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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apple's iPhone raises the bar at Mobile World Congress

As reports from analysts and others attending the Mobile World Congress trickle in, one theme stands out: the iPhone is on the minds of nearly every company in the mobile phone ecosystem. The title of this article at EE Times really says it all: Users' love affair with iPhone stumps Mobile World panel.

That said, some of the panelists had what I thought were important insights on the fact that marketing, not technology, may be one of the factors standing in the way of consumers:

Panelists cautiously agreed that the current user experience — at least compared to the iPhone — is not very good. Predolin said that one problem is that many people are reluctant to tap the vast potential of mobile communications — especially the mobile Internet — because they fear the eventual cost. With so many telecom companies advertising heavily the cost of their services per minute, users hesitate to explore possibilities that might devour their precious minutes. Predolin said that this deadline consciousness is so strong among mobile users that they even constrained their consumption of minutes in a Buongiorno-sponsored trial in which participants were given mobile phones free for a week. "Operators are putting together cost plans that people can't understand," said Predolin. "It is not just cost but the way you market your cost."

But all this said, the iPhone appears to have set a new bar that carriers and handset makers alike are struggling to clear. Because mobile phone development typically takes anywhere from 18 to 36 months to get from concept to shipment, we'll only be seeing the first "iPhone-killer" hopefuls at next years Mobile World Congress. The only problem: by that time, Apple will have its second generation iPhone in the market. And knowing Apple, the bar will be even higher then.

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