The only thing really wrong with Apple’s iPhone is its name

By SteveJack

Apple really only botched one thing with the iPhone – its name.

Oh sure, you can argue that the top model’s 8GB of storage is too small, but with 6 months to go that spec (and others) can and probably will change; Apple isn’t even taking pre-orders on the device, yet. So things can change. One thing’s for sure, Apple has frozen a nice chunk of the smartphone market, not to mention some of the iPod market, too.

Back to the naming issue: Apple’s “iPhone” isn’t really a phone at all. It’s really a small touchscreen Mac OS X computer, a Mac nano tablet, if you will. Here’s how misnamed the iPhone is: Some people are complaining that Jobs didn’t spend enough time on the Mac in his keynote! Folks, iPhone is not only a Mac, it’s the most radical new Mac in years! What’s to stop Apple from making a 12-inch model (and larger, and smaller) one of these days (use the headset for the phone, please) and calling it a Mac tablet?

It has an iPod built in, yes, so it can be used solely as a “true video widescreen iPod,” if that’s what you want. And even using it just like that, the price is about right. It also has a smartphone built in, too; except this smartphone’s UI actually makes sense and is usable. Even if you just use it as a smartphone, the price is right, too.

But, the main thing about the “iPhone” is that it’s really a pocket Mac. It has email, SMS, full-featured Web browsing, and much more. But, beyond that, it is a platform that’s just sitting there waiting for Apple to sell software for it. Just imagine games with the large multi-touch display and the built-in accelerometer!

Imagine all of the other software possibilities, too. Given Apple’s history with the iPod (closed to third-party developers), today I’d have to guess that they’ll keep the iPhone under tight control, too. Maybe that will change in the future, maybe not. Still, Apple could do a lot with the platform all by themselves. What about ringtones sold via Apple’s iTunes Store? With Wi-Fi onboard these things could beam data between each other like crazy. The possibilities are endless.

No matter how you look at it, for all that it can do even now, the device is very well priced and should fly off the shelves regardless of its name.

Maybe Apple named it iPhone because of all of the free publicity and buzz that name has already garnered. Maybe they want this trojan horse to slip into the market first under the guise of being the best smartphone available and they’ll exploit its capabilities as a full-fledged platform later. Perhaps it’s easier to explain and sell as a phone first. It probably would have been even easier to just have called it iPod (6G) and listed “iPhone” as a new iPod feature – that’s how they sold video, right?

I also have to wonder what will happen to Safari’s market share after the iPhone starts shipping. All of those iPhones hitting sites with their Safari browsers are going to have an impact if they’re counted properly. What about Mac OS X market share? Each iPhone is technically a Mac, right? If so, Apple will at least double their Mac shipments in the first year alone. Let’s hope IDC and Gartner count them all!

So, yeah, it can be a phone, even the very best smartphone, but it’s so much more and holds so much promise that the name “iPhone” hardly does it justice.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

Related articles:
Is Apple building ‘The Device?’ [revisited] – January 09, 2007
Analyst Bajarin: Apple’s iPhone and Apple TV are industry game changers – January 09, 2007
Time: ‘iPhone could crush cell phone market pitilessly beneath the weight of its own superiority’ – January 09, 2007
Analyst: Apple iPhone should be given its own category – ‘brilliantphone’ – January 09, 2007
Cingular to use Synchronoss Technologies’ platform for Apple iPhone – January 09, 2007
iPhone photos from Apple’s Macworld Expo booth – January 09, 2007
Enderle: Apple’s iPhone is going to do very well – January 09, 2007
Apple debuts iPhone: touchscreen mobile phone + widescreen iPod + Internet communicator – January 09, 2007

The Register’s Ray: Apple ‘iPhone’ will fail – December 26, 2006
Analyst: Apple iPhone economics aren’t that compelling – December 08, 2006
CNET editor Kanellos: ‘Apple iPhone will largely fail’ – December 07, 2006
Palm CEO laughs off Apple ‘iPhone’ threat – November 20, 2006

60 Comments

  1. LukeeinOz, I hear you…

    iMobile is pretty good, BUT iPhone just has that ring to it. Same with iPod. Some things are work (and iMobile totally does), but my ears say iPhone works even better. If anyone is the expert it would be Apple and Mr.Apple. As if they did not have so many discussions around this – seriously. Can you imagine.

    Plus there are a million devices, services, companies with the name mobile in them.

    Incedentally I just cracked open the current Wired mag and there was this ad for “The only way to get Outlook Mobile” = Windows Mobile.

    Thank goodness it does not come in green!

  2. He missed the point–Steve showed data on the various markets remember and how the market for mobile phones is close to 1 billion vs Music players of 135m, and the even smaller numbers of other devices. And that the market share aspirations of 1% of 1 billion in 2008. Thus the name, however prosaic, is an indication of an organization that clearly understands its goal.

    But the memory needs to be a hell of a lot bigger than 8GB, and I’d have appreciated hearing about the longevity of the screen with all those ‘fingers’ on it.

  3. Sell ’em on the phone, they’ll use the other features, become enthralled, tell their friends, the friends buy one, etc. etc .etc. To borrow a line from the other Bill, ” What’s in a name? that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet”.

  4. Shhhhhh! They couldn’t call it a Tablet Mac – all the Mac haters wouldn’t even consider it because it was a Mac.

    Its a Trojan Horse. Its a phone, iPod, and a mobile iMac. But don’t tell anyone. Once people start using it, they will realize how it is similar to the “other” Macs. And they will be hooked.

  5. The big question is will Apple release an SDK for the device (or build support into X-Code) or will they keep it closed? It is a stealth OS X computer if Apple wishes it to be. The HW/SW would make a hell of a telematic set up for auto manufacturers. Imagine one of these built in to your dashboard with a Nav system and a bigger touch screen.

  6. I hope Apple opens it up to 3rd party apps and widgets. I’m also curious about the audio capabilities. This may make a great little musician assistant (maybe a mini garageband app could be created with connectivity to a bluetooth based midi controller). I guess no mention of VOIP yet so as not to put Cingular/ATT in a sour mood.

  7. I wonder if – after Leopard – the macintosh as a name will be left to history. It’s time. It was tough enough to come up with a decent name for Apple’s laptops – the names suck.

    Apple TV – on the other hand – with the logo seems to work nicely. So I would propose the same for the phone – Apple Phone – with just the logo instead of Apple.

  8. The only problem with the iPhone is the fact that its going to be offered through cingular only, which is quite sad. I would pay more for it if it was unlocked and unbranded. I just hope I can get it with no contract and not locked to one company.

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