With the release of the Apple iPhone, threatening to shake up the cell phone industry, it's inevitable that companies will try to use ideas similar to Apple's. The latest "cause of concern" is LG's Prada KE850 cell phone, which uses a touchscreen interface, and similar features such as web browser, Wi-Fi access, among other things.
I don't think much of this. Although LG is using an interface similar to Apple's, and has similar features, it doesn't matter. For one thing, touchscreen interfaces have been around for a while. Any company could make a touchscreen cell phone if they wanted. It's also got a web browser. So?
The real key to product making, in my opinion, is to apply these features in a way that it's easy to use and manipulate, looks pretty, and is solid and reliable. You could make a cell phone that has all the latest tech features, but it wouldn't sell well because:
- It would be too expensive
- It would be too hard to use
- People wouldn't need most of the features offered
So it's not really the features that make the device, it's how it operates, and an attractive price point. Haven't you seen all the iPod look-a-likes? They attempt to offer similar features as the iPod, as well as throwing in bonus items, yet many fall as fast as they're invented. Why is this? Because of the usability.
A greater risk to a device is something that has a new idea; something that will make the device do more, but keep usability easy. So an iPhone copycat isn't going to overcome it, but a device that finds the sweet spot between features and usability and price will pose a great threat to the iPhone.
Furthermore, we don't even know if the iPhone is going to succeed. Apple's previous attempt at a cellphone ended in a horrific crash with the Newton. If the same thing happens to the iPhone, it'll be interesting to see what Apple does.