The Devil Is in the Details
Step 5: Design Matters
Anyone who doesn't think the design of a prospective iPhone killer doesn't matter is kidding himself. The iPhone is a sleek, beautiful device. It fits easily in a pocket. Its screen is just big enough to enjoy a video on it. The glossy finish attracts those who care about a device's aesthetics. A prospective competitor needs to incorporate all those features into the design of its own device. It should be on the same level as the iPhone.
Step 6: Ditch the Physical Keyboard
I realize that many people have trouble with Apple's virtual keyboard, but you know what? It hasn't stopped the company from selling millions of iPhones. As nice as physical keyboards are, in the end user's mind they're a vestige of a different generation in mobile phones. Virtual keyboards are the future. And if a company thinks they're not efficient, they should find a way to improve it.
Step 7: Build Some Hype
Palm arguably did the best job of building hype around its product (aside from Apple, of course). The company made a big announcement. It excited all those in attendance. And it made the general public start caring about the Pre. The only problem with the Pre is that it failed to provide an experience that users wanted when it was released. Prior to that release, Palm made all the right moves.
Step 8: Make It a Launch 'Event'
Apple is a master at making a product launch an "event." Remember when the company's employees applauded everyone who left with an iPhone the year the phone was released? It was something memorable. It was an "experience." Apple is simply the best at providing an experience, whether it's through the company's iPhone or its retail outlets. The company that wants to compete with the iPhone must follow suit.
Step 9: Immediately Address Problems
Just because the product is launched, it doesn't mean that the company's work is done. The product needs to be supported. If issues arise (and they normally do), the company needs to make it clear to consumers that it will address those problems promptly. Once again, Apple has done the best job at this. When issues arise, it fixes them. The company has a track record of making it right. Competitors can't maintain "radio silence" the way Palm did with its Pre.
Step 10: Focus on the Apps
Once the product is released, it's incumbent upon companies to ramp up the number of apps available to users. Applications have become a key battleground in the mobile phone market. Without them, a company doesn't have a chance against Apple. But if it can deliver a viable number of apps that can compete against the iPhone, all that can change.
So while it's certainly possible for a company to beat the iPhone, it won't be easy. It will take work and money. But Apple shouldn't worry just yet. Things might change, but for now, there aren't any companies that can take it on.