Initial Reaction to the iPhone – Mildly Skeptical but Impressed

Somehow CES seems a lot less exciting now that Apple announced the iPhone. I figured I would take a break and just post my initial thoughts now that all of the “ooh” and “ahh” of seeing the device online has subsided a bit. My basic view is that it is the most gorgeous phone that I have ever seen and I am in absolutely no rush to buy one. The gadgeteer in me feels somewhat uncomfortable about my passing (at best) interest in going out to buy one of these right away.

The thing that gives me pause is I that I am not entirely sure who the target customer is for this device. The simple answers would be “everyone” or “geeks” but those don’t seem to fit. Here is how I have been thinking about it:

This is an expensive device. Even with subsidies, this will not be a budget phone. Typically most higher-end phones are bought by businesspeople or geeks. If Apple can change this dynamic, it will change the entire mobile phone industry as phones that are currently considered expensive suddenly look affordable by comparison.
This is a very powerful device. This is one of the most powerful phones I have ever seen. It has so many things I love (Google products, Mac OSX widgets, etc) neatly bundled with the device. This seems like overkill for your average user, though. But it will be perfect for the Macheads and device junkies out there.
This is a very risky (in a good way) user interface –

So when I add all of this up, I am not sure that this is going to be the kind of thing that can sell 14 million units (or whatever crazy numbers are being tossed around) in the first year. The RAZR, which was edgy in design but pretty pedestrian in terms of UI and price point, took two years to hit 50 million units sold. The RAZR has always been an affordable option – I don’t know if a more expensive and more complex device will be able to achieve those same metrics. I think that there are enough gadget junkies and Mac lovers to propel this thing to success. But tens of millions of units in the first year seems unattainable to me.

The other thing is that while the Macworld audience loves the slick user interface (and I admit that it looks gorgeous), I am not sure how well it will be received by mainstream consumers. Will it be simply elegant or simply confusing? I frankly worry a bit more about the UI being a barrier to adoption and usage more than the price point. But if anyone can get this right, Apple can.

There are 3 basic reasons why I probably won’t rush right out and get one when they come out:

I like keyboards – Have always had a phone with a traditional keypad or QWERTY keyboard. The idea of going back to something else is not that interesting to me at the moment — text entry is a lot of what I do.

I have scratched or otherwise damaged ever touch interface device I have ever owned – I have owned Palm Pilots, iPods, and other touch interfaces devices. They all end up getting scratched and beat up. I would be really sad if I scratched that gorgeous screen.
This is one of those posts that might look really silly in a few months. I’ll revisit it when we get closer to the launch date and know more about how some of the features and functions work.