By Carl Howe
I've received a lot of terrific comments and emails about my posting yesterday about Lessons from my son's iPhone purchase. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Why Apple's (AAPL) iPhone feels so much more responsive. Anders Brownworth nailed the answer to this one better than I could have:
I think the graphics on the Nokia are noticably slower than the iPhone because the iPhone has a dedicated graphics processor. So for example when you want to do coverflow or scrolling of contacts, the OS just tells the graphics chip that there is a surface with this picture or that text on it. Then the OS just tells the graphics chip where to position that pannel and it's up to the graphics hardware to actually render it. Of course the graphics hardware is much more efficient at rendering things, so it looks extremly responsive without ever burdening the main processor.
This works quite will until the graphics subsystem runs out of RAM. Like, for example, if you load the NYTimes page in Safari and quickly scroll to the bottom before the OS has time to render the layout and send it to the graphics chip. At that moment you end up seeing a checker-board pattern. That's the pannel without rendered content on it. As soon as the CPU catches up, you see the content, but the interface never "freezes" while that happens.
That's the revolutionary thing here. No other mobile device that I am aware of offloads graphics processing to specialized hardware. Hence, of course, Apple couldn't just purchase an off the shelf mobile OS. I think of this as a key competitive advantage for the time being. It's not something Windows Mobile contemplates yet but it is something Apple has had in OSX from day one.
My initial reaction to this was, "Well, of course!" And then I thought about it for a few minutes and decided it was actually quite remarkable. After all, who ever imagined that a device designed to facilitate audio communication and playback would need a high-speed graphics processor? To me, this represents a clear example of Apple "Thinking Different" about the mobile phone market and innovating in a significant way.
2. AT&T (T) Family Plans. I received a one email saying that this has been a sore point with many in their move to the iPhone. I would have to say it depends on your family plan. My friend Maribel Lopez had the opposite experience: the salesperson she worked with sold her a family plan to actually reduce her total bill, but that was because she was a new (Orange side) ATT customer, not an old (Blue) one. For those of us on the Blue side, there really is no alternative. You will be assimilated by the death star. Oh, by the way, I now have had two people tell me (and one of them was the salesperson at the Small World ATT store) that the Blue ATT network will be shut down in March 2008, so resistance really is futile.
3. iPhones in Canada. One reader asked when we'll see iPhones north of the Canadian border. While we just heard today that the iPhone will go to Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands in addition to France and Spain, word on Canadian availability has been sparse. However, with the Canadian dollar appreciating against the US dollar, perhaps we'll see some progress there soon -- or not. Apparently the sticking point is the unlimited data plan, which Rogers has been resisting, but that's all I know.
4. Why don't I have an iPhone? I have two answers to this question. One is that I have a start-up business and keeping that and my family afloat has taken priority over wonderful new phones. And secondly, I soon will, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. And no, it's not Apple; even when I was a Forrester analyst, they never gave products away. I don't think they've changed that policy since.
Disclosure: Authors holds position in AAPL