10 Steps Toward the Difficult Task of Beating the iPhone

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-18 Print this article Print

The iPhone isn't unbeatable. It's just that most companies in the marketplace don't have the ability to do it. Every other so-called "next-gen" device on the market is having difficulty even staying relevant against Apple's device. Any company that wants to out-market Apple needs to follow some steps to make it happen.

Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf is reporting in a new research note that as the Palm Pre's price comes down, so too will its appeal in the marketplace. The Pre, which was recently reduced in price from $200 to $149.99, will experience a strong drop in sales due to pressures from the market, the analyst claims.

As the market matures and more companies start offering applications that can compete on the same level as the Pre, it will be far more difficult for the device to hold up. Worst of all, the Pre, which currently has just a handful of applications, can't compete against the iPhone and its tens of thousands of applications.

That isn't new and it isn't even unique. Every other so-called "next-gen" device on the market is having difficulty even staying relevant against Apple's device. They might feature touch-screens and an app store, but so far they don't have the kind of appeal that the iPhone does. And the chances of that changing anytime soon are slim.

But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Quite the contrary, it is possible for the iPhone to be beaten. But it will take some hard work to get it done.

Step 1: Know the Market

When Palm and RIM brought touch-screen devices to the market, it was obvious that they didn't analyze it properly. Yes, the Pre's multitasking is nice, and the BlackBerry Storm has a nice design. But the Pre lacks applications, and the Storm's touch-screen is so bad that most users have opted for other BlackBerry devices. If RIM and Palm did a better job of analyzing the market, they wouldn't have made those mistakes.

Step 2: Deliver a Great Touch-Screen

If a company wants to compete with the iPhone, it can't release a touch-screen with subpar functionality. It needs to be just as responsive as the iPhone's touch-screen. It needs to ditch tactile feedback like in the BlackBerry Storm. Most importantly, it needs to accurately reflect the user's gestures.

Step 3: Focus on the App Store

One of the biggest problems so many of the companies in the mobile phone market face is that their devices don't have an accompanying app store with enough applications. Right now, Google's Android platform is closest to offering a viable app store, with just over 8,000 applications. That's a good number. But Apple's store has over 75,000 applications. Unless a product launches with at least 20,000 applications, it's doubtful that many consumers will care about its store.

Step 4: Attract Developers

Following that, it's important for companies to play nice with developers. Palm tied the Pre's future to webOS, and so far I think it has backfired. Once again, Google has done the best job of appealing to developer desire, but it still has some serious work to do.  Any company that tries to beat Apple in the mobile market must focus its time on developers. How can it get as many applications as possible in as little time as possible? That's a question Apple has answered. Any competitor must answer it as well.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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