USA Today writer: Apple iPhone is an ‘ordinary, average product’ at heart

“To much fanfare, Apple [on Tuesday] introduced the iPhone — its entry into the mobile communicator market. Upon seeing Steve Jobs’ presentation and getting a good look at the iPhone, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s pretty darned neat,’ and that’s without actually touching the thing. Not that I needed to; you can assume that anything coming out of Apple is going to be slick — the interface will be close to flawless and you know it’s going to work well,” Andrew Kantor writes for The USA Today.

“There was plenty of hype, and there will be plenty more — look for a glowing review from the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg any day now. I don’t know that there’s ever been an Apple product he didn’t gush over,” Kantor writes. “But I took a step back from that hype. Yes, Apple often makes great stuff — usually, but not always. Will the iPhone be a market-changer like the iPod, or just another cool contender?”

“…The cellphone market is a lot more mature than the music-player market was when the iPod blew it away. There are already phones with cameras, e-mail applications, Web browsers, and music players. What Apple and Apple fanatics are counting on is that Cupertino’s second entry (let’s not discuss the awful Motorola ROKR) will be so much better than what’s out there that people will be willing to overlook any downsides and shell out $500 or $600 to buy one,” Kantor writes.

Kantor writes, “The iPhone is bound to have an incredible interface; it wouldn’t be an Apple product if it wasn’t designed from the ground up to be easy, fun, and intuitive to use. But that interface is going to have to be a step or two above incredible because the functionality of the iPhone — and more — is already available on other products… “amazing” might not be good enough this time.”

“First of all, to use the iPhone you need to use Apple’s iTunes software, and with it Apple’s FairPlay (ha!) digital rights management scheme. It means dealing with a product that — despite what Mac fanatics say — is fraught with problems,” Kantor writes.

Kantor writes, “At this point it isn’t clear whether anyone but Apple will be allowed to create applications for the iPhone, although it does run OSX. At the start, though, it will only do what Apple allows it to. As with all things Apple, it’s their way or the highway, and right now that doesn’t include supporting Word or Excel files, so business users may want to look elsewhere.”

Kantor writes, “While Cingular might be the largest mobile phone company in the country, it may not be the best… Cingular does have a high-speed data network called BroadbandConnect in about 60 major metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t support it. That’s right: The iPhone doesn’t do 3G data rates. (Apple is said to be working on a 3G iPhone, but that will be small consolation to people who shell out for version 1.0.)”

“The bottom line for at least this first generation iPhone is that it’s a wonderful interface with great looks wrapped around an average product. Certainly not the high-end equipment you would expect for the price,” Kantor writes.

Full article here.
Only a scribe of Kantor’s caliber, writing for a publication with the stature of USA Today, is able to divine so much about a prototype device such as Apple’s iPhone without even touching it. It’s a truly remarkable talent for which one would assume Kantor is paid an unimaginable sum.

That Kantor can divorce himself from the type of journalists such as The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg is an stunning feat.

It takes a man like Andrew Kantor to concisely explain why Apple’s iPhone is nothing special, since other cell phones on the market already have cameras, email apps, Web browsers, and music players – regardless of the robustness of such features. To ignore that iPhone’s music player is an iPod and what that implies or that iPhone’s Web browser, email client, etc. are full-featured desktop class applications is a surprising talent. To report that Motorola’s ROKR phone was an Apple product is a scoop that only a man like Kantor can break in the pages of an outlet such as USA Today.

In not being wowed by online videos of the Apple iPhone’s user interface, Kantor amazes. Kantor’s ability to tell if a device’s user interface “might not be good enough,” again “without actually touching the thing,” is certainly a special gift granted only to a rare breed.

Who else besides Kantor can report that Apple’s iTunes software is “fraught with problems” without even needing a single example or providing any proof? Only a man with the level of trust that Kantor has earned over the years, of course.

Think about this: Kantor is able to sit in Virginia in January and predict across continent and time exactly which types of files Apple’s iPhone will support in June; even without the iPhone’s software being completed! Only Kantor could, with aplomb, advise that business users may want to look elsewhere. He continually astonishes.

By describing Apple’s iPhone as a device with a “wonderful interface with great looks wrapped around an average product” that’s “certainly not the high-end equipment you would expect for the price,” Andrew Kantor deserves some kind of award. He certainly is special.

Andy loves to hear how special he really is, so tell him:

[UPDATE: 4:47pm ET: Mr. Kantor has responded via his blog: Kantor: ‘Mac fans are nothing if not predictable’ – January 12, 2007]

Related Kantor articles:
Kantor: ‘Mac fans are nothing if not predictable’ – January 12, 2007
USA Today tech writer: Apple’s Boot Camp will get Mac users to switch to Windows – April 14, 2006
USA Today columnist calls Mac users and Apple fans a ‘cult of blind little lemmings’ – September 16, 2005
USA Today: Apple’s iPod nano ‘a beautiful piece of hardware’ – but ‘the competition has caught up’ – September 16, 2005
USA Today writer: Apple’s iTunes Music Store’s ‘restrictive license’ fosters rampant piracy – March 25, 2005
USA Today writer unhappy with MacDailyNews and some Mac users’ emails – October 18, 2004
USA Today writer attempts to downplay Apple’s role in Virginia Tech supercomputer – September 03, 2004

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Cringely: Apple iPhone will suddenly go 3G, gain features, and be renamed ‘Apple Phone’ – January 12, 2007
Apple’s Phil Schiller gives CBS News hands-on tour of iPhone – January 12, 2007
20 unanswered questions about Apple’s iPhone – January 11, 2007
Report: iPhone could be upgraded to 3G with software update if Apple wishes – January 11, 2007
Report: Rogers Communications to offer Apple iPhone in Canada – January 11, 2007
David Pogue: hands on preview of Apple’s iPhone, ‘gorgeous and so packed with possibilities’ – January 11, 2007
PC Magazine hands-on test of Apple iPhone: multi-touch UI ‘takes the breath away’ – January 11, 2007
Mossberg’s initial take on Apple iPhone: ‘radical and gorgeous’ with ‘brilliant new user interface’ – January 11, 2007
NewsWeek’s Levy interviews Apple CEO Steve Jobs about iPhone – January 11, 2007
Why Apple’s iPhone doesn’t do high-speed mobile phone networks (yet) – January 11, 2007
RealMoney: Apple just blew up the whole damn mobile-phone supply chain with its new iPhone – January 11, 2007
ZDNet: Hands on with Apple’s iPhone: ‘elegant, ravishing, simple, sleek; impeccable & intuitive UI’ – January 11, 2007
Apple iPhone FUD campaign begins – January 10, 2007
Nine ways Apple changed the face of consumer electronics yesterday – January 10, 2007
Analysts and investors applaud arrival of Apple iPhone – January 10, 2007
Top 10 things to love and top 10 things to hate about the Apple iPhone – January 10, 2007
How Apple kept the iPhone top secret for 30 months – January 10, 2007
Hands-on with Apple’s iPhone – January 10, 2007
The only thing really wrong with Apple’s iPhone is its name – January 09, 2007
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

FUD Alert: Analyst – I am pretty skeptical Apple’s iPhone can succeed – January 11, 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