Monday, September 22, 2008

iPhone Competitor's: Can They Beat the iPhone?

The iPhone is clearly the best dang cell phone ever created and is head-and-shoulders above the competition. Of course, that is the case today, but will that be the case tomorrow - will the iPhone be able to compete against the horde of wannabee iPhone killers that are appearing seemingly now on a daily basis? 

Apple is now selling iPhones by the millions and  Philip Elmer-DeWitt , writing for Fortune, is reporting  that Piper Jaffray's Gen Munster is projecting that Apple will sell some five million plus iPhone G3's this quarter. The quarter ends this September 30 and based on NPD Group info, Mr. Munster is expecting Apple to sell a record 2.8 million Mac's, 11 million iPod's in addition to those 5 million iPhone's. 

At one point it was being reported that Apple's Asian manufacturers were busy cranking out an astonishing 800,000 iPhone's per week! As Fortune's says, at that rate some investors were speculating that Apple may easily achieve their goal of selling some 10 million iPhones for fiscal 2008 as early as the end of this month. That's a pretty impressive figure indeed, but how will those figures be impacted by the likes of Nokia, LG, Samsung and all of the others as they copy, refine and improve their iPhone copy cats by adding better or even newer features that go beyond todays iPhone? Predicting future  iPhone  sales is tricky business at the very best and that goes especially considering the state of the U.S. and world economy. 

Apple, of course, didn't create the smart phone market, but they certainly have redefined it, and now, thanks to the iPhone, everyone in the business is bending over backwards to beat it's innovative lead that made it the best smart phone ever devised. Despite all of the iPhone's initial success, can the iPhone still retain it's lead? Can it be expected to continue to compete successfully against the likes of Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, Phillips, etc.? I certainly believe so, but I also believe that if Apple wish's to remain the leader in the area of smart phone innovation they will have work hard, a lot harder, in fact,  by doing several key things, including, if necessary, copying it's competitors, as they themselves are yet copying the iPhone! This means, for me at least, that Apple has to improve on it's competitors in several key areas such as the following:

. improve the measely 2 mega pixel camera. For crying out toe nails', get with it Apple - some of your competitors are already featuring cameras with five and now eight mega pixels of photographic goodness. Not only are they offering higher rated sensors, but better optics as well!

 - keyboards. Yes, as cool as a touch screen keyboard is, it's still not enough for many of us out there. That's right Apple - it's time to get off your high horse and take into consideration that not only a few, but millions of people not only want - but absolutely insist on having a physical keyboard. Apple, at least as an option, should give people that choice. This is especially true for those in business. Apple's insistence that it's knows best isn't necessarily the best strategy for it to take.

 - App Store improvements. What do I mean? First and foremost, Apple has to stop this willy-nilly censoring of certain apps just because they feel it might be in direct competition with itself. If Apple is concerned about certain developers offering better apps than that of their own, well, then the only real and fair solution would be for Apple to compete by offering better choices themselves - not by limiting the choices offered by others! And that means that this willy-nilly censoring of developers and their apps has got to stop or those apps and their developers will be looking elsewhere at the first opportunity they get.

 -  AT&T exclusivity! Apple should, as soon as it can, unbind itself from being tied so exclusively to this one carrier. Dont' get me wrong, I don't want to see AT&T dropped, just the exclusivity that they now enjoy. More people would be enabled to enjoy all that the iPhone offers if other carriers had the opportunity to also sell the iPhone along side that of AT&T. By limiting the iPhone to just one carrier, Apple, at the same time, limits the iPhone's appeal and it's reach!

 - innovation and more of it, lots more of it. The iPhone clearly has become what it has because of it, and if Apple wish's to remain the king-of-the-hill in this regard, it will have to increase it's R&D budget even more than it is now. Innovation is the child of thinking different, thinking outside of the box and so far Apple has been exemplary in this regard, but it can't rest on it's laurel's, or you can bet your last gum drop that it's competitors will certainly increase their own innovation levels, and, if Apple isn't careful, turn their copies of the iPhone into something that is better than that of the original!

With competitor's equally as sharp as itself, such as Google and it's Android platform for instance, Apple will have it's work cut out if it wish's the iPhone to remain in the technical lead and the phone to beat. So, can Apple's iPhone continue to remain on top of the smart phone heap? Yes, of course, it's still possible, but Samsung, Phillip, Motorola, RIM and Google's Android, etc. are all worthy competitors whose continuing work brings their iPhone wannabe copy cats closer to the quality of that of the iPhone itself. 

Will the iPhone remain on top? Maybe? This, however, will only be true if Apple begins to shed some of it's arrogance and it faces up to the realities of what the customer actually wants - not simply just what Apple wants. That approach has and is still being deployed by a very large Redmond outfit and the results are plain for all to see - a user base so distraught over it's products that the company felt the need to recently spend $300 million dollars to try and convince them that they should love products that they have all grown to hate over the years!

And that's my 2 cents 4 this Monday, September 22, 2008.

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