Alright, it looks like there’s a good bit of both optimism and pessimism surrounding the upcoming Apple/Motorola phone since the Forbes article was published last week. We’ll never know for sure what this product is all about until we see it, but we can be sure it’s an substantial step closer to what a lot of people (myself included) are craving in a cell phone: the industrial design and user experience of an Apple and the convergence of voice, data, and music in one device.
Some of the reader comments in my previous post rightly point out that we should be conservative with what we expect at MacWorld, and I think this is a good idea. In other words, don’t expect an iPod Mini that can dial… at least not yet. Instead, expect something cool that has Apple’s fingerprints on it.
At the low end, it will be a mere shadow of what I’ve been predicting: A purely Motorola phone with nothing more than a self-contained iTunes application to interface with PCs and Macs. Even the Forbes article expects more than this, however, as it mentions Apple having a say in both the price and overall user experience of the product.
At the high end, the industrial design will be Apple’s, the branding will be at least partially Apple’s, and the entire user interface will be skinned in legendary Mac fashion.
If we hit the high end, I’ll be happy. If we hit the low-end, I’ll definitely be a bit disappointed, but if you told me a year ago that Steve Jobs would have finally gotten Apple into the cell phone game, albeit with one foot, I’d have thrown a party. Does that mean much more significant products aren’t in the works? Absolutely not.
In fact, I’ve learned a few other things this week through readers that make me think things are on the right track. Firstly, the new iPod Photo uses a QVGA display (220 x 176, 65,536 colors) which is the exact same display that appears on many next-gen cell phones. Might some of the interface work being done on the iPod Photo fit nicely on a QVGA phone display? I think so.
Secondly, we learned that Apple, on December 13th, filed suit against unknown individuals for leaking information about unspecified products very recently. This could be one of several things in my opinion: a flash-based iPod, a firewire-based enhancement to GarageBand, the infamous “train conversation” with a Motorola engineer about the Apple/Motorola phone, or something else entirely. Who knows.
And finally, this isn’t really news but some of the comments from the last post got me thinking about the situation that Apple and Motorola will put themselves in even if they merely put iTunes inside a phone. Specifically, there is this notion out there that cell carriers are dead set on forcing users to download music over their networks and that Apple and Motorola would be circumventing that goal with their device. While it is true that carriers would like to impose such a system, that doesn’t mean it will ever be practical enough to actually happen. It takes me two minutes to download an album to my laptop and then another two minutes to transfer it to my phone via SD card. Know how long that would take over a GSM network? Hours. And besides, even if one does download an album directly to their phone, would they not then want it on their laptop as well? The music-via-cell-network plan is a non-starter and the first network that realizes that will probably be the first network to do a deal with Apple. How about it T-Mobile?
“Get the Apple phone for $99 with purchase of a two-year voice/data/.Mac plan, and we’ll throw in a free 1 GB SD card to store all your music.”
T-Mobile could then use their data bandwidth for more important functions like .Mac synching, web browsing, e-mail, news aggregation, and instant messaging. Users could still download music over the network, but maybe there’s an extra fee for that.
I see something like this coming soon, and January will either be a small step or a giant leap towards towards this sort of offering.