For the last few months I've used the 3GS as my main handset and in that time I've been trying to collect my thoughts on the iPhone without getting involved in the emotional (how ridiculous!) arguments that surround Apple's efforts in any market, and particularly this hot, hot, hot sector.
First things first, it's insanely great. That was the tag that Steve Jobs created for the Mac and it's fully deserving for the iPhone if you take it to mean a product that recalibrates markets, resets expectations, ignites enthusiasm and even passion. Since my 1991 law was passed barring the use of the term 'sexy' to describe electronics engineering it's become Exhibit A among those who would repeal the legislation. The exquisite page turning, pinching, squeezing, expanding represent a new jucture where art meets user interface binary code. The App Store is magnificent: a sort of London or New York melting pot of meritocractic software development where geniuses are allowed to unroll their creative brilliance to a wowed global village and the winners get the spoils.
Second things second, it's imperfect. Obviously the camera isn't great and the lack of camera flash is just plain odd. The learning curve is steep when you consider how Apple is lauded for usability -- but then iTunes is a monstrously counter-intuitive program in many ways. It would be nice to have something more elegant in the way of multitasking too. For text composition I still prefer the BlackBerry and of course it's expensive and proprietary in an enjoyably evil way that only Apple seems to be able to get away with.
Third things heretical, it looks sort of clunky. It reminds me a bit of the Sinclair black watch or one those horrendous black long-sleeve shirts favoured by Simon Cowell and Ricky Gervais. It's a bit big for comfort which is fine if you're a fortysomething bloke who wears a lot of shirts with pockets and cords (ahem) but not great otherwise. Like your belly, it's a bit thicker than is ideal too.
Fourth things go forth, it's vulnerable. Apple fanboys might think that the competition is just Barbarians at the gate but the smartest people in technology owned by some of the biggest brands are out to topple Apple. The apps ecosystem is often touted as a barrier to them winning but that was also said about the Palm Pilot -- and the Palm was maybe the last insanely great product to come along. Google in particular has shown it has the chutzpah, cojones and sheer bloodymindedness to chase a market where the leader was thought to be home and hosed. It has some Jokers to play and the carriers want/demand competition.
The smartphone/handset market today is a glorious endorsement of market forces that is almost enought to make a (small C) conservative of me. Apple is there to be got at and there's every chance it will be -- but the rivals are going to have to come up with something insanely great.