much time has passed since our last posting. You might naturally expect that things slow down over the hot summer months of July and August, but it certainly hasn’t been the case. During the past two months, much has happened both in the industry at large and in our part of the world.

In terms of the big picture, the line between the internet and mobile continues to blur. Apple and Google are delivering a one-two punch that promises to shake things up for years to come. Regardless of whether you believe the iPhone is really a game-changer, it has shown a lot of people what a mobile phone is actually capable of. Google’s latest efforts, whether buying airwaves or launching its own phone, may leave a far greater impact in the long-run. Meanwhile, consumer spending on mobile content is hitting an all-time high and is providing more fuel to the fire.

On the Mobicious front, a number of things have changed recently. When we last posted to our blog, we were a tiny team working out of a local coffee shop while our permanent office was being built. We’ve since moved into new offices and doubled the size of the team. On the Mobicious site, you’re now able to find nearly twice the amount of premium content, which includes about 20,000 applications from Handango. We also introduced a few site improvements including more powerful search and a cleaner user interface. We’ve even introduced a useful Facebook application called Mobile Poke, where you can send any photo in a Facebook album to any friend’s mobile phone.

There’s lot more to come on the horizon, both in the industry and at Mobicious. We’ll make sure to keep you in the loop.