We're as divided in the office as you are on the high-street, so Gordon gets stuck in...
The iPhone is a design and marketing phenomenon and rarely have we see a device polarise opinions as thoroughly as Apple’s so-called ‘Jesus Phone’. But are the nays outweighing the yays…?
According to UK analyst group GfK NOP that certainly seems the case. It polled 500 Brits and discovered that 46 per cent of respondents have simply dismissed the handset based on price, while a further 26 per cent admitted an interest but only if ownership costs reduced significantly. Even more bleak for Cupertino were figures which reveal just two per cent are considering buying the iPhone this Christmas. An additional eight per cent even confessed to a vitriolic hatred.
“This is a highly competitive market and the mobile phone manufacturers have very strong brand loyalty,” said GfK NOP spokesman Richard Jameson. “Apple needs more than cutting-edge design to penetrate this market and will have to work much harder in the UK than it did in the US.”
On the upside 78 per cent of respondents said for them the iPhone defines the ultimate music phone, while – despite its lack of 3G – 65 per cent believe it to be the primary device for email and web browsing.
So what is to be made of all this? For a start I’d have to say it seems to fit in perfectly with our office microclimate. Three of us own iPhones (Riyad, myself and Tim – editor at our former sister title Bit-tech) and we were the three most sceptical and dismissive of the handset initially. By sharp contrast, Benny – our resident Apple fanboy – initially lusted after the device (even defending his desires against our ridicule) but, ironically, has now decided to sit it out and wait for v2.0. Then take former staffer and regular freelancer Jalal, I wouldn’t dare leave my handset beside him for fear of him stamping on it.
So what is going on here?
The most obvious problem for Apple is the change of culture. In Europe we are not used to paying for our phones – even at the high end – and we certainly don’t expect to be tied to one specific network (handsets may have short term exclusives but even they tend to expire after a few months).
The second, perhaps less discussed but equally important, issue is that of marketing. Apple usually gets it spot on, but despite its stylish UK campaign I have to say I think it has dropped the ball this time. Why? Because why would someone be willing to pay the same £269 asking price for an iPod touch – essentially a stripped out iPhone – while complaining that the more complete device is a rip-off? Sure, there is an 18 month contract with the iPhone, but don’t a lot of us have monthly contracts already? O2 is even letting customers break theirs to switch. Furthermore, isn’t £45pm for 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited data surfing and free WiFi hotspot access actually a pretty good deal?
You see Apple is selling the touch as an iPhone without all the baggage, when it should be selling the iPhone as the fully featured version of the touch that removes your need to purchase additional devices. After all, iPhone owners can sell both their current mobile phone ”and” their MP3 player. Take this approach and it is like getting a free iPod touch but one that has more features and means you have one less device to carry around. What’s not to like?
Still, the problem in all this is I’m on the side of the iPhone because it is such a wonderful expression of design technology. Against this are others looking at spec lists and – at least in my opinion – misconstrued financial barriers.
So perhaps the only consensus we can reach is this: the iPhone is going to force every other mobile phone manufacturer to up their game and for that alone we should be thankful…