There are so many articles, podcasts and blog entries about the new iPhone right now that I thought that I would not write anything about this next generation mobile phone. Even though I am not interested in the technical details like screen size, the camera or battery life. And even if my comment about it would fit to my blog – I will also not write about Safari on the iPhone or the integrated web services.
I will concentrate on a point on which Apple has been always very strong and which made the iPod different to other mobile music players and made it the number one: the usability.
I want to point out Apple's supremacy in usability by looking at the way short messages are handled on the iPhone and on mobiles phone running Windows Mobile 5.0.
SMS handling on iPhone and a Windows Mobile based mobile phone
Apple was the only company which realized the important difference from short messages and e-mails: short messages very much like chats between two persons, while e-mails are like written letters.
So where is the point in having the classical separation between inbox and sent items when a SMS conversation is totally different from e-mail? Often e-mails are used chat-like, but in this case you always have the previous dialog blow or above the new text. Imagine you would only have the latest answer of the person you are writing to. If this text would contain something like "Ok, tomorrow then." you would have to go to your sent items folder and search for the last e-mail you sent to this person in order to understand what he is referring to.
Sounds uncomfortable? But this is exactly how short messages are handled on Outlook on a Windows Mobile powered mobile phone. I own a XDA mini S which is nothing else than a HTC Wizard 200 and had the idea to write a different viewing mode for short messages, but never finished this project, because it was more work with the .NET Compact Framework, than I first thought. ;-)
Why did nobody realize that short messages are not e-mails? I guess the engineers at Microsoft just wanted to add SMS support to Outlook Mobile without thinking one step further or thinking about other possibilities to handle them.
Nobody knows by now if the iPhone is going to be another successful product, like the iPod. When the iPod came out it showed the best solution for handling your complete music collection. Together with iTunes everything from ripping a CD, changing a song's name or making custom playlists just needed a few clicks — the rest was done automatically in the background. That was at a time when you had to copy files to your digital music player — which was mounted as a mobile hard drive — and most of them just read in the directory tree and played all files one by one ordered alphabetically.
Whether the iPhone is a success or not, Apple has agin shown that the quality of products can be improved by its handling and usability. This is a point we all can learn: sometimes it is necessary to think one step further or just in another ways as others to get the one bit better than your competitor.
So, think different.