I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

The iPhone feature-checklist steamroller

(I don’t know where to start with everything that happened and was unveiled in the last week, so I’ll pick randomly and start here.)

As much as I dislike feature-checklist comparisons, many people base their buying decisions on them, either by choice or by corporate-policy decree.

Since the iPhone’s release in 2007, many prospective buyers have declined to choose the iPhone because of a real or perceived shortcoming in its feature checklist.1

Every time iOS or the iPhone is updated, Apple picks away at that list. They started with the big ones: purchase price, 3G, GPS, copy and paste, advanced security features, Exchange, multitasking. More recently, they added Verizon support, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them quietly hit Sprint and T-Mobile in the future, picking away at that list even further.

With iOS 5, they’ve hit tons of relatively minor shortcomings. Notifications. Quick camera access and a hardware shutter button. Wireless sync and backup. They’ve even added a preference to have the camera-flash LED blink on new notifications, supposedly as an accessibility feature, but also conveniently to appeal to BlackBerry owners addicted to that blinking LED.

Apple has steamrolled over almost every meaningful advantage that competitors have. And they’re not stopping.

There are lots of hardware preferences that I suspect will always be reasons why some people wouldn’t choose an iPhone, such as the demand for hardware keyboards, removable batteries, different form factors, or significantly cheaper prices.

Very few major items are still on that list that I think Apple would actually change. But it’s usually unwise to say that Apple will “never” do something. And it looks like they’re willing to do quite a lot to get more iPhone customers, even if a change require temporarily suspending some of their usual priorities.

When speculating on what Apple will or won’t do, a change that gets them more iPhone customers is probably worth considering even if you think they’d “never” do it. iPhone customer acquisition is a higher priority than almost everything else.

  1. I’ve intentionally ignored the iPad in this post because the reasons people choose iPads are completely different, and very few people are buying iPad competitors as a result of the iPad not satisfying their criteria. ↩︎