Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cool is in your interactions, not in the phone you carry

An interesting battle is emerging in the mobile world. The G1 google phone was announced yesterday. The iPhone we already have. Touch screen, app-laden rivals are popping up left right and centre.

The first battle was about coolness of device. The iPhone is winning that hands down. The G1 looks less sex on a stick and more sack of spuds. And everyone else's efforts at out appling apple mean look-a-likes.

But the hardware may be a smaller influence on the outcome than many imagine. (image by ceekay via flickr)

Yes, I get that our phones are personal, always with us, an expression of self. Well, I get that they always were. But as they become more and more a true expression of ubiquitous computing, some of those computing requirements look like gaining the upper hand.

Your Mactop may be prettier than my pc but, what if no-one will buy it because you can't attach a web cam? (You can, I know... but you take the point?)
The iTunes store doesn't allow any apps which use the iPhone's camera... you have to jailbreak to be able to use qik etc

Is that wise?

There has to be good-enough software available for macs in order for apple to sell its computers. And there is. But in the computer world it's clear pcs have won on a global scale. They've won on price and because software for one runs on all (pretty much). More developers therefore create for the pc than the mac.

Simply, the pc can do more things because more people develop more things for it to do.

That's the route google is taking with the G1. Android is more open than the iPhone.
(But it ain't that open. An open phone wouldn't be locked to a network. An open phone would allow me to put any sim I like in. What gives here google?)

Anyway, what I mean to say is the battle for dominance in mobile will not be about who has the coolest handset, but it may be about who has the most effective way for developers to monetise their efforts - because that is the route to making your hardware do more.

And the closer your phone gets to being your primary point of entry to the internet, the further the hardware gets from being an expression of self. That's because the greater part of the expression of self will be happening digitally when you make your entry to the internet (ie you manage your reputation through each interaction on social network after social network.)

Cool is who you are in each interaction, not what phone you carry.


  1. I'd disagree slightly.

    Coolness for an individual is carried through in each interaction.

    For gadgets, I'd say coolness is still look, feel and hardware.

    I'd say greatness is in the interactions and usability.

    After all designer jeans are cool due to their look and feel.

    Levis etc are great because they work well.

  2. Dan, maybe I wasn't as clear as I should have been. Levis jeans don't allow you to express your identity in the digital realm (at least not beyond the likes of secondlife they don't). I'm expressly referring to what happens when you shift a device towards being your primary interface with the internet. The closer you get to that the more the ability to express online starts to overshadow the expression invested in the handset.

  3. further, the device becomes less relevant the more it gets out of the way of your interactions. I guess the ideal device would be one you weren't aware you were using :-)

  4. The iPhone rocked, not just because it was "cool", but because the ease of interaction it provided with the phone itself, the functions, and the internet was ground breaking.

    While it only just came out, Android has yet to show any ground breaking interactions with anything. The phone itself is a cross between a sidekick and a mutant iPhone. While the open system provides a lot of options, it also provides a lot of junk, which people don't want to wade through. Most people want guide rails, and Apple's App Store provides that. At the end of the day, it looks as if Google missed the mark.

  5. "There has to be good-enough software available for macs in order for apple to sell its computers."

    Which there is, and a great community of developers developing free and useful software. I used to use a PC and time after time I would need a program to perform some function and on a PC it dosen't always work and was hard to find. With Mac developers there's always someone who has created such an app to do the task and it is always competitively priced and works.

    "But in the computer world it's clear pcs have won on a global scale. They've won on price and because software for one runs on all (pretty much). More developers therefore create for the pc than the mac."

    Only if you take the numbers of PC's sold against the amount of developers as a percentage. Remember Macs are not more expensive if you take the same spec and put that into a PC. It's just there's cheaper, weaker and lower spec components in the lower end PC's, thus they go for peanuts! You try selling a 3 year old PC against a 3 year old Mac and see how much it's decreased in value.

    PC's have won in the corporate world, as companies are tied into Microsoft products, so your not going to switch your entire system over, well unless you are in education where Macs have far better take up than PC's; for the simple reason they work, take less time to setup and monitor.

    And lets be clear Macs are cooler, and that however small sells.

    If you look at the video of the testing of Android against the iPhone you can see it was much more sluggish and harder to use, I see this as the most fundamental issue with it. Apple created a device which has it's flaws but on the whole is the best experience I have ever had on a phone, I couldn't imagine going back to a normal phone it would drive me nuts!


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?