The rumoured iPhone 3GS was rather amazing. OLED HD resolution screen, front facing camera with iChat video messaging, superfast Gigahertz processor. The truth revealed today in a 2 hour keynote was rather more pedestrian.
The iPhone 3GS is virtually the same as its 3G predecessor, which Apple is now selling for $99 (read: having a clearance sale of, since unlike last time Apple did not manage to sell through its inventory before WWDC). The improvements (3.2 megapixel camera, magnetometer, slightly faster processor) were hardly exciting, and the fact that many of the software improvements such as video recording and voice dialling will not be made available on the iPhone 3G broke an implicit promise Apple made to always update their devices to the latest version of the software.
Today’s iPhone announcements did not bring anything new or interesting, but were merely a rehash of features long present on other devices, and it shows in the backlash seen by consumers expecting something rather more cool.
With the addition of new hardware features Apple also fractured the once very simple and unified ecosystem that OSX Mobile represented. To exploit new features developers now need to decide if they want to support the small minority with magnetometers, or the vast majority without.
In some ways Apple has painted themselves in a corner, being too afraid to break compatibility by innovate in hardware, leaving iPhone owners with a 2004 screen resolution, and meaning the additions they do end up adding appear trivial and unnecessary. At the same time the differentiation in software they have added create clearly arbitrary barriers (e.g. no A2DP for 1st gen iPhone owners, no voice dialling for iPhone 3G owners) and expose them as simply milking the franchise for as much as its worth.
Today, iPhone 2009 was exposed as RAZR 2006 – a once successful franchise that’s devoid of direction, flailing around looking for the next big thing, but desperately afraid to break the mould.
Good luck Apple…