After reading Fred Vogelstein’s lengthy Wired feature about how Apple’s iPhone has shaken up the wireless business, we didn’t have to look far to find proof. See Walt Mossberg’s review of the Verizon Voyager, an iPhone knockoff made by LG.
While LG got a few things right — big, beautiful, glossy screen, fast 3G data network access, full keyboard, a second screen, GPS navigation — the phone is a dud. Why? Because the software sucks. Mossberg:
As with so many of the new feature-packed mobile phones, the Voyager’s user interface is clumsy and confusing, requiring too many steps to perform simple tasks. And its applications, such as the photo organiser, music player, Web browser and email program, are primitive compared with the iPhone’s.
In fact, the Voyager, bafflingly, has several different user interfaces — two on the outer touch screen and an entirely different one on the inner screen above the keyboard that doesn’t work by touch at all. Some functions work only with the inner screen.
It was obvious last January that Apple’s iPhone had raised the bar for mobile phone hardware design. More important: No one has been able to catch up with Apple yet in software and user interface design. How did Steve Jobs change the wireless industry? Sticking a cheap price tag on a nice-looking phone isn’t enough anymore; now the phone has to work.
We’ve seen this movie before: MP3 players existed long before Apple’s iPod, but they were clunky and had lousy interfaces. Steve Jobs managed to create a tightly integrated hardware/software package that was light years ahead of his competitors’, who needed several years to catch up. And MP3 players are child’s play compared to phones, which have more variables and higher performance standards to meet. If your iPod craps out, you’re annoyed, but if your iPhone doesn’t work, you’re screwed.
We’re interested in seeing what kind of software and user interfaces Google’s Android partners can create; we’re also looking forward to BlackBerry/RIM’s supposed touchscreen iPhone-killers. We also think Microsoft could make a nice smartphone if they tried. But in the present tense, the iPhone’s overall package is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
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