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October 09, 2008


Drew McManus

I totally agree with you on MMS. Apple and AT&T need to improve this terrible user experience. I go into more detail here:

Dominic Byrnes

I just don't think MMS is a priority for Apple - I think not including it is a deliberate move on their part. Most operators charge users a heft fee for MMS. The more that phones become email-capable, the better it will be for a user to email a pic from phone to phone - the cost will move from a per-usage transaction to being part of the data-usage.


I understand why a roman-character-set user would want a separate keyboard/keypad, but in terms of margins you have to realise that the lack of a physical keypad makes it much easier to reach different language groups with the same physical device. I believe this is a key reason why Apple are going with a touchscreen keypad.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Drew, Dominic and db

Thanks for the comments. I'll reply to each individually

Drew - good point, and I'm sad to say it is a rather universal matter, that MMS is often very clumsily deployed by the networks (and handsets) but its getting better. I think all services need to be as easy to use as SMS, and MMS is slowly approaching that level on better networks and handsets in parts of the world. Here in Asia, almost half of local phone subscribers use picture messaging so it is clearly a lot better here. But many of my European colleagues still complain its not easy there. So you're not alone, ha-ha. Good posting at your blog, BTW.

Dominic - very true, MMS was not a high priority at Apple and yes, they thought that if they include mobile email, that would cover this need. How wrong they are. This year there will be more total MMS users, than all email users on any platform worldwide.. This is just that Apple got bad advice (not their fault) by the America-based consultants who advised them when originally designing the iPhone. It is a view anymore only held in America, that email might become the predominant messaging platform on mobile. They were fooled by those who looked at the Blackberry in isolation... But the Blackberry in any mobile messaging competitive market - typical European or Asian market - and users quickly stop preferring email on the BB, they shift their traffic to SMS.. email will go the way of the fax this next decade while SMS, MMS and IM (Instant Messaging) will flourish.

db - good point, it is easier to deploy different language characgter sets on a touch screen than a physical keyboard. However, in both cases, the software of the phone has to cover all major languages intended for the phone, ie western and kanji and arabic and russian and thai and korean and chinese etc.. So they already had to "map out" all those to the screen keypad, regardless.

And the relative cost of doing the rubber mat for the keypad, into the major language groups, is modest cost, but you are right, it is an additional cost to the keypad structure, and any slider mechanism, that might be involved.

I do think, however, you didn't get my main point about this (and I was not clear about it, obviously, in this posting. I believe I've explained it before such asin my Open Letter). The reason you have to have a separate keypad, is to allow text entry blind, and one-handed. Why?

Because only SMS text messaging is proven to be addictive, the only addictive mobile service in the industry today. It is as addictive as cigarette smoking. 76% of the mobile phone subscriber base worldwide already uses SMS, which will be 3 billion people at the end of this year. Thats well over twice the amount of total email users on all PCs, laptops, desktops, web browser tablets, Blackberries, smartphones, etc.

And SMS is typically used in hurried situations, while standing or walking, and often with something heavy or expensive in your other hand, such as your briefcase, or your car's steering wheel (yes yes, we should not send SMS while driving, but we all do it, until it is made illegal, and even then people will do it only less frequently), or your child's hand, etc. And you have to be able to send SMS while blind, ie with the phone in your pocket or under the table or behind your back. etc. 48% of British teenagers admit to sending texts secretly while talking to someone else.

That is why they have to have a text entry system that can be used blind and one-handed. Now, it is possible to make a keyboard onto a touch screen, that gives tactile feedback (I've tested two prototypes doing this) with the kinds of tiny electric impulses that the skin detects as if you actually depressed a key. So Apple could well accomplish this by sticking to the touch screen format. That is quite possible. But they need to get past the two-handed operation, with the iPhone on a table or on your knee. Else it will not grow nearly enough with the target group of heavily addicted young adults who in the rest of the world, already are fully addicted to SMS, and in America, are becoming addicted to SMS.

Ten percent of British teenagers send 100 SMS per day. That number jumps to 30% among South Korean teenagers. The Philippine population as a whole - averages 20 SMS sent per day. The world average is already at 3 SMS sent per day, even Americans average 2 SMS sent per day across the whole cellphone subscriber base. This is the biggest data application on the planet and the tsunami is only growing bigger.

Oh, one more thing - SMS is worth 130 billion dollars - yes, you read that right - 130 billion dollars (or as much as the global music industry plus the global movie (box office) industry plus the global videogaming industry plus the global DVD sales industry, combined..)

And that service, SMS text messaging, delivers 43% of the total PROFITS of the mobile telecoms operator/carrier business worldwide. They love SMS, they hate phones that are not good at SMS. They are pressuring Apple to boost the SMS ability of the iPhone.

Because what happens? Today if you own an iPhone and are addicted to SMS, you get a second phone that is excellent at SMS, ie a Blackberry or the Nokia E-90 Communicator or whatever. Then you put all your SMS traffic on that other phone, not the iPhone. The iPhone carrier/operator gets the heavy data loads of the iPhone (usually on an all-you-can-eat data package, so there is no added profit from more traffic). The profits of voice calls are dwindling. But the most profitable service, SMS, for that customer goes to the other phone - which in most cases, is on a rival network. Getting a customer of yours, to adopt the iPhone, will REDUCE your profits, and increase the profits of your competitor..

Not good business. Apple is hearing this all over the world and trust me, they will improve the SMS ability of the phone. My suggestion keeps continuing that they need to incorporate a keypad as a slider. I have not changed my mind on it since Jan 9, 2007...

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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