While Apple's iPhone this year captured the imagination of the U.S. market and spurred a global dialogue about the future of smartphones, it's not taking Europe by fire in the sales department. In fact, if my colleague Eric Zeman is right, the iPhone could be a flop in Germany. What gives?At this point there are several good explanations for the iPhone's lack of luster on the other side of the pond. Even before the iPhone launched on the continent I questioned if the device's slow EDGE network access would kill it in Europe. So far, that looks to be one reason for the slow sales. Another is the high price tag.
But, I wonder if the real reason the iPhone is flopping in Europe is that the iPhone has simply jumped the shark.
But how could the it phone of 2007 already be passé? I have a few explanations:
1. 2008 could be more about location than touch screens.
If this trend plays out, the iPhone, which has yet to ship with either GPS or cellular-based location, will have to play catch up next year. While industry analysts and bloggers chattered away this year that the iPhone proved users wanted touch screens, research increasingly showed that users really want GPS and location services, especially business users. RIM, Motorola, and Google have been trendsetters, bundling in GPS and location on new mobile devices.
Here's another look at Google's latest mobile location add-on to Google Maps:
2. The iPhone clones are here and more are on the way.
The HTC Touch is an example of successful iPhone clone that has quietly made its way across the mobile market this year. Next year we can expect big touch screen iPhone killers from RIM (the BlackBerry 9000-series), as well as Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and others.
To be blunt, the iPhone's touch screen interface -- the one thing that made the iPhone the hottest thing since sliced bread -- will be a commodity in a matter of weeks, especially once the handset makers start showing off their new devices at CES. The iPhone is going to need more tricks up its sleeve than 3G if it hopes to stand out next year.
3. The iPhone's sales figures are not equal to the level of hype.
We've heard a lot about the iPhone's strong sales this year -- right now sales are at roughly 1.4 million units. But the HTC Touch, an iPhone clone, racked up comparable sales numbers before it even launched in the U.S. and is might overtake the iPhone in total sales by the end of the year.
In fact, the biggest selling cell phone for 2007 is the Razr, and I mean the old Razr. Ouch.
What do you think? Can 3G catapult the iPhone in 2008? Or is the iPhone already past its prime and doomed to be the Netscape Navigator of the smartphone market?