Archive for 27th March 2007

An iPhone Post Not About Apple – The Sprint Phone

Sprint is releasing a new phone (wishfully called “UpStage”) that gives direct-to-phone downloads for $0.99. While everybody is quick to compare it to the iPhone, the first thing I thought of was the retarded Zune Phone rumor. Why? Because it is yet another flawed “me too” attempt that brings nothing new to the table (that consumers want — a key point). Wireless downloading does not suddenly make this phone “a significant challenge to the iPod maker!” How many times is the average phone owner going to buy and download a song? Five times a day? Five times a week? Five times a month? Seriously, the benefit of this feature is so insanely marginal, it baffles my mind that this company presses this as its “break through” feature. I don’t even know why it makes news. Fire your publicist and marketing team!

Aside from the bad Internet navigation UI (if it can even do that), it has two features that will keep it from ever taking over the market:

  • DRM that’s not Fair Play and likely not compatible with your computer.
  • Priced to compete as a commodity item.

Let’s break this down.

DRM that is not Fair Play is already suicidal, but on a phone, it’s double-doom. Nobody will buy music on a phone that will only play on your phone. Maybe the Sprint execs forgot that iTunes music plays on your computer, phone, iTV, and iPod? This would make these songs quite possibly the worst deal in digital music downloads (OK, that’s not true – ring tones are worse).

Commodity price comes with the commodity image: your product is what poor people buy if they want a half-decent phone. So while this phone might garner as much market share as the Chocolate or whatever other crappy already-existing “media” phones, it will never stand out. The only thing this phone has going for it is the “buy our DRM-songs over the air waves for $0.99!!!” Rip off. People will despise the idea of buying music at one online store (say, iTunes?) and then have to buy it again on the “Sprint store.”

Microsoft could make an entry here with their dumb Zune Phone. But if you haven’t already figured it out with my repeated bashing, this would be a monumentally moronic move on Microsoft’s part. They have significant share of the mobile phone market now; why waste it? Entering the market with their own branded phone would instantly turn all their partners into competitors – thereby killing any friendly deal making. Oh, and let’s not forget it would destroy their Zune market share since nobody would buy a Zune for $250 when they can get a Internet capable, Internet-Squirting Zune Phone for $200.

If Microsoft enters the mobile phone market chasing Apple, it would be karmic stupidity that rivals Sony when it got over-eager chasing Microsoft in the console market.

The phones best positioned to compete with the iPhone are not these entry level toys! Look to the $600+ market and you’ll see a slew of excellent premium phones. Stop comparing Fords to the BMWs and then call them competitors: nobody who buys a pick-up truck is in the market for an M5 and vice versa.

By the way, does this phone accept regular headphone jacks instead of those $14 proprietary ones? If it doesn’t, then I rest my case.