Now that the dust has settled after Apple’s biggest product announcement since the original iPod, I will weigh in with what I feel everyone in the press, offline and online, is missing.
The iPhone’s competitor is not Palm’s Treo; the iPhone’s competitor is not RIM’s Blackberry; it’s also not a Windows Mobile device, these comparisons are odious on several merits, not the least of which is their corporate focus compared to Apple and Danger’s hipper demographic.
The iPhone’s real competitor is … drum roll … Danger’s Sidekick. Attempting objectivity, I will make the case on the following major points:
- Hardware integration with cellular network: this is probably the biggest oversight. iPhone requires special features implemented at the hardware level of the network itself to provide Visual Voicemail. Neither the Treo and Blackberry require anything unique to any cellular provider. You can use them on most, if not all, the major carriers. The Sidekick requires unique modifications to the carrier’s equipment and that’s a big part of why it’s exclusive to T-Mobile. You can’t buy an unlocked Sidekick and use its data services on any other network (in the U.S.) just like the iPhone only works on Cingular.
- Controlled and integrated hardware/software ecosystem: Like Apple’s upcoming device, the Sidekick is a beautifully engineered marriage of hardware and software. The key benefit here is the exceptional user experience that Danger and Apple’s products provide over all of the other smart phones: fewer buttons, context-aware universal controls a la clickwheel and Danger’s Menu, X, Jump and Back buttons. The iPhone will be superior in this regard; the Sidekick has been and already is (what? it’s an objective observation). Also, Apple and Danger lock down their system so you can only install approved software from them. While restrictive, overall this makes for a more crash-free experience not unlike what OS X offers over Windows XP.
- Screen orientation sensor: a more minor point than the two above but certainly applicable is the inclusion of sensors that automatically orient the display to how users are holding their phones. For the Sidekick this is the vertical flip that the screen does when you open it to access the keyboard (otherwise the display would be upside down). As everyone knows, Apple’s implementation detects if the phone is held upright or on its side.