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The iPhone is called a Smartphone by the US press. This is a misnomer, but it doesn't really matter. When the iPhone is introduced in Europe in a few months, its is initially going to compete with Feature Phones from Sony Ericsson and Nseries "multimedia computers" from Nokia. My prediction: The iPhone will give Sony Ericsson a severe beating, but will eventually lose out to Nokia.
This is what the manufacturers are thinking about their high-end phones:
- The device philosophy of Sony Ericsson is: Phones with one additional feature. Sony Ericsson have their "Walkman" series of music phones and their "Cybershot" series of camera phones.
- The device philosophy of Nokia is: The mobile phone is the new computer. The Nseries phones are "open platform devices" where you can connect to any network and install whatever software, service or life hack you need to support your digital lifestyle.
- The device philosophy of Apple is: Phone, iPod and Internet device on a closed platform.
The iPhone is currently a closed device with very basic functionality, but it has turned the "mobile phone world" on its head. Its a beautiful but expensive device. It does not do a lot, but what it does, it does better that anyone else.
Sony Ericsson makes a lot of money from their Walkman branded phones, phones that are marketed as music players. The only problem is that they are truly miserable music players compared to the iPhone. The iPod and the iTunes ecosystem has set the standard for portable music players and Sony Ericsson does not even come close.
The trouble with the Sony Ericsson Walkman phones is not the phones themselves. The trouble is that Sony Ericsson depends on the operators to deliver the music to the phones and the operators are messing up. The experience of putting a song onto a handset , whether it is by downloading over the air or by side loading from a PC, is just poor. This has led to speculations recently; people buy phones for their music playing capabilities, but are they actually playing music on them?
Apple does not suffer the same operator dependence when it comes to user experience for the music player. Any customer who want a phone + music player device is likely to select the iPhone over a Walkman phone. This may force Sony Ericsson to lower prices.
Nokia on the other hand is taking steps to avoid the operator trap that Sony Ericsson currently sits in. How? Well, by copying Apple. According to Anssi Vanjoki (the guy with the $103,600 speeding ticket) Nokia will "copy with pride". And why not? As Russel Beattie points out in his (too busy but otherwise excellent) blog:
...it will take Apple several *years* to come up with a competing product that has anywhere near these level of features. Apple just doesn't have the mobile hardware chops to do it themselves. [...] They don't have the experience, know how or partnerships to get it done and still be profitable.
As I have pointed out before, the iPhone ease-of-use is nothing magic. Apple has done a fantastic job, and the most fantastic part is that here is a company that has the balls to actually do it.
But Apple has created a closed walled garden product and who wants to live in a walled garden? Tying the device to a particular operator, not letting anyone install as much as a small Java game or a ringtone on the device without Apples consent?? Please! Do you think we live in Albania or the US or something?
Nokia have to do 3 things right to rule the universe:
- Get their user interface together and
- deliver an operator independent experience as delightful as iTunes
- on a open device
EDIT: fixed the loose/lose typo.