Hands-on with iPhone – Look but don’t touch

As many reading here know, I’ve been using an N95 for some time now. After one day with the iPhone, here are some first impressions.

First, of course the two phones appeal to different kinds of users. There may be overlap, but for the most part, the N95 is for the self-proclaimed ultra-geek while the typical iPhone buyer is more likely to be less tech-inclined, perhaps one might even say “the average phone buyer” (with a little bit of extra cash). So to a large degree any comparison is somewhat lame. There will not be a lot of common ground between the two camps.

That said, here’s my quick take. Some things are easier and more comfortable on the iPhone. At the same time, the closed nature of the phone surfaces frequently and in ways that effect more than just geeks. The N95 is open to the extreme. Somebody that paid $750 for it will probably find all these deep and powerful features (why else would they pay that much). But if you just gave the phone to someone as a replacement for a common phone, that kind of person is probably not going to know how to use the majority of the features. These people might buy the iPhone. They will just accept that it is AT&T only (that’s all they know anyway). But even they will eventually wonder why it’s so restricted.

For example, take something as simple as ringtones. The iPhone can play MP3 files. Yet Apple wants to force customers to buy ringtones for $2. Yes, there are hacks to overcome that, but the point is with the N95, no hacks are needed. Any media can be loaded as a ringtone. Apple had to code specifically to block this capability (i.e. it’s more work to prevent it than allow it).

The two phones are at the EXTREME ends of the spectrum in terms of openness. The N95 is incredibly powerful but requires a serious geek to operate. The iPhone is easy (mostly), but closed and annoyingly so.

So for me, the first impression is I kind of wish I could use the iPhone as my phone, but Apple’s decisions to make it closed, keeps it just out of my reach, like it’s behind a window. I can look, but I can’t touch.

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