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July 14, 2008

Be careful making comparisons

GLOBAL – All right then! Yes, we are keeping an eye on the iPhone. Who doesn’t? All because we don’t start a whole nasty fight à la Coke-Pepsi (or even Apple-IBM) doesn’t mean we aren’t buying iPhones and combing over them with an electron microscope (we’re not actually, but we are looking closely).

I remember when the first iPhone was announced. I kept an eye on how folks reacted, since it revealed a lot of their main interests (and sometimes their insecurities). And a bunch of us bought some to understand what it was all about and how it compared to our offerings and plans.

We did not buy them, though, so that we could be ready to make comparisons when asked for a response. We took the device for what it was, what it represented. We understood that making comparisons was a slippery slope. Nonetheless, there were some comparisons that popped up and I wanted to share them with you.

Read on.

One thumb or two?

The iPhone glorifies touch interfaces. And for some reason folks think a touch interface is the ultimate. Hence folks make comparisons solely based on whether a device has touch or not.

It’s not that simple, as most user interface designers will tell you. Yes, the iPhone nicely makes use of a touch interface. Yes, other manufacturers are coming out with new touch devices (Nokia has a few, and more are coming). But, no, it’s not the only interface.

Some folks prefer a one-thumb interface, like many of our phones using S40. Some folks prefer a one-thumb interface most of the time (we are talking about mobile device, which are predominantly one-handed UI devices), but like to use two-thumbs (two-hands) when they want to focus, like on our Nseries devices. And some just want a lovely two-eyed, two-handed, full-attention interface, mostly for consumption of media, much like the key use of the iPhone.

So it’s a continuum. And it makes sense that Apple, basically a media device company, went for the two-handed touch interface. And this and other devices will sell in the tens of millions. But, as a mobile phone company, I am sure Nokia will still be creating one-handed UI phones for some time to come. Y’know, the phones that sell in the hundreds of millions.

10 million vs 100 million

And while we are talking numbers, it’s pointless to make comparisons on the number of iPhones to be sold versus the number of other devices to be sold. The iPhone has symbolic and ideologic value that far outstrips its reach and niche. It’s been a breath of fresh air in the mobile industry. And it made my job easier in explaining the fusion of services and devices. So, 10 million iPhones versus 15 million N95s? Who cares? What matters is that we are all thinking differently (well, more like re-thinking, in our case).

Gloves left out in the cold

Ok, so there are a ton of other great comparisons out there. Just let’s leave them be, since one can always find caparisons that make us look good and others bad. But, I must share with you one tongue-in-cheek comparison we have.

One person joked that the iPhone can’t be used with gloves.* That’s a big deal here in Finland where we spend a good part of the year wearing gloves (and, for me, a hat) and freezing our rears off.

But, we were looking at the operating temperatures of the iPhone and were shocked to see that it only went down to 0°C. That got a good laugh here, since most of the country is below 0°C for at least half the year. And with phones usually in jackets or outside pockets, that doesn’t bode well for the iPhone.

Sure, most phones slow down at low temps. I remember playing hockey outside at -25°C with my phone in my jacket pocket. Let’s say that it was acting funny after a while and I had to move it inside my jacket before I could dial. So it wouldn’t be good for me here in Finland if my phone didn’t like sub 0°C temperatures (which never happen in Cupertino).

Heh. I’m sure the iPhone will work fine in Finland. But, I think Markku from Finland could make a few funny videos at the Arctic Ice Bar, where one dresses up in thick coats to drink vodka in a -5°C freezer.** I can hear Markku now….

Image from thebusybrain

*You do realize that our phones are not always easy to use with gloves for some uses, too? Gotcha there.

** By the way, a friend once sent me an MMS from the Vodka Bar freezer… from a Nokia phone.