Seth Godin recently blogged about how the iPhone doesn’t really “reinvent” the cellphone very much. And while he makes some good points about what a reinvented cellphone would be like, I think that Apple may already be ahead of him on this.
There’s been a lot of criticism of Appe’s decision to tie itself to Cingular for the first couple of years. But once you get past all the whining (come on, people, phone exclusivity isn’t exactly a new model in the cell phone world), the decision starts to make a lot of sense.
It looks like Apple didn’t want to just build a device and throw it out there — they want to change the market itself. The iPod was successful because Apple did more than market a device. They provided a tightly integrated music library management tool and a fairly seamless user experience. (I’m not forgetting the store, but that came about much later.)
My hope is that Apple chose to partner with someone because they have features and services in mind that require more than a nifty phone — they require changes to the cellular network. Visual voicemail is the first of these but probably not the last. The kinds of features that Godin imagines, like using a group to distribute a voice mail or make a conference call with multiple people, will also require changes to how the cell network handles calls.
As to the question, “Why Cingular?” Why not? Does it matter? So what if you hate Cingular — you’re a cliché. Everyone has a story about the cell carrier that done them wrong that they’ll never use again. The bottom line is that Cingular’s the biggest — the second runner-up is as much as 20% smaller. Why partner up with number 2 when number 1 would be happy to have this dance?
Only time will tell whether Apple’s strategy pays off or whether they really have a series of cell phone innovations planned for the future. I’m guessing that it will, they do, and I am.