iPhone a New Form Factor (Part I)

June 29, 2007


This is not the iPhone, it is an LG-325 that runs on Bell Mobility’s CDMA network in Canada. Bell Mobility is the quintessential “walled garden” service provider where the carrier has complete control over what software runs on the phone. What I lose in flexibility I gain in cost because I subscribe to a Bell Mobility unlimited browsing plan for $7 (CDN) per month. If you can live with the OpenWave browser on a tiny screen at slow speed, it is a great option. The “killer feature” which makes it unlikely that I will trade in this aging bit of technology is AMPS, that is, analog service. Digital service is spotty enough in some of the areas that I spend time in or drive through that I believe it is a safety feature that I do not want to give up.

So why am I talking about my goofy little phone on the day the iPhone is available to the public (at least for our friends south of the border)? It is a comparison exercise. I think this phone represents an important form factor for mobile phones and I now believe the iPhone is a new form factor.

I think there are three form factors that will dominate in the mobile phone space over the next 5-10 years or so: 1) earphone with numeric keypad, 2) Blackberry QWERTY, and 3) iPhone. When the iPhone was announced I posted my thoughts about it and there were several very insightful comments which made me think about form factors.

So the “earphone” form factor is represented by my LG-325. It is not the screen or whacky sliding keypad (which works way better than I expected) that is important, it is the width and the rounded top. The key to this form factor is that it is about 1.8″ wide (maybe up to 2″) and it fits to a person’s ear by feel. This is the form factor that people use in their cars.

The Blackberry represents a second form factor. Too wide to use comfortably against your ear except for rare occassions, QWERTY thumb keyboard, persistent flash memory, and push e-mail (or other data other than SMS). RIM has done a fantastic job developing relationships for this form factor and it will be very difficult for any competitor to replicate their relationship with multiple carriers (how many other specialized services have been adopted by competing carriers in the same market?) as well as gain acceptance by enterprise IT departments to enable corporate push e-mail.

From the videos and reviews I have seen/read I am convinced the iPhone will be a third form factor. The device is a compromise (as are the other two form factors) but I think Apple has created a new segment. I will explain why in another post.



2 Responses to “iPhone a New Form Factor (Part I)”

  1. […] a New Form Factor (Part II) I made the claim, in part I, that the iPhone will be a new core form factor for mobile phones (the “earphone” and […]

  2. […] of how few suprises I found. In my last post about the iPhone I made the claim that it represents a new mobile form factor, although a highly compromised one. I have not changed my mind after playing with […]

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