A friendly message to our friends out there in the iPod accessory and software development communities: you might not want to put those “Made For iPhone” claims on your packages, press releases, and advertisements just yet. And readers, you might want to hold off on placing your orders for iPhone accessories until, well, at least June 29th. Maybe a little later.
This is the advice we’d offer based on well-informed chatter we’ve been hearing over the past few months. Developers have been making lots of assumptions about the iPhone, some of them unwarranted, and some of the negative consequences of those assumptions are now only a few weeks away from becoming widely known. Since several companies have claimed to be shipping “iPhone accessories” over the past few weeks, we wanted to share some truth about a couple of major misconceptions that are currently out there.
(1) The iPhone is a “widescreen iPod,” and thus, will electronically behave exactly like a fifth-generation iPod with a widescreen: Wrong. If you’ve released an accessory that promises to work with the iPhone just as it works with the iPod, you might be in for a surprise. There were significant differences between the fourth- and fifth-generation iPods, just as there were with iPod minis and nanos. Contrary to popular belief, iPods can and do differ electronically despite the presence of that Dock Connector on the bottom of all non-shuffle models. iPhones are likely to differ even more. According to just one recent report, the iPhone may only communicate with your computer using iTunes, just like Apple TV, but unlike all iPods. This means that everything from third-party applications to certain types of accessories might not work the way you’d expect, or at all.
For developers, the point is simple: if you haven’t tested your software or accessory with an iPhone, and you’re promising people that it’s going to work, you might want to stop now, or start building up your cash reserves for refunds. To the best of our knowledge, no iPod accessory maker actually has an iPhone to test with, so these assurances are being made purely on the basis of assumptions. Consumers should hear the same general message: if you’re thinking of buying something that’s supposedly “Made For iPhone,” at least as of today, it’s almost assuredly not.
(2) The iPhone’s measurements online are enough to create good cases: Wrong. Simply knowing the device’s width, height, and thickness doesn’t enable a company to create an iPhone case that will actually work. The iPhone has sensors that can be thrown off by improperly designed cases. It has a touch-sensitive screen that may or may not work when covered by certain types of materials. And don’t forget the microphone, speakers, camera, and several buttons. It’s not enough just to know that they’re there: the reality is that no one’s going to want an iPhone case that obscures critical features of the phone, iPod, or Internet applications. From what we understand, smart case design is turning out to be a lot trickier than some people might have expected. A lot.
To reiterate, this isn’t some FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) campaign: as we’ve said before, our goal is to see as many people as possible enjoy safe and pleasant experiences with their iPods and iPhones. Based on everything we know right now, the smart way to ensure a good add-on experience with the iPhone will be to wait until the dust settles, rather than rushing to try whatever you find online. In the early days of iPhone, the safest—if not cheapest—places to find iPhone accessories will be Apple and AT&T stores, which will be less likely to stock items that will have problems with iPhones. Once developers have actually used iPhones to test (and in many cases, throw away and replace) their first-generation iPhone products, you’ll have a better sense of which accessories and software are truly iPhone-ready, and worthy of your cash.