iPhone predictions: The right and the dead wrong

~ 25 July 2007 ~

Mobile Web Design, a book by Cameron Moll

Leading up to the release of the iPhone, I joined the fray of hype by publishing a few predictions and musings. The first post, “Why iPhone won’t revolutionize the mobile web landscape”, was published on January 10 of this year, just a few days following the iPhone announcement at MacWorld. In it, I break rank as Apple aficionado and argue the iPhone will do little to change the way we interact with web content using mobile devices. Following is accounting of my predictions.

Content zooming isn’t new.

REFUTED. While other mobile browsers have attempted content zooming, none execute it anywhere close to as well as the iPhone. Full stop.

Data costs will continue to plague subscribers.

NEUTRAL. Yes and no. While unlimited data plans are becoming increasingly common (and you can’t activate iPhone on AT&T without unlimited data), “cost” refers not only to the actual cost of data but also the time required to download that data. AT&T’s Edge network is painfully slow, and unfortunately I’m fairly certain they’re not the only carrier worldwide with less-than-desirable data speeds.

Context is still king.

RATIFIED. Yup, dead on here. Context remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a most critical consideration when developing, consuming, and exchanging web content. Gaddo F. Benedetti, in his article “Mobile First, Web Second”, perhaps says it best:

[W]hat sells the mobile Web is not how it is similar to the desktop Web, but how it differs. The mobile Web is a phenomenal platform to build and exploit applications. But until even we, the industry who build them, stop thinking of it as primarily “the Internet on your phone”, both users and clients will see it as little more than a poor man’s browser, making it a far harder ROI to sell to potential clients.

For me, this very argument remains the crux of needing a mobile web of some form or fashion. Let’s take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by the context of being mobile, rather than merely struggling to reformat the experience we’re used to on the desktop.

And of the iPhone web experience specifically there has been considerable debate about whether optimized sites/apps for iPhone are necessary, but for me the heated exchange only emphasizes the importance of context. I’m not sold on the idea of creating content optimized for a single device, iPhone or any other, but I am sold on continuing to create content optimized for the mobile experience. For example, I frequent popurls.com often, and I’d much rather visit popurls.mobi — available by and formatted for any mobile device — as the incessant zooming in and out, scrolling, and small hit targets on the full site are almost unbearable with MobileSafari.

iPhone owners won’t be the typical mobile web user.

REMAINS TO BE SEEN, though I imagine it will take a good year or two before anything that resembles critical mass is reached, if that even occurs.

A second post, “iPhone musings”, was published a few weeks before the release of iPhone, as I casually pondered some of life’s most important questions:

At what time in the morning or day before will I be in line to buy one?

Oops, I should have asked, Will I pay someone to stand in line for me?

How high will the bid price reach on eBay on June 30?

The highest bid price — not asking price — I saw was right around $900 the day after launch. It seems those who posted 24-hour listings right after buying were able to reap the biggest rewards. Prices fell soon after that, as there wasn’t the shortage of phones at retail stores most of us were expecting.

How long before someone finds a way to unlock the iPhone and the first unlocked one shows up on eBay?

Not much longer. However, no cases of successfully unlocking at the SIM-card level have been reported yet.

Will the iPhone eventually cause an industry shift in advertising … directly to the consumer instead of the operator/carrier advertising their network price/features/gimmicks?


As for the iPhone overall — hardware, software, user experience — I remain completely satisfied and even in awe in some instances. The deeper I dive into the UI, the more I’m impressed with decisions made at every level within the experience of using it. Simply stated, this is one killer device.



Veer Veer: Visual Elements for Creatives.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.

1   Joshua Marino ~ 25 July 2007

It’s refreshing to see an honest look at your past predictions and assumptions in the clarity and sometimes less-than-flattering light of hindsight.
Most bloggers feel free to spew out split-second judgments, but don’t hold themselves accountable when all is said and done.

Kudos on a blog well done!

2   Myles ~ 25 July 2007


3   Cameron Moll ~ 25 July 2007

lol, that should be “neutral.” Spell check didn’t catch that one…

4   Rob Goodlatte ~ 25 July 2007

I agree that, even on the iPhone, it’s still good to have a version of your site that works well on mobile devices. But I also think you should not send iPhone users to the same stripped-down version you send to other phones.

Many sites don’t need that much tweaking. With popurls — make a one column version, problem solved.

Many sites can be adapted perfectly for the iPhone just by including a meta tag with the viewport attribute that has the width of the page (to prevent horizontal scrolling).

I think the biggest change is that there’s less of a gap between the “mobile web” and the web. It’s the same web, we’ve just got another resolution and device to think about.

5   joe ~ 25 July 2007

Okay, again, I feel the compulsive urge to post re: iphone.

I work for ATT, and I handle the internal services and stuff in regards to iphones and other phones.
I am not going to say it can’t happen, but unlocking the iphone will be very, very difficult.


1) There are no manufacturer unlock codes for the iphone. with all/most other phones, an unlock code sequence is programmed into the phone for the potential to roam on all networks. When you request an unlock from a provider, they call the manufacturer and the manufacturer gives us the numbers. If there are no numbers and no place to enter the numbers, it becomes very, very difficult to make one and enter it into a place where none supposedly exists.
Could it be done? Sure, i bet it will be eventually, but again, I live with PR blinders on in my position in the company.

2) unlcoking hte phone can potentially damage or impair data transfer. Phones are optimized to the networks when they are locked in. So a Verizon Motorola has been optimized specifically for the verizon network. Unlocked phones, even if operating on the same network, lose credibility when attempting to connect to GRPS/EDGE networks. basically, calling in and saying, “My data won’t connect.”
“Is your phone unlocked?”
= we can do basic things, but sh** outta luck otherwise.

That being said, yeah, the EDGE network is kind of mediocre, but UMTS has only been launched in major areas. iphone 2, however…

6   Blake ~ 26 July 2007

I think it always comes down to your last point - satisfaction. Every point made is for one specific reason - to satisfy the customer’s needs. Whether it be intuitive interface, slick design, unlimited data plans that make sense…these all lead to our satisfaction with the product. That’s the make or break.

Which, ironically, is why I’ve decided not to pluck down $500 (and break my Sprint plan) for an iPhone. I love my current phone. It does what I want, and does it well. I don’t browse the Net (for now) on my phone, nor do I take pictures (for now). I’m sure I’ll own an iPhone soon enough, but for now, my satisfaction with my current phone keeps my money in my bank account.

Thank God. :)

7   mahalie ~ 26 July 2007

I love the way you wrote this…while reading it I was hearing Dwight from The Office.

8   Cameron Moll ~ 27 July 2007

Is that good or bad? :)

9   Peter Parkes ~ 28 July 2007

Your final point about advertising’s an interesting one - in Europe, at least, there’s plenty of push directly from handset manufacturers, and while networks do advertise, I’d say what they do is pretty subsidiary to the hardware manufacturers.

10   Jeff Bridgforth ~ 08 August 2007

It looks as if MediaTemple has bought into this idea of creating content for the iPhone experience. They have created an iPhone Account Center: http://www.mediatemple.net/iphone/

It does not try to re-create the Web experience but from the screenshots, it looks more like an application. When I received an ad from MediaTemple this morning, I thought of this blog post and your comment about creating a Mobile Web not just recreated the Web browwer experience for Mobile.

If I had an iPhone, I would be very interested to check out this new service from MediaTemple. It seems like they get it when it comes to developing for the Mobile or at least the iPhone Mobile experience.

11   Charles Gordon ~ 10 August 2007

Firstly, kudos on following up on your own predictions—and owning up where they may have fallen short.

Secondly, I am casting my vote (with qualifications) on the side of “all content should be the same” argument. Nearly all the mobile sites I have tried on my iPhone have left me feeling strangely cold. For example the Google search mobile site yields legible results that are more work to scan than quickly gazing at the microprint of “real” results and zooming in as needed. Maybe it is bad for the eyes, but it seems that in general human perception of type (on a 160 ppi device) seems even better than it ought to be. The content and contents of a “real” web page in miniature give the impression that the iPhone is a liberating device that invites the user to zoom in rather than wonder “what am I missing?” in a mobile version.

I look forward to more mobile websites, and would love to see an example of a truly great one. So far I am very happy with the ability to tap into a well-structure column layout (such as NYT) to do my reading.


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