Blog: iPhone launch attracts the crowds, but why?

Jonathan Morris
June 19, 2009

The truth is, it is just a phone. And the iPhone 3G S isn’t even that special because Apple were actually pretty generous by giving existing owners the OS 3.0 update (even 2G iPhone users, which is even more impressive). When did another phone manufacturer release so many new features for an existing model?

Had Apple opted to restrict all the new features to only the 3G S, it would have made the new phone something really special – while becoming even more annoying for the people that are unable to get a cheap upgrade from their current iPhone 3G.

A note to all of these people; when you sign an 18 or 24-month contract – you’re agreeing to being hit in the pocket when you want to upgrade after only a year. The solution is to campaign for a return to 12-month contracts, but that’s an argument best saved for another day.

While Apple managed to attract the crowds and get photos of these queues in the national press, Nokia was launching its long awaited N97. Over the road from the Apple Store on London’s Regent Street, the Nokia Store hadn’t really attracted much of a queue at all. In fact, when Apple allowed people in to sign up for the 3G S, the Nokia Store hadn’t even opened.

The iPhone 3G S isn’t cheap, but nor is the N97. £500 SIM-free for something that hasn’t really moved on from the N95 or N96. Same camera, but a bigger screen and a keyboard that, in my honest opinion, isn’t very good.

So why couldn’t Nokia get the same attention as Apple? At the launch of the Nokia 5800 (aka ‘The Tube’) last year in Camden’s hit and trendy KOKO Club, Nokia brought in a bunch of people to whoop and holler whenever the presentation mentioned a new feature.

The features weren’t exactly amazing, but you’d never have known that if you saw the incredibly well stage-managed launch. The odd thing was that all of the journalists were sitting around looking at each other and wondering what exactly was going on. Was Nokia about to bring out Steve Jobs and announce his move from Cupertino to Helsinki? Now that would have been something special.

No, it was an attempt to do things like Apple. And us cynical journalists saw through it. We also see through it when Apple does it, but we still watch in awe anyway. When Steve Jobs says anything, we know it’s spin – but we can’t help but believe it anyway. It’s hard not to when he evangelises and the spell overpowers you. When he launched the iPhone 2G in London, he convinced us all that 3G was useless. According to Jobs, it killed the battery too quick and wasn’t much faster than EDGE anyway. And you had Wi-Fi, so who cares?

It must have worked because Apple sold a lot of the 2G only model. In fact, it was all well and good until the launch of the 3G model, and the advertising to tell us it was the one we were all waiting for all along.

It’s funny how the 3G S is all about speed – not primarily the faster processor, but the higher data speed over 3G. The irony is that it’s good for 7.2 megabits, but O2’s network is good only for 1.8 – and that’s half what the current 3G model supports. Still, it may work quicker when you’re roaming.

But, that’s perhaps being unfair on the iPhone and O2. Apple has produced an excellent phone than even the anti-Mac brigade must secretly admire.

O2 has hopefully had the extra income to roll out massive improvements on their network – and for a network once regarded as being useless for data, things have certainly changed for the better. Indeed, O2 must have done something right because it still has the exclusive in the UK despite everyone else tying so hard to get in on the action.

Of course, we’ll get a 3G S in for review and it’s certain that it will be looked upon favourably. Naturally, there will be those who will say it’s an abomination – and the arguing will begin just as it has in the PC vs Mac world for years.

And while all of that is going on, some of you will be heading off to your nearest Apple, O2 or Carphone Warehouse store to sign up for a brand new 3G S – or paying through the nose to upgrade once you can.

What’s more, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

And that’s why Apple can attract the crowds.


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