You've probably already had your fill of iPhone news, reviews and opinion – but all of us will have to answer one question when the handset becomes available in the UK in a few months: how do we decide whether we should buy one? Which features of the iPhone are so revolutionary that they’ll encourage us to pay significantly more for a consumer smartphone?
I've played with arguably the most hyped product in Apple's history, and can tell you that the touchscreen interface really is an intuitive, enjoyable way to control a mobile phone. Plus, the benefits of rolling an iPod and mobile phone into one device are obvious. And then there's the 'wow' factor. Apple succeeded in creating such a buzz around the iPhone that thousands of people queued for hours (some for days) to get their hands on the product even though independent reviewers hadn't given it a glowing recommendation, because Apple didn't give them the opportunity. Only the day after it went on sale did reviews websites and magazines pass judgement, and by then tens of thousands of people had already bought theirs. Technology enthusiasts just wanted to be among the first to have the device.
Everybody's criteria for a device that's worth buying as soon as it's launched is different, but for me the one thing the iPhone promised that made me sit up and pay attention was the web experience. Apple claims you get the 'real web' on a mobile device you can keep in your pocket, and for someone who's been struggling with internet-equipped mobile phones since BT's famous but flawed 'surf the net, surf the BT Cellnet' promise, the iPhone looked set to be the product that could finally satisfy my demands.
When people dream of the 'real web' on a mobile handset, they mean the web as it is on your desktop. Many people expect the iPhone to allow you to view every web page you can access on your 19in TFT monitor, for example, on a screen that fits in your pocket.
Except, with the iPhone, you can't. Firstly, in the US, the iPhone's mobile web is crippled by AT&T's network. We've heard horror stories of users waiting for several minutes just to load the Yahoo homepage. Of course, it's likely that UK iPhone users will benefit from a much faster network, but even if that is the case, I'd suggest you still won't be seeing the real internet on an iPhone. The 3.5in, 480 x 320 resolution screen just doesn't do it justice.
Of course, you'd be prepared to make allowances for the mobile web. But if the promise of the real internet on the iPhone is the one thing that'll persuade you to buy the device, make sure you try it out first.
The basis for this rant is that a mobile device that makes a much better effort at the mobile internet is due to launch in the UK at the beginning of August. Datawind launched the PocketSurfer 2 at an event at the Canadian High Commission last Thursday, and has already captured the attention of technology enthusiasts with its promise of 'true wireless internet everywhere, for free'.
The PocketSurfer 2 is in no way an iPhone killer. It is a small portable device for accessing the internet only, and it brings a novel approach to the mobile web – namely the claim that the days of paying for accessing the internet on the move are coming to an end.
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