iPhone: the interface’s the thing

The Wall Street Journal asks whether people will buy Apple’s slick new iPhone for $5-600. Of course they will — if it’s as good and as easy to use as it looked in Steve Jobs’s presentation. (Here’s some coverage: David Pogue’s test-drive; John Markoff’s story; Lev Grossman in Time; Farhad Manjoo in Salon.)

The original iPod came in at a similar price point and pundits asked similar questions. The value of Apple’s innovation pretty much obliterated the price sensitivity of the market, and by the time the early-adopters all had their iPods and Apple started going after a wider market, it was able to bring the price down some (and add more value by continuing to improve the product).

No, the question about the iPhone isn’t, “Will people pay for it?” It’s simply, “Can it really be as easy as Jobs made it look?”

Mobile-device interfaces are such a total disaster today that many of us simply never learn to use more than a fraction of their features — and even when we learn them, we tend to forget them immediately. Phones have become so disposable anyway, why waste your time learning all their dumb menus? Blackberries and Treos are considerably better, but they’re still full of compromises, and they typically do a lot less than the iPhone — which in effect is a tiny Macintosh optimized for phone and music functions.

If the iPhone interface is as intuitive as Jobs promised, then people will line up to get it regardless of its hefty price. It will have succeeded, to paraphrase Alan Kay’s famous utterance about the original Mac, in being the first cellphone interface good enough to be worth criticizing.
[tags]apple, steve jobs, iphone[/tags]

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