Why did Apple launch a bad phone?

If if the 1st Gen iPhone was so “bad” – what was Apple thinking when they launched it?

Lots of people are excited about the new iPhone because they think it will address many of the annoyances present in the first one. (Well – not all of those issues are getting addressed, in fact. But some are.)

There was much complaining about the iPhone 1.0. And vocal user complaints are not usually a great recipe for a popular product and strong sales. In fact often, companies that rush products out to be “first to market” end up having their lunch eaten by products that arrive a little later, but offer a better UX. Apple themselves demonstrated with the ipod that late-comers can steal the the show by being “best-to-market.”

Here are 5 reasons I can think of why Apple launched a “bad” product, braved all that negative publicity, and gave companies like Samsung and HTC a chance to take a shot at them.

1. Launch simple products first.

Apple like everyone else had to launch a version 1.0. Business reality and human psychology demand it. At some point you have to get something out the door becfore you run out of cash or go insane. iPhone 1.0 was a product of controlled project scope.

iphone 3g

2. Get feedback from beta testers

Getting live market feedback works well – but mostly with early adopters. So perhaps Apple didn’t want go mainstream yet. Did they elect to keep sales constrained and stay with the iPhone *BETA crowd until they had perfected the product?

3. Move the focus to UX

The iPhone caused a stir because it moved the focus to a different aspect of the mobile UX. Were Apple deliberately saying “it’s not about hardware. Stop competing on hardware. This new phone is all about the user experience.” So in a way, the hardware shortcomings drew attention to the UX. People complaining about missing hardware could be accused of “missing the point/having no vision” – and frequently were.

4. No competitors stand a chance anyway

Apple decided it didn’t matter if their prodcut wasn’t perfect, because they were confident that none of the existing mobile manufacturers could get their act together to compete on Apple’s UX turf nearly fast enough. Efforts from HTC and Samsung were hardly mind-blowing. Nokia’s device is still in development.

And realistically, that wasn’t hard to predict. For traditional electronics companies try to squeeze into the Apple mold seems to be all but impossible. So Apple put their money where their mouth was and went first to market with an incomplete product. They knew they would get a way with it.

5. And now they can generate more buzz by launching version 2.

All publicity is good publicity.

Are people going to buy iPhone2? Some more will. That I suspect that question doesn’t matter to Apple too much. We’re still, arguably, in beta 2. One more release and it’s going to get interesting.

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