Convergence

Apple got 600,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 on launch day. AT&T’s web servers basically died (but not before failing in even more embarrassing ways). Apparently Apple’s Apple Store App (specifically developed to streamline pre-orders) also had issues (my wife and I only had one problem with it — it wouldn’t let us preorder two phones from one iTunes account, so Rosanna had to go update her ancient, unused iTunes account specifically to pre-order her iPhone).

This is amazing, but should hardly be a surprise. The iPhone 4 is the first major iPhone revision to follow the first really big wave of iPhone purchases (i.e. the ones that followed the release of the 3G) when the people who bought those plans are able to upgrade within plan. That’s certainly my case. Everyone I know who has an iPhone 3G and is eligible plans to upgrade, and most have pre-ordered.

Why?

Here’s what I said the iPhone would do for me before I actually bought one:

  • Not replace a laptop. Correct. The iPad hasn’t replaced my laptop either.
  • Allow me to read product reviews in stores before buying. Absolutely correct. More importantly, it lets me price compare while I’m in stores, which often leads me to rethink a purchase or simply save money.
  • Read books. Incorrect. Nope the display isn’t up to it.
  • Replace iPod. Correct. And I’ve always got it with me (whereas I’d usually not have the iPod when I most wanted it).
  • Replace paper notebooks. Incorrect. But the iPad has.
  • Be a decent personal organizer. Correct. Actually better than correct — recurring alarms are totally awesome.
  • Get photos from phone without paying service provider. Correct. And they’re surprisingly good. I also use it as a scanner in a pinch, which is awesome.
  • Make my own (free) custom ringtones. Correct.
  • Replace my DS. Correct. The only thing I’ve done with my DS since getting the iPhone is play Scribblenauts for a few hours.
  • Develop apps. Finally shipping in July I hope!
  • Replace (good) pocket calculators. Correct.
  • Fail to stop me pining for an updated Newton. Correct — and neither has the iPad. (I want pressure-sensitive stylus support.)
  • Stream internet radio. Correct, although the twins pick what we get to listen to on road trips these days. Argh!
  • Fail to replace my Panasonic TZ-5. Pretty much incorrect, because I’ve always got it, and the photo quality is very good. (In fact on one vacation my DSLR ran out of juice and all I had was the iPhone, which took some pretty nice pictures.)

But, for all its many virtues, the iPhone 3G has lousy battery life, its slow, its camera is lackluster, and, let’s face it, the curved shape is getting old. $199 (or $299) may seem like a lot, but bear in mind what it replaces. The last time I bought an iPhone I looked at the gadgets I’d never buy again (e.g. Nintendo DS, Cell Phone, iPod) and the price suddenly became a bargain. The new phone is replacing point-and-shoot cameras and video camcorders (like my beloved Panasonic TZ-series or the Flip) in a way that the 3G didn’t. Just two weeks ago I was amazed to see the previous generation Panasonic TZ camera (basically just like the current one, without GPS) selling for $170 in Costco and was sorely tempted until I realized that for $199 (of course I’m getting the $299 version, but that’s not the point) an iPhone 4 would (a) shoot HD video, (b) include GPS, and (c) not be one more damn thing to carry around and recharge. This is without even considering its virtues as a phone, iPod, or iPhone 3G replacement.

It’s the Convergence baby.

Meanwhile, the only company in the world that’s as user-focused as Apple has a new trick up its sleeve.

Nintendo has been showing off a new prototype DS with a genuine, working, apparently non-sucky 3D display. This sounds like a pretty wondrous device, but one has to ask if it justifies its existence against the iPhone or iPod Touch. In the end, pretty much anything in the way of a gaming console, computer, audio or video accessory, or camera these days is a computer, and why buy, maintain, and carry around more than the minimum number? If my iPhone could support a large display, keyboard, and mouse when docked — why would I want anything else?

I’d probably be more tempted if their launch game weren’t Zelda. (And MGS is barely any better.) I’ve never even gotten half-way through a Zelda game before becoming too bored and frustrated to continue.

Nintendo can sell new gameboy variants to its user base with features as banal as a new headphone Jack, so I have no doubt this gadget will sell, but in the end it only staves off convergence. To actually compete in the long term, the DS needs to start boring other stuff, and that’s not going to happen.

  • http://notmagic.wordpress.com/ Michael Case

    Yep, well, as soon as they announce pricing and plans here, I’ll be looking to upgrade my 3G, too. Assuming they ever do.

    The cool thing about the 3DS, as I understand it, is no glasses. Of course, it helps that it’s a small single user device, so you can live with the extremely limited viewing angle you get with such things.

  • Tonio

    Yes, the no glasses aspect makes it actually viable. It will be interesting to see if larger, higher def displays of that kind take off.