New iPhone will be too hard to resist
Everyone knows power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but what is a mass-marketed, GPS-enabled iPhone going to do?
For those who've been living under a Wi-Fi disabled rock the last few months, Apple unveiled last week the faster Web-browsing iPhone 3G, which will go on sale July 11 at the "hey, maybe I can afford that" price of $199 with a two-year AT&T contract.
Slashing the upfront cost in half will make reaching the company's 2008 10-million-unit sales goal as iEasy as Apple iPie.
According to market analysts, Apple is already the third-largest smartphone maker worldwide and could sell 45 million units next year, and that's with only one phone in its product line.
Lest I be labeled an Apple fan-boy, let it be said that I don't own an iPhone. I'm also well aware that other smartphones offer the same, or better, feature sets for basically the same price tag.
But at less than $200, millions of Digital Slobs will be driven to let their electric bill slide another month and swipe that scar-tissued MasterCard one last time at the Apple or AT&T store. Why? Because iPhones are cool.
This makes the most important iPhone application the users themselves, who will help software concepts reach critical mass.
Take the smartphone application Loopt (www.loopt.com), a GPS-sharing "social compass" that lets you and your list of friends map each other in real time. Glance the screen, and you can see a bird's-eye view of where everyone is, what they are doing, even where they've been and where they plan to go.
But be forewarned: Everyone in Loopt is white-lie proof. If you say you were too "busy" to go to Julie's birthday party, she'll know if you were watching "Iron Man" for the fifth time.
The federal government experimented with "Total Information Awareness" years ago, but fears of a mass surveillance system shut it down. Is it now being repackaged as a "feature"?
Loopt is already on other phones, from BlackBerrys to Sprint Nextel devices. But like many other mobile apps, it's had a limited impact because to use it, you and your friends needed to coordinate (or luck into) the same phones, on the same network, with the same data plan - complicated maneuvers for millions who've barely adjusted to associating the term "send" with making a phone call.
But the new "jailbreak-proof" iPhone requires customers to sign an exclusive AT&T deal before they even touch the device. This means everyone will walk out of the store on the same system-requirements page.
Of course, many (including myself next week) will call me alarmist for thinking the world will soon have Big Brother on speed dial, especially since Loopt gives users control over who, if anyone, sees their GPS dots on the grid. But in the frenetic Digital Age, who has time to unsubscribe from anything?
How many of us have been paying $6 a month to Shoppers Advantage on our Visa since 1999 simply because we don't know how to turn it off?
Regardless, this Slob will probably be at the Apple store around July 11. I'm powerless to stop myself. As for my whereabouts after that, just check your screen.