How many seconds?

I’ve heard it said that the iPhone has inferior features to other phones. On paper, there is some substance to this. Compared to the flagship products of Nokia and HTC, the iPhone lacks:

  • 3G
  • a high megapixel camera (competing phones usually have 3-5 megapixels compared to the iPhone’s 2 MP camera)
  • video recording ability
  • video calling ability
  • GPS
  • MMS
  • Instant Messaging (although this is rumored to be added in a future software update)

Regardless of whether people actually miss these features in the iPhone (I very rarely see anyone make video calls or send MMSes), they aren’t present, and that’s a minus. It certainly would’ve been nice to have 3G and GPS on the phone, for example.

Then there are the iPhone’s advantages. Many of these are well-known; the web-browsing experience, visual voicemail, iPod, ease of syncing. However, I don’t think that enough has been made of its ease of use. From what I’ve read and seen in videos, there isn’t a phone out there that’s more responsive.

Let me give an example. I have a Nokia N73. About half a year ago, it was one of the most modern and sophisticated Nokia phones out there, and even superior models still use the same operating system, so I wouldn’t imagine my observations to be significantly different on other Nokias. Here’s some data on how much time it takes the phone to do things:

  • 3-5 seconds from pressing ‘Messaging’ to get to the Messaging screen.
  • 5 seconds to open the web browser
  • 7 seconds to activate the camera
  • 6 seconds to switch from camera mode to video mode
  • 11 seconds to open up the photo gallery application
  • 4 seconds to open up the music application

These times are not even remotely acceptable for a flagship phone. I remember standing at an empty tube station platform and seeing an interesting advert. I took my phone out, opened up the shutter, and by the time it was ready, the train’s doors were closing. Who cares how many megapixels a cameraphone has, when it so slow that you miss shots?

How often am I going to use the web browser if it takes 5 seconds to load, then asks me every single time whether I want to connect to the internet (surely that’s the entire point?), and then takes another 5 seconds to begin loading a page?And if it takes over 13 seconds to begin filming video, that doesn’t say much for capturing spontaneity. The fact that the iPhone can’t record video and the N73 can is hardly an advantage given this. In comparison, it takes the iPhone about 1-2 seconds to perform any of these actions.

Those seconds really do matter. They make the difference between someone using a feature and ignoring it. Look at the Nintendo DS and Sony’s Playstation Portable: not only do games load far quicker on the DS, but all games support the ability to instantly suspend and resume when you close and open the screen. Conversely, early games on the PSP either crashed during suspend, or would take around 20 seconds to resume. If you’re on the move and want a quick two minute game or surf of the web, having to wait 10-20 seconds makes all the difference.

Sony eventually learned this and improved their suspend and resume functions, but the damage was done; the DS is outselling the PSP two-to-one and rapidly increasing its lead. Nokia and other phone manufacturers will also learn the same lesson from Apple, and it will cost them.

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