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Most convincing guess so far about why the iPhone has no 3G

Cringely has an article up about the iPhone (who doesn’t this week?), with what may be the first logical, convincing guess as to what Apple’s reason might be for not including 3G data capability (like speedy HSDPA) in the iPhone, instead shackling us with pokey slow EDGE:

Apple wants the iPhone to get its content primarily through iTunes, ideally by syncing with a Mac  or Windows PC. Apple doesn’t like Cingular Video and doesn’t want its customers to know it exists, much less use it. But it would be very hard to introduce a true 3G iPhone, have Cingular promote it strongly, only to say that it can’t be used to view the mobile carrier’s own video content. So instead Apple falls back to the slower EDGE network, which can support email and widgets and surfing, but which also forces iPhone users to get most of their higher-resolution video through iTunes, where Apple makes money and Cingular doesn’t. (emphasis mine)

This argument makes sense, especially if you consider that Apple is a corporation, out to make money (and, as Cringely notes, not just play in the cell phone market, but dominate it). That doesn’t mean I like it, though, and I still maintain that it would be monumentally stupid of Apple to release such an advanced “Internet Communicator” without support for the fast (and backwards compatible) network that Cingular actually has in place. Bottom line is, I don’t know if I can bear to go back to the slow barren wasteland that is EDGE after living in the land of speedy EVDO milk and honey. :-)

The rest of Cringely’s piece is a good read – go check it out.

And I promise that at some point soon, I’ll stop blogging constantly about the iPhone. I just need to find something else that makes my geek parts feel all warm and tingly. :-)

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10 thoughts on “Most convincing guess so far about why the iPhone has no 3G

  1. jonathan says:

    It connects with wifi so it isn’t crippled and Cingular / ATT has yet to roll out much of its faster network. But no, weird speculation about motives is far more realistic than fact or Jobs’ own comment that the device will support 3G later. We’ll have to see how things work, but it seems the device is designed with the idea that you’ll use normal bandwidth for calls and messaging and wifi for the internet (and then faster networks as those become available).

  2. Do you have a link to reliable information (not speculation or hearsay) that Apple has said 3G will be enabled later? No linky, no believey. 😉

    Here’s why I don’t buy the “it has WiFi – you don’t need 3G” argument:

    WiFi isn’t everywhere – in the car, waiting for the train, out shopping, etc. And when it is available, you have to take the time to turn on the WiFi, see if there’s an open network, connect to it, and then hope you can get online. Doesn’t work when you need to be connected more or less constantly for things like push email, a quick lookup of something online, etc.

    For perspective, my current phone, a Windows Mobile Samsung i730 on Verizon, with EVDO high speed 3G wireless data access, also has WiFi built right in. I’ve had the phone for a year and a half, and I’ve used the WiFi exactly twice – both times at home, because the EVDO network was down. The rest of the time, I just use EVDO, because 3G wireless is just as fast as WiFi, it’s there all the time, and doesn’t require ANY fiddling. It just works. The WiFi just isn’t worth the hassle compared to always on 3G data service.

    If WiFi were enough connectivity for the iPhone, why even bother to put EDGE in it at all? Why not make people use only WiFi for internet connectivity?

  3. Not to mention the MANY times I’ve been able to use my EVDO-enabled phone as a modem to get online where there wasn’t any WiFi (or any free WiFi) available, like in hotels, at conferences, at airports, etc.

    If the iPhone ships with no 3G wireless data service, it will be essentially useless for that (EDGE is way to slow). And that’s one more thing that the iPhone would do worse than the current phones out there.

  4. R Boylin says:

    Cringely’s point depends on Apple making serious money from iTunes sales on the web. It doesn’t!!! This kind of analysis is suffering from extreme nearsightedness. Look at the battery life problem with G3 phones. Apple will have advanced phones next year as battery performance increases.

  5. If Apple doesn’t make money from iTunes music sales, why keep the store around? Of course they make money. Why else would Steve Jobs point out that 2 billion songs have been sold during his keynote?

    This article talks about Apple’s attitude towards iTunes sales.

    And what “battery life problem” with 3G phones? I don’t have any battery life problems with my 3G phone, and I’ve never seen any data that suggests an EDGE radio uses less power than an HSDPA radio. Just because UMTS/HSDPA is faster doesn’t mean it takes more juice to run it.

  6. Peter says:

    As I understand it, the iTunes Store makes money. It doesn’t make alot of money, but it makes money. At the very least, it breaks even.

  7. Will says:

    Sometimes, Cringely’s arguments are intriguing, well-considered and strangely plausible.

    Sometimes, his arguments are a big steaming pile of crap.

    This one’s a number two (so to speak).

    2G mobile technology is very mature, and the companies who make the internal components have had plenty of time to refine and miniaturize them. 3G technology’s still fairly young, and the components are just plain bigger. It’s a lot harder to make a small 3G handset than a small 2G handset. If you want a reason for iPhone’s limitation, look no further. It’s most likely a matter of engineering feasibility.

  8. Will, I don’t buy the “3G components aren’t small enough” argument, at least, not without some proof. There are HSDPA phones out there that are just as small as 2G phones. EVDO, too.

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