A Google search of iPhone this morning turned up nearly 73 million results; Google News turned up more than 12,000 references to recent articles and blog posts. Groups of early adopters-slash-yahoos are already parked in front of AT&T stores to get one of the phones – which don’t go on sale until 6 p.m. Friday. In fine capitalist fashion, some are offering to sell their spots to the highest bidder. Six months of user-generated hype and a slick Apple ad campaign have laid the groundwork for the iPhone frenzy, and now early reviewers are falling all over themselves in praise of the new device. Apple has once again orchestrated a masterful product launch, combining design innovation and unmatched marketing savvy to create what could be the MOST IMPORTANT NEW PRODUCT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
No one does this marketing/innovation thing better than Apple, but is the hype enough to get the masses to buy one long after the launch? I’m guessing not, for one reason, and it’s not the price; it’s the network. For the first time in recent memory, Apple has to rely on a partner to help deliver the promise of one of its products. AT&T Wireless, as the exclusive wireless carrier, will play a major role in determining the long-term success of the iPhone. And that must scare the bejeesus out of Steve Jobs and Co. Wireless carriers in general have shown a remarkable ability to not care about their customers, opting to put far more effort into acquiring new ones than retaining existing subscribers.
When you get a dropped signal while making a call or surfing the Web from your phone, you blame the network provider, not the handset maker. But with the extreme brand awareness around the iPhone, I sense that any connection problems will reflect just as much on Apple’s brand as on AT&T’s. A few bad network experiences from early users could take the air out of the iPhone’s pumped-up balloon pretty quickly.