The Mysterious Apple Phone


First off, this post begins simply as a response to the latest rumor over at It got me thinking, and rather than post in the forums I thought I’d start a long-winded and nary-insightful blog post. As if you all care what I think.

The Apple of the 1980’s was about Simplifying Computers, to bring them to the non-geek. The Apple of the 1990’s was about Staying Afloat. The Apple of the 2000’s, firmly re-seated in the public eye with the iPod, iTunes, and Mac OS X, is about Lifestyle Integration. This is why I think an Apple iPhone is not unlikely.

Here’s one thing I think Steve Jobs knows: the phone is not the end-all-be-all device. It’s not going to cook you dinner (although you can use it to order some), it’s not going to wash up after you (though you could call in an emergency maid, maybe), and it’s not going to make you more attractive when it goes off in a movie theater. But phones are more and more people-friendly.

Remember when YOU had to know everybody’s phone number, or look it up in a book? Crazy. Nowadays, we simply look through our contact list or our recent calls, and the phone knows all the numbers it needs to connect. Phones also integrate the answering machine functions via voicemail, and can actively alert you when a message is available.

What most phones suck at, however, is Internet. Sure, many have mini-browsers, and can surf websites on their tiny, tiny screens. But it’s clumsy to navigate, and clumsy to fill out forms or do any real work with. Phones that are actually good at surfing , on the other hand, are generally terrible at being phones. They end up being bulky, or have too many buttons, or are simply buggy. Sure, they can make calls, but it feels like a 1990’s palm pilot with phone support added as an afterthought.

Bulk, buttons, and bugs were the three craptastic features of almost every MP3 player available just before the release of the iPod. Hmm… might this be something Apple could do right, and score big with? You bet.

But look at all the other moves Apple is making. They’ve got a lot of personal info management built into OS X with iCal and Address Book. Depending on your phone, you can make these apps play nice and have things sync. But an Apple iTunes-like solution is going to simply work better. Looking ahead at Leopard, we’ve got a ToDo’s and Notes system ramping up as an underlying element of the OS. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a smart phone that integrates with that functionality as well?

Then we’ve got iChat AV. Imagine being able to connect via the Internet with your buddies online from your cell phone. Seems nice enough, maybe not a killer app, though. Now imagine an integrated camera. Yes, it syncs with iPhoto, but is also capable of video conferencing through your phone.

Probably not all that useful if you’re using it as a typical handset. But then there’s this iTV thing that’s coming out – remember when we found a ‘missing integrated iPod dock‘ on the mac mini? Try an iPhone dock on the iTV. And it just so happens that your integrated camera faces the couch while all your contact info & photos are syncing up. (Of course, when your boss calls and fires you, don’t blame the iPhone for the 17 “YOU’RE FIRED” faxes that appear throughout the house.) Now you’re in prime position to video conference minus a computer.

And then there’s the Zune. Microsoft is pushing hard the ‘Wireless sharing of music.’ It’s a given that the iPhone will have integrated iTunes support with music listening built in. But with a Zune, your friend needs to be physically close (and with his Zune) in order to share something. What if you could get the same functionality over broadband with other iPhone users? Now space is not a limiting factor for sharing your music with others. And, of course, the iPhone would actually integrate with the iTunes Music store. Not only could you buy any music at any time with your phone, but when you’re listening to your friend’s shared music, a purchase is just a click or two away. How’s that for appeasing the RIAA?

So I think it’s a definite possibility. I simply can’t say that it will actually happen, but I’ve got to believe that this could be why the Zune doesn’t seem to be fazing Apple in the slightest.

And I doubt this would happen, but I’ll throw it out there because I think it’s a neat idea. Most phones have GPS. What if movie theaters (and upscale pickle-butted restaurants) had a database that they could register with to define their ‘space’? A phone, when on the network, could use that GPS information to auto-silence. Emphasis on the Auto. After all, Steve doesn’t want a phone going off during Cars – even if it is an iPhone.

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