You don't really <i>need</i> an iPhone 3G

Do you really need an iPhone 3G or do you just want it? Don Reisinger explores that problem and fills you in on what he thinks drives iPhone 3G sales.

As an iPhone 3G owner since its launch, I've spent considerable time with Apple's latest entrant to the smartphone market. And although the first few weeks were stellar and I was absolutely delighted to have third-party apps and expand the scope of what this product could do, I've quickly realized that the iPhone 3G isn't best for everyone.

In fact, I honestly don't think anyone needs an iPhone 3G and would be better suited with a BlackBerry for smartphone needs. That said, the iPhone 3G is popular because people want it. And after a few weeks of using it, they realize quickly that they really didn't need it.

Let's face it -- do you really need to have an iPhone 3G? Any BlackBerry can check email, browse the Web, and let you download third-party apps. Granted, those apps may not be as "cool" as Apple's apps and RIM's devices don't have a touch-screen -- yet -- but we can't lose sight of the fact that the iPhone 3G does what practically every other smartphone on the market can do.

The only reason the iPhone 3G is popular today is because of its aesthetics. Sure, it has a lower price tag now and people are happy that they can load apps onto it, but it's a product that thrives because its design is unique and the manufacturer is Apple.

Just because that's true, it doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. The iPhone 3G is a fine device and it performs many of the tasks you would expect it to without a problem. But it's also a device with connectivity issues, design flaws, and buggy software, making it an extreme pain to use at times.

For instance, my iPhone 3G won't automatically check my email even though it's set to do so every 15 minutes. It'll try every now and then, but the only way to fix it is to turn the iPhone 3G off and try again. It works for a little while after that, only to succumb to the same problem after a little time has passed.

When it comes down to the real value of the iPhone 3G, we need to look at it objectively. Is it one of the world's most popular smartphones because it does something unique? Not really -- its touchscreen interface is neat, but its competitors have already released similarly functioning products.

It is one of the most popular smartphones because it has better business support and a price tag that most people are happy with? Nope, the BlackBerry has it beat on both fronts (on most devices).

Is it one of the most popular smartphones because of the hype surrounding it, press coverage, and Apple's unbelievable appeal to most consumers? You better believe it.

But just because that's true, it doesn't mean that those who bought the iPhone 3G were suckers that fell for Apple's plan for dominance. Instead, it means that Apple was able to capitalize on consumer desire instead of their need.

Doing that in the technology space is more difficult than some would think. Sure, it's an industry that's driven by impulse buys and the desire to have something cool, but it's also driven by the consumer's desire to have a product that they feel they need.

Do I need an TV? Yep. How about a computer? You bet. Should I have a printer to go along with that computer? Obviously. Oh and I might need a DVD player to go with that TV so I can watch my favorite movies.

But the iPhone is an entirely different case altogether. With countless choices in the space, there are a myriad reasons why we can justify buying any other device besides the iPhone 3G. Maybe it's too expensive or we don't like AT&T. Maybe it's not what we really need -- we only get four emails a day.

But then again, we may not need the iPhone 3G because it won't necessarily improve our lives in any tangible way, but we want that iPhone 3G because it's so dang "cool."

My hat goes off to Apple. Sure, it made the iPhone 3G more attractive by adding business capability and let third-parties sell apps for its product to entice more consumers its way. But more than anything, I applaud Apple for making people want a product, regardless of their need for it.

In this business, doing that isn't as easy as it seems.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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