in a blistering ode to Cupertino, The New York Times‘ Virginia Heffernan professed this weekend that, for all of its “refined,” “introverted” and “tarty” qualities, she hates her Apple iPhone.
It starts out simple enough: Heffernan explains that she’s late to adopting the most popular phone in the country, and admits some suspicion before taking one home. It’s a far cry from her “battered” RIM BlackBerry, shiny and cool and slick.
But the trouble starts when Heffernan purchases the device at the AT&T store — the on-screen typing is neither intuitive nor fun for this former BlackBerry user.
Now I had to reply. My throat tightened. “Running late,” I decided on. “See you in 15 min.”
What came out was this: “Runninlate. See you in 15 Mon.”
Why? Why, because of course that’s what I typed! What did I know of this wacko kind of typing?
It gets worse:
With its know-it-all suggestions, the iPhone seemed to want to be more human, more helpful, jollier than I was! The vaunted Apple user-friendliness was exposed, before my eyes, as bossiness and insincerity. I refused to fight further with the smug phone. Off sailed my text — the work of a blithering idiot.
Partly turned off by the hype, partly turned off by the learning curve in moving from QWERTY to touchscreen input, Heffernan ends up back at the AT&T counter to exchange the device for — you guessed it — a new BlackBerry.
This confession — missive, even — by Heffernan underlines the fact that Apple’s work is far from over. Sure, it may be the most popular phone in the country, but it certainly has competition from RIM’s suite of BlackBerry devices (not to mention all those Google Android phones coming to market). And that means that as the younger or more technologically-adept demographics begin to reach saturation, there’s still a wide-open market for those who, rightly or wrongly, see the iPhone as too complicated.
Like John Hodgman and Justin Long’s best commercials, Heffernan’s anger shows that there can be backlash to Apple’s “cool,” “hip” reputation. Apple marketers should be concerned: this “cool and hip” should not be exclusive, it should be inclusive. As Apple continues the effort in trying to put its phone in unanointed hands, it must widen the appeal.
There are signs that such effort is beginning to materialize in the form of several iPhone models.
Still, the QWERTY thing poses a problem. The iPhone has made the touchscreen iconic and signature, and by doing so, Apple has inadvertently blocked it as an easy brand extension. Or certainly made it a bigger leap.
When RIM introduced the BlackBerry Storm, despite the reviews, it was a sign that the company was ready to fight on Apple’s home turf. It’s time for Apple to show it can do the same. Only this time, it’s competing against a BlackBerry, an Android and a coming iteration of Windows Mobile.
In the meantime, this is a very public black eye for Apple. Heffernan’s article will reach millions of viewers around the globe — undoing a whole lot of public relations work for Cupertino.
SEE ARTICLE SOURCE A ZDNET