An American iPhone in Toronto

I attended a party the other night at MyThum Interactive (happy birthday) where mobile madness, martinis and mousse cake made for a nice little evening. While these things, along with goody bags for all party-goers featuring MyThum cell screen cleaners, and SMS-redeemable thumb massages kept the crowd entertained, the widest smiles came out when an iPhone made an appearance. While this wasn’t at all a publicized event, Pres Michael Carter happened to have just picked one up and a few of us got our first chance to play with Apple’s newest toy.

Rather than going all engadget and giving the devise a once-over, we were content to be model Apple customers and marvel at its sharp, shiny graphics and slick design. As we played with the device and marveled (as so many reviewers have) at its intuitive leap forward in mobile usability, we inevitably treaded our way into a bit of a critical review of the ‘saviour of mobile’.

The touch-screen keypad, while visually appealing and oh-so-cool, was a bit odd to use. Call me old fashioned there’s just something about a keypad that’s just nice to… key. In addition, the phone lacks MMS capabilities and a number of other features are lacking from the perspective of a buyer who, in the end, is really looking for a usable phone for the hefty price tag they’re paying.

The conversation stalled on the idea that, while the iPhone will most certainly be copied, thus providing a much-needed leap forward in mobile usability across the board, its function as a phone and a mobile messing device are outdone by many products already on the market. It’s interface for navigating the mobile web may be the phone’s most impressive advance, but the current speed of North American networks will continue to be an imposing obstacle to users hoping to take advantage of this tantalizing feature.

The experience left me thinking that while the iPhone has a lot of features that represent landmarks in mobile technology, it’s just not that great of a phone. As a result, when the initial excitement around it wears off, the iPhone might find itself relegated to being a sexy status symbol with mild market penetration moreso than the marketing-dominating convergent device so many optimists had hoped it would be.