How then, did the iPhone become such a successful phenomenon? It's because of the few things that it chose to do, and those things it did well...And then it kept improving on it and improving some more.
Let's start with a brief history of the iPhone. The original iPhone had revolutionised the mobile industry and was a kick in the face to other very well established mobile phone vendors as it rose up the ranks in market share.
And yet, each iteration of the iPhone always had very basic features which were lacking! How is it that a phone can be so revolutionary and yet lack features which other phone vendors have been putting in their phones for so many years now? This is what I dub the "iPhone Time Paradox". It has surely crossed the minds of people when Apple announces a new feature of the iPhone which as been around for ages, but Apple calls it "new and revolutionary!"
Let's see what some of the basic features that were missing in each generation of iPhone which were added in later iterations (off the top of my head)
iPhone 2G (2007)-
Wonderful and revolutionary new iPhone OS with multi-touch input!
Basic Missing features:
>No 3G speeds
If you looked at the spec sheet of the iPhone 2G without ever having used one, you would have been scratching your head wondering why so many people wanted one! The original allure of the iPhone was the beauty of the iPhone OS, and how the functionality and "revolutionary" multi-touch interface of the phone (however limited it was) was so amazing to use. Keep in mind there was no app store yet, but the app store idea was pioneered later.
iPhone 3G (2008) -
>Introduction of App Store
Basic Missing Features:
>No video recording
>No cut and paste
This new model was a vast improvement to the original, and competitors were still playing catch up. The introduction of the app store is what really gave the iPhone and later the iPod Touch, the juice it had to soar to the great market share that it has today. At the time, the iPhone 3G hardware was not up to scratch to perform video recording at a level of quality that Apple was happy with, so they left it out.
>improved headset remote
>cut and paste implemented in iPhone OS 3
>No camera flash
>3 MP camera (considered average)
>No front facing camera
>No video calling
>Standard resolution screen
>Bad battery life
>Call drop out complaints
By the third iteration, Apple had produced a very polished and solid phone which was by far the most popular iPhone of all time. However, at the same time, competing smart phone platforms such as Android, have started to catch up and nowadays people have started to draw more comparisons between the platforms.
As a result, there is a more extensive list of features considered 'missing' compared to the typical features of modern smart phones that the iPhone itself revolutonised 3 years ago. In 2010, there are a handful of phones with much beefier raw specs than the iPhone 3GS such as the Google Nexus One and the HTC Evo 4G, but that was until the iPhone 4 was announced on June 7th at the WWDC 2010...
>Slim new design (0.93mm thick!)
>4x denser pixels per inch IPS display
>Improved camera to 5 MP without sacrificing pixel size
>New front facing camera
>LED Camera Flash
>Smart Multi-tasking with iOS 4
>Improved battery life
>Improved antenna design (for hopefully better reception)
>HD Video recording
>Face Time Video Calling
>Improved overall interface due to iOS 4
Yet to be discovered...
What a list! It seems everything that a previous iPhone gets criticised for missing out in a previous generation, Apple steps up to the plate and fills that feature right in! The iPhone 4, it seems, is really set to tip the playing field back into Apple's favour when it comes out this July.
Back to the topic at hand: the reason Apple was able to succeed despite a lack of certain feature-sets.
The funny thing in my head when Steve Jobs proclaimed to Jonathan Ives in a Face time demo was "Wow, we can finally have a mobile video chat! It's finally here! It's a revolution!"
Video calling has been around for years...surely Apple knows about that. How can they call that a revolution?
It all comes down to how they implement these features. Apple would rather hold off on implementing a feature until they figure out how to get it right with ease of use and maximum effectiveness. This applies for:
>The camera and it's eventual extensive features
>Cut and paste
These features all arrived late to the party, but I'm sure you'll agree that Apple have implemented these features in arguably the most elegant way compared to any other mobile vendor.
Does your phone take pictures or record videos as nicely as on the iPhone ?
Have you ever been excited about video calling or multi tasking before you saw Face Time and iOS 4?
In this sense, the iPhone is re-inventing the simplicity and elegance of using a mobile device, which is why we see them always calling this old feature that has been around for years, "revolutionary" or "absolutely amazing". In reality, they're just doing it - the Apple way.