Dev Chair : Geeks are not Apple's target with the iPhone
The way I see it is that with most, if not all, reviews that I have read so far are written by technologists, geeks, or generally technically competent people. So naturally they focus on iPhone's feature list, ticking off each boxes as they go from one application to another. And not surprisingly, the feature list for iPhone is on par if not less than other smartphones on the market. Features for features, the Nokia E90 (or even N95) can easily beat the iPhone but is the Nokia better mobile device than the iPhone? Feature table does not and cannot explain the intangible user experience that Apple has improved over all other smartphones.
With the iPhone, Apple is targeting consumers just like the iPod. Despite Steve Jobs using the term 'smartphone' during WWDC keynote, Apple has not been marketing the iPhone as a smartphone at all. Rather, all the commercials and advertising thus far are all about iPhone being an iPod, a cell phone, and a mobile internet device. Yes, smartphones can do all of these function but oftentimes in a compromised, mediocre fashion because they include many advanced features that only power users would want but make the applications far more complex and worse, buggy. Whereas with the iPhone, Apple makes each application function really well on their own and mostly bug free (Safari not included!). Then, Apple provides the integration points between applications that make sense to ordinary users: Google Maps uses Contact List, YouTube and Safari let users email the URL of the video or web page to another user, Safari dials a number on a web page, etc. Power user features such as Exchange support, user-definable calendar alarm interval, GPS support are left out in this first release.
For example, the iPhone does not currently have a disk mode so users cannot put the iPhone's memory to use as a USB thumb drive, like they can with an iPod. Disk mode is very useful feature but one must ask, what is the percentage of all iPod users actually use Disk Mode? I don't have any number to back up my point but I will hazard a guess that less than 10% of all iPod users actually use Disk Mode to carry files with them.
All of these power user features benefits only a small set of all iPhone users. To assume the Apple creates and designs the iPhone with power users like us in mind is pretty arrogant on our part. One of the reason, if not the reason, that the iPod sells so well against all other competitors is its ease of use and paradoxically lack of features. The iPod's interface makes listening to music and watching video really easy. So easy that almost every one I know figures out how to use an iPod under two minutes without referring to any instructions. Apple did the same with the iPhone. They took touch screen to its natural conclusion. Everything can be touched and the screen does not have menu bar or buttons that confuse the user. Almost all of the available features can be understood without the need to reference the manual. In fact, no manual is included in the box. It can only be downloaded from Apple's web site.
Most current iPod or new iPhone owners are not power users at all. As long as they can make phone call, listen to music, watch video, browse the net, email/text their friends, without the application crashing or device rebooting (Treo 650, any one?) they are satisfied. The smooth user experience and obvious application integration provides by the iPhone interface are what makes it head and shoulder above other smartphones in most users' eyes. The experience of using a device that works and does not get into the users' way is far more important to most consumers than the number of features in the device.
Once we start looking at the iPhone as a consumer electronic device, rather than a geek gadget, it is rather obvious why it has the features (or lack thereof) that it has right now. User experience and attention to details have always been Apple's strength and they applied those skills to the max with the iPhone. Why should we expect the iPhone be treated differently than other Apple products?
I think Robert Scoble summed it all up best:
It's not how many features you have. It's how many of those features thrill you. My Nokia rarely thrills.