June 21, 2007 — -- With just days until the iPhone debuts, frenzy over this year's most widely buzzed about gadget has reached fever pitch.
The hype, which includes a near constant barrage of commercials displaying the phone's "wow" factors — an iPod-cum-phone with multimedia capabilities and the never-before-seen ability to connect to Wi-Fi hot spots -- can be hard to resist. Add to that Apple's brilliant branding and the iPhone's appearance (let's be honest; it's just cute) and at first blush, it seems like a no-brainer: Apple could very well have another iPod on its hands.
But some critics believe that the "early adopters" who wait anxiously in line next week outside Apple and AT&T stores — crowds are expected to be so large that shopping centers are beefing up security in anticipation of mobs and muggings similar to those that greeted the recent launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 — could be in for a nasty surprise.
According to industry analysts, some of the drawbacks are the lack of built-in GPS, which is already widely available in many cell phones, a lack of media support from Flash and concern that the AT&T cellular network isn't fast enough to handle the iPhone's high-end features.
Still, Apple has tried to address a few of the criticisms that have been lobbed at the mysterious gadget that has only been viewed on commercials. (The control and distribution of the product is so tightly controlled, only a few industry insiders have held the phones in their hands.)
This week, Apple announced that the phone would have a longer battery life than was previously believed. Now, it will have up to eight hours of talk time, six hours of Internet use, seven hours of video playback or 24 hours of audio playback.
The phone will also feature a glass touch screen, instead of a plastic one. Robert Enderle, the principal analyst at Enderle Group, believes this move, intended as an improvement, could be a mistake.
"They did correct one of the problems, but they may have created another one in the process," he said. "Now we have glass screen with a metal case." Because metal doesn't absorb shock, Enderle contends, anyone who drops their precious iPhone will end up with a broken screen and a ruined piece of equipment.
"This is a pretty slick phone," he said. "I think dropping it is likely."
But, according to Enderle, design isn't the iPhone's only problem. He says that he believes the company could be opening itself up to class actions.
"A lot of kids are going to get this phone. Kids do a lot of ['blind'] texting on their phones" without looking at the screen, sometimes while they're driving, Enderle said. "With a touch screen phone, you have to look at the screen."
Enderle believes it's possible that teenagers could get into accidents while using the phone and, rightly or wrongly, many parents could end up blaming the manufacturer.
"One of these children is going to end up in someone's trunk," he said. "Often it's the vendor that's held accountable."
Furthermore, iPhones commercials, which demonstrate a user going from watching a movie to tapping into the Internet to making a phone call in a matter of seconds, will open Apple up to claims of false advertising, Enderle said.
Although the phone can connect to the Internet in Wi-Fi hot spots, Enderle said that a cellular network won't be able to support the speed depicted in the TV spots.
"The data experience is going to be very slow. If you're on a cellular network, [using the Internet] is going to be very slow," he said, adding a typical user's experience is "not going to match the experience shown on TV."