There’s tons of media around Sept. 7th’s anticipated announcement of the ROKR iTunes phone. So here’s a question: Why couldn’t Apple just release an unlocked GSM iTunes phone that they had made by a company like HTC? There certainly seems to be a little of fighting amongst the carriers about carrying a phone that potentially takes revenue from and over-the-air download model. If Apple were to create a GSM iTunes phone that was unlocked (i.e., would take any GSM SIM card), they would at least have a phone that would work with Cingular and T-Mobile — Verizon and Sprint/Nextel might be harder due to the fact that they do not use SIM cards. This, of course, would open the phone for use to many overseas carriers as many of those carriers use GSM technology.
The current model for cell phones is that the carriers subsidize the cost of the phone in return for a one or two year contract commitment that is enforced with an Early Termination Fee (ETF). If Apple were to manufacture their own iTunes phones, they would have to bear in mind that the retail cost would be the retail cost to the consumer.
To take this a step further, if Apple were to take the time to sub the manufacturing of their own phone, it is not inconceivable that PIM functions in the phone could easily sync with OSX applications — easily synchronize your contact and calendar with the built-in applications in OSX.
Here’s the big limiting factor, Apple by itself or Apple with Motorola — the damn battery! Every phone that I have ever used burns through a battery very quickly with heavy phone usage. Probably the best phones that I have used are Nokias that can go several days in standby mode, but still do not last any longer than any other phones when actively talking. How long is the battery really going to last on a phone that has an iTunes player built into it? Batteries are, of course, what make phones heavy, so it’s a matter of the right performance/weight matrix.
Perhaps Apple should focus on software development for existing platforms. What if Apple created iTunes that would run on Symbian, Windows Mobile (it could be the “best Windows Mobile application ever!”), Palm, and RIM? Granted not every phone has flash memory or large built-in memory, but a software model might be a good play to drive people to the iTunes Music store. Of course, this gets away from the hardware model, but might be the best play in the long run.
We’ll see what happens on Sept. 7th.