The Honeymoon Is Over For iPhone Early Adopters - InformationWeek

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07:48 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner

The Honeymoon Is Over For iPhone Early Adopters

Apple's new iPod Touch is the most interesting element of a meaty product and service announcement from Apple Wednesday. The Touch has got the advanced music and video-playing capabilities of the iPhone, without the phone and EDGE bits. It's for people who want an iPhone but are happy with their existing cell phone.

Apple's new iPod Touch is the most interesting element of a meaty product and service announcement from Apple Wednesday. The Touch has got the advanced music and video-playing capabilities of the iPhone, without the phone and EDGE bits. It's for people who want an iPhone but are happy with their existing cell phone.

Indeed, Apple's Tuesday announcement was a comedown to all of the shlubs (myself included) who rushed out to buy the iPhone as soon as it came out June 29. In addition to the Touch, Apple dropped the price on the high-end 8 GB iPhone by $200, and discontinued the 4 GB low-end model. We knew this early adopter tax was coming soon; I just didn't expect it this soon.

My friend Steve Ratzlaff said the Touch is an iPhone killer, with nine tenths of the coolness of the iPhone and the ability to let people choose their own cell phone plans. The Touch looks like an iPhone, has the same user interface, and, like the iPhone, it supports Wi-Fi and has a built-in Safari browser for Web access.

I think Steve is overstating the case -- there's room for both products in the Apple portfolio.

The iPod Touch is $299 for an 8 GB model. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you might as well spend $399, and double your storage. (Indeed, I think similar logic killed the low-end iPhone.)

The iPhone is priced at $399, with an 8 GB storage.

People who want a single device, and who need EDGE access, will go for the iPhone.

People who want more storage, are happy with their existing cell phone arrangements, and don't care about EDGE networking, will want the Touch.

But still my friend makes a good point. By introducing the Touch, Apple is courageously cannibalizing its own business. The Touch will be just fine for many people who might otherwise have sprung for the iPhone.

The Touch is likely to be a favorite among corporate road warriors, many of whom balked at the iPhone because it lacks native support for Microsoft Exchange. Now, they'll be able to buy an iPod Touch for Web access, audio, and video, and use a company-issued BlackBerry for business communications.

But what if you bought your iPhone before today? Did Apple rip you off? Valleywag snipes: "Did you rush out and buy an iPhone the moment they went on sale? Then there's a word for you: SUCKER. ... We just hope that paying $200 for two months of insufferable smugness was worth it."

I don't think there's any ripoff. It's just the way the tech business works. Anytime you buy anything, you know that very quickly prices are going to come down, and products are going to get more powerful.

But if you bought your iPhone recently, you have some recourse. The Unofficial Apple Weblog has advice, including returning the device, invoking price guarantees, and complaining to Apple, AT&T, or the store where you made the purchase. TUAW reader Robbie D. complained to AT&T: "I called AT&T said I was not happy after standing in line with my wife on the 29th so we could get 2 of them only to have it cost $ 400.00 less 66 days later. They said sorry and gave me a $75.00 per line credit!"

The iPhone Atlas has the rundown on the differences between the iPhone and Touch,. The Touch has e-mail, Maps, Stocks, or Weather applications, and no built-in camera. The Touch also lacks a built-in external speaker.

The Touch wasn't the only new product announced by Apple, which revamped the entire iPod line. The Red iPod Shuffle is the low-end model, with 1 GB of storage for $79. Another new nano has a 2" 320x240 LCD, and video support, priced at $149 for 4 GB of storage and $199 for 8 GB.

The iPod Classic is in the traditional form factor, for people who want to carry around a lot of music and video. It's priced at $249 for 80 GB and $349 for 160 GB.

TUAW notes that now all iPods run video out, meaning you can hook them up to external displays for a bigger image.

Apple announced more than just hardware. The new iTunes Wi-Fi Music store does everything the existing iTunes music store does, but it's accessible over Wi-Fi, using the Touch or, later this month, the iPhone.

Here's my question: Will the Touch and iPhone be able to update podcasts over Wi-Fi? I have a personal stake in the question: I'm doing a lot of traveling over the next four weeks, and I'm not planning on bringing the computer that I'm currently using to download podcasts. I'd really like to be able to keep up with those podcasts over Wi-Fi while I'm on the road.

Apple also announced a service to allow iPhone users to convert their iTunes music to custom ringtones, at a fee of $0.99 per ringtone. That hardly seems fair: I've already paid for the music, and now I have to pay again to use it as a ringtone?

But blogger Jeff Harrell speculates Apple's ringtone pricing is part of a plot to discourage the scourge of custom ringtones, which are a blight on our eardrums. Writing on his blog The Shape of Days, Harrell makes the point by taking a dig at InformationWeek contributor and Boing Boing co-author Cory Doctorow:

The cry goes up, of course, mostly from Cory Doctorow who lives in a dimly lit cave surrounded by faintly beeping instruments that are delicately tuned to detect any economic transaction involving intangible property. "I already paid for these songs once!" the refrain goes. "I should be able to print them out as a musical score, run the score through a shredder, compost the scraps for six months and then smear the rich, fertile loam over my naked and highly aroused body at no extra cost!"

But, says Harrell, Apple's real agenda is to fill the demand for custom ringtones at a price so high that it'll discourage their use. Because ringtones are annoying, and having ringtones emanating from iPhones makes Apple look bad.

What do you think of Apple's announcement Wednesday? Going to run out and by an iPod? Which one? If you bought an iPhone when it first came out, do you feel ripped off?

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