Jason Kottke on how “the iPhone is still from the future in a way that most” single-purpose electronic devices aren’t:
Once someone has an iPhone, it is going to be tough to persuade them that they also need to spend money on and carry around a dedicated GPS device, point-and-shoot camera, or tape recorder unless they have an unusual need. But the real problem for other device manufacturers is that all of these iPhone features — particularly the always-on internet connectivity; the email, HTTP, and SMS capabilities; and the GPS/location features — can work in concert with each other to actually make better versions of the devices listed above. Like a GPS that automatically takes photos of where you are and posts them to a Flickr gallery or a video camera that’ll email videos to your mom or a portable gaming machine with access to thousands of free games over your mobile’s phone network.
I think this is a pretty big deal, because it gives Apple and other makers of multifunction devices a more competitive position. It isn’t just that the iPhone has a camera, so you don’t need another camera – it’s that the iPhone’s wireless, sync, display, and other built-in features actually make it a BETTER solution for taking mobile pictures than any standalone camera.
This suggests a solid principle for multifunction devices (which also happens to be the one proffered by Umair Haque) – not innovation, but awesomeness. Adding extra features alone only adds value arithmetically, if that. (Sure, it’d be nice if the Kindle also had a calculator, but it wouldn’t really make it any better as a reader.) Extra features that in turn make each other work better adds value geometrically, at least. And the iPhone’s base of being a portable device with a nice screen, good UI, wireless connectivity, and ability to sync with a computer and cloud store — all, except wireless, foundational technologies of the original iPod — give it an incredibly wide base for adding geometric value.
It’s important, too, that the iPhone, like all media devices, doesn’t just compete for attention based on its features or costs; it’s also in competition for the geography of the human body. It’s what you put in your pocket, what you mount in your living room, what you stow away in your bag when you get on an airplane.