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The triumph of the ‘Norms’

Only a few short years ago we were mostly content to allow the ‘expert’ tech Journos/Pundits/Analysts to tell us all what type of Smartphone we ought to buy. Many of the leading tech pundits in those pre-iPhone days boldly claimed that a Smartphone (and the iPhone in particular) wasn’t a Smartphone if:

  • it didn’t have a ‘real’ keyboard
  • it didn’t have GPS
  • it didn’t multi-task
  • it couldn’t edit Word docs
  • it didn’t make toast! ;-) 


For back in the ‘Pre-iPhone Era’ handheld devices were absolutely the domain of the hardcore nerd - in fact you pretty much had to be a nerd to even attempt to use one of these devices, which were about as user-friendly as a rabid cornered pitbull.

These industry analysts were not just nerds, but Alpha-Nerds, and they did love their tech gadgets, especially gadgets stuffed with shiny new tech and an ever-expanding list of impressive specifications. Nothing less that the very bleeding edge tech would suffice, bizarrely not just for themselves, but for all users. But the problem with relying on an ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ spec-sheet philosophy is much like having a great cake recipe, without ever having actually baked one. Sure that recipe looks great, easy enough to attempt and you have the ingredients to hand, but it’s pretty meaningless until the cake is baked and you can actually taste it.

It’s fair to say now that the spec-sheet fantasies of the tech media analysts have lost out to Apple, who have successfully fulfilled the promise of a powerful, robust and easy to use device. Millions have voted for the iPhone with their hard-earned cash, which is all the more surprising considering Apple weren’t even in the smartphone business when most of the competition were considered mature products.

I’m not bashing the nerds here (and I consider myself one) but the smug attitude of the media ‘analysts’ and ‘experts’, inferring they have the insider smarts for what the public really need, that bothers me. Neither is there anything wrong with having an elite techie club (for those who are obsessed with that kind of thing). But these experts were recommending devices to the general (most definitely non-nerd) public and expecting them to put up with hideous user experiences for the sake of ticking off boxes on a spec list.

Of course, as has often been quoted by Upton Sinclair, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it’.

I expect that this type of defensive thinking, plus perhaps some ‘creative’ and ‘promotional’ activity by some vendors, would result in the sort of recommendations and analysis that we’ve come to expect from some of these tech market analysts.

Surprisingly, and even in the face of concrete evidence, this type of Apple-bashing persists today - but at least now we can see what’s happening in the real world for ourselves. Just have a look around next time you’re in town and notice how many iPhones you see people using compared to any other types of mobile. You’ll probably be surprised how popular this sophisticated device is amongst the ‘normal’ folks.

Here’s a few gems that put it all into perspective:

Trevor Gilbert’s post on Pundits and Analysts

From Daring Fireball: Tomi Ahonen on iPhone Sales

And also: Apple should just ‘pull the plug’ on the iPhone, from John C. Dvorak

A shocking article from the Forbes site(!) by contributor Louis Bedigian knocking the newly launched iPhone 4S. Good to see that many of the commenters have really taken him to task on this.

I think [this post] ( from Mike Rundle really nails it on who Apple really has in mind for the iPad (and iPhone)

An excellent summary on how device specs have become meaningless from Drew Breunig.

Production notes: This post was written entirely on my iPad (including links and researching web pages for the quotes) using the excellent Writing Kit app for iOS. The header illustration was also created on an iPad using the iDraw vector illustration app. How far we’ve come, in so short a time.