Lost in telecommunication

News just in from the department of the extremely obvious – iPhone users can be a little obsessional and, even, delusional.

It seems a consultancy has invested a serious amount of time to diagnose what they call the ‘iPhone syndrome’. Strand Consulting tells us that the iPhone isn’t that great a phone but that users will sometimes overlook its faults or even come to defend its shortcomings as features. They liken the behaviour of both users and mobile phone networks to the delusional relationship which can sometimes develop between kidnappers and their victims.

Well I’ve certainly witnessed the behaviour. All one need to do typically is wait a couple of hours for the iPhone battery to die (normally a critical failure for a mobile phone’s performance) and the addict will claim that it’s not the iPhone’s fault – they shouldn’t have left the 3G switched on, they’ve been using the screen too much, or perhaps they’ve made too many calls. Indeed this is such an obvious design flaw that there are now several products, advice and articles (‘turn off bluetooth, vibrate and the music equaliser’) out there to try and remedy it. Or, you’ll receive an SMS resembling hate mail, only to find out it the result of a (practically unusable) iPhone keyboard, which the sender is yet to ‘master’.

But I think it is unfair to blame the technology press and general media for misleading the public about the qualities of the iPhone. The point isn’t that iPhone customers are duped into buying a product which is in some ways flawed. The amazing thing is that iPhone customers quickly accept these issues as facts and plough on being evangelical. Media couldn’t do this. It is the product of a piece of absolutely superb bit of software and hardware design, focusing not on the ostensible functions required of a phone (making calls, sending messages etc) – all of which the iPhone is at best medium at – but rather at looking at what the joys are of having a computer in your pocket (the iPhone has the same computing power as the first generation of iMacs).

Apple (under Jobs) has always been good at this, although it’s not original thinking (Theodore Levitt put it very nicely: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”).

It doesn’t matter if the Sony Vaio has better specs that the Apple Macbook. Why? Because the Macbook lets the guys with the funny glasses and the expensive jeans feel like they, not Microsoft or Sony, is in charge of the computing experience. With a Macbook or an iPhone, they are masters of their little computing universe (admittedly only for an hour or two at a time with the iPhone). Apple has given geek pleasure (of technology mastery) to the next wrung down the ladder – to the people without screwdrivers in their pockets, and they will forgive them a lot because of it.

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